Sometimes we want another person so much on our side. We want to hear their voice, and draw their attention. Often, we cannot just stop thinking about this one single person day and night. Of course, this is not bad in general. But many people tend to become dependent on the attention of that other person. Maybe you already know that. You look at your phone every few minutes to check if that person has already written back. You get restless, if there is no answer after a couple of hours. You begin to look at your phone more often. You also might stalk their social media accounts like Facebook or Instagram, for any news. You can’t help but think about that person all the time.
Soon your thoughts begin to circle: “Did I do something wrong? Why doesn’t he answer? Have I messed it up? Is he/she seeing someone else?” We wait and long for any feedback from this person to feel better. Maybe you will even get angry at them.
We hope for strength and we think that we can only get strength from this other person. Yes, we think we really need them. We think we feel incomplete without this person. We feel sad, lonely and powerless.
In this case, you are not doing well! So, if you know this situation, you should make yourself something clear:
Firstly, you need to realize that your feelings and your anxiety are not a sign of true love. It is just a sign of emotional dependency. You need the other person to feel complete. This is not true love, this is needy love. And needy love is never good, neither for you nor for the other one or even for your relationship.
Secondly, realize that if this other person does not answer directly or has no time for you (or even if the person is not interested in you), it doesn’t mean that he/she is a bad person, a bad partner, friend, colleague, mother or whatever. An important step along the road to freedom is allowing other people to be free rather resenting them for their behavior. It might be tempting to get angry at someone who isn’t there for you during a crisis or lets you down in some way. But, it isn’t the solution. You need to accept that people have limitations. They may find it hard enough to stay positive as it is already without having to look after those who can’t seem to look after themselves. Maybe they don’t even realize what they are doing wrong and how their behavior is hurting you. So, you need to free other people from your expectations.
How does this dependency arise at all?
But how does it happen? What is the reason we feel dependent on other people? When we depend on another person, this person fills a hole inside us. Whenever we are emotionally clinging to someone, that person gives us a feeling that we are not giving ourselves at the moment.
This might be:
The feeling of being precious and loving.
Feeling of excitement and passion in life.
Feeling to be okay with just the way we are.
Feeling to have a meaning in life.
Often this is something we already missed in our childhood or something that was taken away from us. Through the loss of a parent for example, or through the separation of the parents, a loss, a hole, an inner emptiness can arise inside us, which unconsciously accompanies us into adulthood. Our subconscious often tries to fill this loss with the attention of a partner. It is obvious that an attempt to fill the inner emptiness with the attention of another person is only temporary. We have to be aware that only we are responsible for our feelings.
It’s not an easy thing to face, nor is it your fault. But it is a challenge – which needs to be addressed. It takes great courage to learn how to overcome emotional dependency, but it’s worth doing it so that you feel more in control of your life. Becoming gradually more independent and less attaching takes time and practice, but it can be done. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to become more independent of other people:
1. Calm down.
Negative, toxic thoughts are hard to handle – I know. Your thoughts may turn like a carousel around the same topic again and again. You ask yourself what he/she is doing, why he/she is not answering and you may imagine all sorts of threatening scenarios: he has met someone new, he cheats on you, he doesn’t want you anymore… These thoughts are anything but objective and realistic.
So first of all, you really need to relax your mind a little to be able to think clearly again. You need to stop the carousel turning.
A good way to do that is the ‘stop method’. If you catch yourself losing control over your negative thoughts, you can say yourself “STOP” and imagine a big red stop sign in front of your face. Your thoughts should be interrupted now. You can promote this interruption by screaming the word “STOP” out loud, while struggling with a leg on the ground.
Now breathe in and out deeply for ten times. Feel the air flow through your neck. How your belly lifts a little bit. How your chest widens as you let fresh oxygen flow into it. Feel the air flow out and tickle your lips from within. Feel like a little more relaxed with each exhalation. Now you can devote yourself to your situation a little more objectively.
2. Realize what you really need from this other person.
Now that you can look at the situation more objectively, ask yourself what it is that you need from the other person. What is the other person compensating for you? Maybe you need to have some security? Or does he/she make you feel lovable or special? Do you feel important to him/her? Do you feel small, helpless and empty without the words of this person?
It is not about putting a stamp on you. No matter what, it is never a proof for something to be wrong with you. You can solve every behavioral pattern, even if you sometimes feel like making the same „mistakes“ over and over again. Just write it down. Remember that there is no one in the world who is responsible for your wellbeing. Not your parents (as you are old enough), not your partner and not your friends. You are responsible for your own feelings and you are capable of making yourself feel good.
3. Give yourself what you want from this other person.
You can give yourself the love that you hoped for from other people so strongly. You can bring your own passion in your life. You do not need anyone else. Okay, it’s often easier with other people, but do you always want to be dependent on other people? Do you ever want to feel good when the other person gives you exactly what you need? Because other people also have bad times. They also sometimes feel a little worthless and they may need time for themselves or someone to lean on. In these moments, they simply cannot give you the love and attention that you would like to have. And that’s okay. This does not make these people bad friends, parents or partners. It makes them people, just like you are.
So, you need to help yourself. And, you can do it! You can get your life on your own. This isn’t always that easy. But you can learn it. If you have already realized what it is that you need from this other person (maybe compliments, safety, a future perspective, passion or a meaning in life), write that shit down and find a way to give it to you on your own.
You want to be complimented? Make yourself compliments and celebrate yourself! Buy yourself some flowers or light a candle in your room. Make yourself comfortable and be yourself good company. You want action and passion? Go out and grab it! Go on a boat trip, go hiking on your own or visit an amusement park. Do something special. Something new. Learn a new language. Join a new sports club. You want fun and laughter? Have fun on your own! Watch a funny movie, read comics or jokes or whatever makes you smile.
Whatever you need from this other person, I know you can give it to yourself. Just try. Sometimes you might fail, you might make some stupid mistakes again, you will be sad and lonely again. But never stop moving on, never stop trying.
So next time when you recognize that you feel so attached to someone that you feel you can’t survive without the love of that person, try learning to give to yourself and others what it is you think you need from this single person. Your task is to become the person to yourself that you want the other person to be. Then you will be able to love another person for who he/she is, instead of for what this person does for you. Rather than expecting to get love, you can give love from heart, and feel complete by giving. Then eventually you will be able to be in love rather than be in need.