The eternal existential conundrum: independence versus dependence

Updated: Jun 27

I have a friend who is a relatively newly single mother of two. She works for a big, highly political organisation, in a ruthlessly competitive industry - she's been there for nine years. While she is excellent at her job and perfectly well-trained for it, she hates a lot about it. She would love to be able to follow her passion and be in a more creative industry - one that she already dabbles in. Every year starts the same: 'do I take the new contract being offered, with a slight pay rise and heaps more pressure, or do I try to jump ship, and make a lateral move into something more me?' I watch (and try to help) as she struggles with the age-old conundrum: independence or dependence.


Independence brings anxiety

Like it or not, when we choose independence in life, we face potential anxiety. This anxiety can be mild - like when leaving high school to go out into the world. Or it can be enormous - like when leaving a miserable marriage with two small children. We can only avoid this anxiety, if we avoid the independence. Most of us seek to minimise this anxiety by calculating independent moves carefully.


Dependence brings frustration

Being dependent on a person, job, organisation or anything else - brings frustration. This frustration too, is unavoidable.


The balance

Most of us seek a good balance of dependence (or interdependence) and independence in our lives. Naturally, this balance constantly shifts as people grow and change. If it doesn't, we aren't growing. And it can be a challenge to negotiate a shift in this balance! This is often when people present in my practice - in a quandary or even crisis over what the balance needs to be and how to manage this change. 


Back to my friend...

My friend and her children spent Christmas and the New Year time staying with me, away from their home interstate. At first, she was clearly glad to be 'away' from the dilemma and reveled in 'freedom' from it. She had mentioned it was a problem but then let it go. Gradually, as the time approached for them to return home, her dilemma emerged as a real crisis. She began talking more animatedly. She was alternating between the security of the job on offer - yet its painful aspects - and the possibilities of another job in the field she is more passionate about - yet how to make that work financially.


Everything is in divine order - even when it doesn't seem to be

When times are tough, we often think - 'why me?', 'it shouldn't be', 'how can I get out of this?' But maybe it's actually all going to be o.k. - if we step up. Life often presents us with lots of variables at once - things we have to weigh up in making decisions. Delaying instant gratification for the long term goal is usually the right choice. It's not a quick fix but it avoids more problems coming our way - due to a perceived quick fix.


So what is the right decision for my friend?

My friend weighed up her options and decided that for now, while her children are young and she finds her ex-husband difficult, security is more important to her and to her kids; keeping her anxiety low is important and minimising change is important. She knows she can keep her future goal in mind - and even work towards it during the year - and that this will help to motivate her. This could be a good balance or her - for this year. It may all change next year - time will tell.   

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