Emil was describing how Henry, one of his team colleagues, had become overly dependent during the last few months. Joe was asking for a lot of support, and it wasn’t clear how much more investment this would require from Emil. Besides being colleagues, they were good friends and Emil was willing to help.
Emil also shared that this situation had something pleasing, Joe’s willingness to rely on him was giving him comfort. He was a bit worried about being too pleased about this situation and saw the risk of wanting to keep it that way. It also showed him how he, after having needed Joe’s support, felt good about his newly found independence.
Dealing with dependence and independence are both part of a process of maturity, one that doesn’t align with age. It continues to reappear in life whenever we are in need and feel a desire to be safe, for example when we must learn something new.
In such a process the desire for independence will regularly appear, probably as often as the feeling of dependence. In these situations, judgment will often interfere, that is when they become an assessment of the other and his ability. They can be experienced as a display of the existing trust in the other. And depending on one’s interpretation the reaction will be a pull towards more dependence or more independence. It becomes visible in the way people step in and want to do for the other, how they want to show their competence, how they push support away, etc.
It is a source of power dynamics. Some of which are very useful and supportive of growth.
But that is also misinterpreting the dynamic between people as a constant power struggle and an opposition of independence and dependence. Another view on it is the possibility that they prepare stepping into interdependence.
Interdependence is a state in which two or more entities rely on each other and are aware that the consequences of their actions affect one another. It can be experienced as having the potential of a fight or as a space serving cocreation.
It depends on how people step into it. They can decide to give themselves the space to contribute to one another’s thinking, learning, creating, or sharing. And they can give themselves some constraints to ease the co-creation. One is that nothing is perfect, and everything can be enhanced. Another is to let go of wanting others to comply with one’s contributions or to let themselves “be enhanced.” It’s a combination of willingness and constraints, of engagement and boundaries.
To me, it is when the notion of “good enough” becomes part of interdependence and allow to create it. It’s a state in which both independence and dependence are integrated.