Is it time for a dependency audit?

You have a friend, Ron, and you think he’s the greatest thing since sliced bread. He always seems to have the answer. He knows how to handle situations that make you feel uncomfortable; he knows how to handle people; you feel comfortable, secure, and safe when you’re with him.

You hang around with Ron a lot, and he starts to “rub off” on you. When Ron laughs, you laugh; when he’s angry, you get angry; when he explains something, you accept it as truth; when he tells you something is false, you believe him and discount it; you ignore criticism of Ron.

You may not realize it, but you have become inappropriately dependent on Ron. This is OK, of course, if you’re 3-years old and Ron is your dad, but it’s not so good if you’re an adult. Such total dependency makes it impossible for you to evaluate and cope with reality in any objective way because you are compelled to see reality as your idol wants you to see it.

In a sense, you belong to the cult of Ron. He is your unquestioned leader and you are his loyal follower no matter what. If you ask Ron about information that seems to contradict his teachings, Ron will explain why you must avoid false facts that only mislead and deceive you. Over a period of time, again and again and again, Ron will remind you of the false messages and saturate you with his truths. This pure repetition will literally re-wire your brain to accept what Ron says. If you deviate from his “correct path,” he will distract you and substitute convenient scapegoats to correct your inappropriate thinking. You come to think like Ron, act like him, incorporate his standards into your thoughts and actions, and sacrifice your self-worth and self-respect.

In the context of coping with stress, excessive dependency on another is incompatible with developing self-empowerment, critical thinking skills, and self-confidence. Such dependency prevents you from developing self-efficacy and being able to initiate independent action. You will not be in touch with your thoughts and your actions; you will likely blame other people or events for your current problems; your optimism will not be grounded in reality but on your leader’s version of reality; you will withdraw from stressful situations, waiting for your leader to handle things. In short, psychologically you become a dependent, helpless child.

Do you want someone else to tell you how to think and act? Do you want someone else to tell you what is true and what is false? Are you so insecure that you need to cling to another out of fear of abandonment by a metaphorical parent? If you feel uneasy about your unquestioned allegiance to someone who dictates your life to you, then it is time for you to audit your relationship and check for excessive dependency that will rob you of personal autonomy, and the ability to cope with everyday stress on your own. The choice is yours.

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