DEPENDENCY

A father of a 17-year old girl said, “We’ve had a lot of trouble with our daughter for about 3 years now. So far counseling hasn’t changed her so we agreed to put her on anti-depressants. She’s been on them about a month now and she’s still giving us a hard time. How long does it take for these drugs to kick in so our daughter will be back to normal?”

A newspaper article last November commented about a local store that was cutting back on decorating the store for Christmas and, unlike previous years, was no longer having employees wear Santa hats and other Christmas accessories. Employees were also cautioned to greet customers with neutral expressions like, “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas,” so as not to offend anyone. The reporter interviewed several customers about these new policies and one gentleman said, “It’s ridiculous. I’m disgusted with all this PC stuff. Donald Trump says we can now say ‘Merry Christmas’ if we want and that’s what I’m going to do; if I offend someone well too bad.”

A first-year student came up to her prof after class and said she was having trouble on his tests because he didn’t post lecture notes on the course website. He showed her his lecture notes for that day: ‘Punishment. Go over the VCB rat study. Discuss real-life examples — basic principles. Should we spank our kids? Abusive moms study. Discuss.’

Obviously, these ‘notes’ were of no help to her. The prof explained to her that he uses prompts to himself to present material. He also reminded her that the VCB study generated so much interest and discussion that it was the only thing he covered that day. Finally, he pointed out that she also does poorly on those sections of tests that cover textbook material!

OK, so what do we have here: A father of a 17-year old girl; a man fed up with PC rules at Christmas time; a student who wants lecture notes posted on the course website. What do these three people have in common? The answer is pretty straightforward: They are all looking for something or someone to depend on to take care of them. That something is different in each case – drugs, an OK from the US President, and professor lecture notes – but they’re all sought after because the person believes “they will take care of me and make things right.” They want a surrogate parent to help them cope.

Bummer! If there is anything that is the enemy of effective coping it is dependency. Developing a sense of personal empowerment is virtually impossible if you are psychologically dependent on others to fulfill your needs and wants.

In the examples above, notice how the father of the teenager does not resolve to examine their family dynamics, to assess his own actions, to reach out and communicate with his daughter about how he and other family members can help her navigate the difficult waters of the teen years. Instead, he places his trust and hopes in medication, desperately waiting for some miracle to occur.

Notice how the PC-hating gentleman apparently has endured years of polite and sensitive Christmas greetings to others while seething with anger and frustration toward those requiring him to do so………until his rescuer comes along with the message, “Depend on me, I will care for you and show you how to proceed.” Now this gentleman will never learn how to communicate and interact with either those hated others or with his own inadequacies. When challenged he is lost and can only plead, “Show me what to do now.”

Notice how the student must always seek her agent of dependency so she can justify her failures by noting the absence of the crutch on which she must depend. Poor test scores? Of course! There are no class notes on the course website.  Like the others, she is crying out for help because she has developed no sense of autonomy, no confidence, and no ability to fortify her character to cope independently with her challenges.

            On the other side of the ledger, consider a gentleman who entered AA to try and deal with his alcohol problem. He met and fell in love with one of the AA members, a woman who was far advanced in dealing with her alcohol problem. With her help and inspiration he developed the courage to fight his demons. She eventually accepted his proposal of marriage but made one thing crystal clear to him: “In the end, you have to carry your fight, and it’s a fight that will last the rest of your life. I cannot and will not do it for you.” He stayed dry and they stayed married until he died 26 years later. How cool!

Always remember, it is your thoughts and actions that bring you effective coping.

When evaluating your coping skills, remember that you can learn to accept the realities of life both intellectually and emotionally; you can learn how to meet and cope with those realities in satisfying and productive ways. You cannot do so, however, by depending on others to do the work for you.

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