Can I count on you to remain respectfully detached from my pain? Can I count on you to remain independent and strong, while I lean into you for support?
In my internal and external observations of human relationships, I notice a theme of dependence, or sometimes a fight against it. Co-dependence has a negative connotation in the conscious relating world. Co-dependency can look like entanglement and blurry boundaries. Enmeshment can arise in dependency, a lack of distinction between two separate people. In truth, each individual is responsible for his or her own thoughts, words, and actions.
The antidote to dependence is sovereignty and self-reliance. Sovereignty is another buzz word in conscious relating. It recognizes that every person is an individual and autonomous being, free to choose and feel what is true for him or her.
I struggle at times with what can feel like a gung-ho approach to sovereignty and a denial of dependency. Sovereignty can feel like a scapegoat, a way for people to remain afloat in their own mini-worlds. I’m not advocating for dependency either, yet I realize there is a place for everything, in the right doses. There are positive and negative attributes of both dependency and sovereignty.
The definition of dependency is: trustworthy and reliable. Here are some synonyms for dependability: Steady. Loyalty. Consistency. Durable. Stable. Secure. Sturdy.
The definition of sovereignty is: possessing supreme or ultimate power. Synonyms for sovereignty include: Absolute. Unlimited. Unrestricted. Boundless. Ultimate. Unconditional.
I argue that the middle path is interdependence. The definition of interdependence is: the dependence of two or more people or things on each other, being mutually reliant on each other.
Dependable Sovereignty & Sovereign Dependability – I can trust that you are remaining absolute in your internal steadiness. I trust that I can rely on your individual conviction to being consistent and stable.
If my internal landscape is muddy and disorganized (my well-being is dependent on external circumstances), I am unable to hold clear space for you when you need a clear space to go to, and vice versa. The more I take responsibility for cleaning up my internal environment (my sovereignty), the more capable I am to care for my personal well-being, and the less tangled I will become with another when they need a safe, secure space.
There is a crossroads in relationships, recognizing the play between dependency and sovereignty. We can either learn to negotiate and compromise, or we can learn to put up with each other and not speak up about our preferences and needs. Likewise, when we are always compromising, we can sometimes end up in the ambiguous mush between two people’s needs, where no one gets what they desire. If one person never budges in their preferences for the benefit of another, likely there will cease to be a relationship.
When I am clear in what I need to feel safe and secure, and I give myself permission to create that for myself, I am no longer dependent on you to feel safe. In my commitment to creating my own inner peace, I also give you permission to find your inner peace. Two peaceful creatures coming together will naturally ripple out peace. Two lop-sided and entangled people will foster more uncertainty and inconsistency.
We can fall asleep to the silent power of unchecked dependency. In relationships, the spark fades and folks are walking along the path laid before them, unconsciously stumbling along “playing nice” with the neurosis of the other, slowly becoming meeker and more mute with each step, building a wall of resentment and discontent. I pray that we all strive to live in our individuality AND interconnectivity.
Freedom lies in being neither pushed nor pulled, in having no attachments or aversions. Freedom is floating, and just like a leaf in the wind, it is dependent on the way the wind blows, and also free to be itself, separate of the wind. What if we allowed ourselves to lean in a little bit more to the things we truly are dependent on: the sustenance of the Earth. And lean away from grasping, clutching, or avoiding: my experience of the world is the outcome of your thoughts, words or actions.
I propose taking an approach of radical interdependence. A recognition that we are connected, influenced by the same air and turbulent energies. When we take responsibility for ourselves, creating stability and consistency within one’s self, we are able to support another in their time of need. You can lean on me when you need it, and if you do the same, I can lean on you when I need it.
A strong building is held up by the mutual support of many strong pillars.
If we each vow to be equally dependent and sovereign, we create a web so strong and sturdy that even the dismantling of the cultural structures around us, which help us form our identity, do not shake us to the core. In fact, it is our ability to lean on each other and honor our interdependence that inspires individuals to become stronger and more stable on their own -- creating an even stronger web.
The more we choose to rely on each other in our authenticity, the less we need to rely on the stories of the external world and morality to tell us what is right and good.
What practices allow you to embody your sovereignty? What is it about being dependable that feels good to you?