A New Look at Independence: True Independence

As another Independence Day has come and gone here in the U.S.A.,  I have been called again to speak a deeper voice, a deeper truth about what independence is and isn’t.  All through the weeks leading up to July 4, I kept hearing in my heart … shall I feed the illusions about independence that so many of us believe and live in? Or shall I pierce those illusions and help people part the veil to see where they are not really independent?  My life, my work, my heart is always to find the truth, to teach the truth … even though many may run from it. So this year, in the afterglow of July 4,  I am offering the truth about independence to citizens of the U.S. and citizens of the world, as well. We all need to understand true independence.

Many people believe that if they rebel against their parents, they are free.  And many believe they claim their independence by doing just that – rebelling.* But look at the dynamics beneath the outer action. Look at the dynamic that sets up for the children as they age and for the relationship over time.

Sharon’s mother wants her daughter to be “a good girl” and do what “mommy says is right.”  First of all, what is mother teaching Sharon?  Is she teaching her wonderful values? Is she teaching her to discern the truth for herself? Or is she teaching Sharon not to do anything that will trigger mommy? If the latter, what will little Sharon do? She may comply with her mother and do only what mommy wants, defending herself against mommy’s triggered reactions. Or she may rebel against mommy and do the opposite of what her mother wants, however triggered mommy gets. This may develop into consistent oppositional attitudes and behavior – overt and covert – throughout Sharon’s life, in her relationship with everyone and everything, even life itself. (We’ve seen a lot of this in our Congress for the past many years.)

Sharon may believe that complying with mommy’s wishes takes away her own young independence, while also believing that rebelling against mommy’s wishes and doing the opposite of what mommy wants gives her freedom. This reveals the underlying dynamic that so many of us – all over the world – don’t want to see. Rebelling against does not make us independent, does not make us free, does not make us grownups.  Complying with and rebelling against are both in reaction to “the other,” meaning another person.  Neither is an individuated action in behalf of one’s self.  Once you understand this, you will never be able to see independence, individuation, freedom the same way again.  You will never again be able to see someone in an adult body and be sure if that is a grown up – if that is a grownup standing in individuated truth, or if that is a child in an adult’s body rebelling against mommy and daddy.

I teach my clients this in many different ways.  For instance, if you want to truly individuate, that occurs in the context of the relationship.  It requires a relationship in which a child experiences he can have both himself and also his mother (or father or both).

An example: If the parent sets up the relationship so the son, Sam, cannot have, be, develop into the self he is at essence … Sam will give up himself to have the parent. Or Sam will give up the parent and risk abandonment or abuse on many levels. Or Sam will vacillate between the two options one way or another – perhaps out in the open, perhaps in his own mind and heart, perhaps beneath his own consciousness. And often Sam, like many other children in the same situation, will fantasize the time when he grows up and can get away from the parent … run away from the parent … and at long last be free. Note again, that this is not true freedom, for Sam is getting away from his parent, running away from his parent.  That may be the only way Sam, with his child’s mind, thinks he can become himself. And perhaps he’s right that he will never become himself in that particular parent-child relationship. But, if that’s what Sam is living with, if that’s what Sam is growing up with, if that’s what Sam decides is the solution … deep inside his own psyche and soul, then Sam will be as tied to his parent if he runs away as he will be if he stays.  He will act this out both within himself and in the world outside … somehow … even if other people can’t see or know it, even if he himself isn’t aware of it. And he will not be able to truly individuate – become his own person inside and out — until he finds a therapeutic relationship in which he can heal the wounds that prevent him from both being himself and “having” the other person. This, of course, requires a therapist who has done his or her own deep healing work with individuation and independence.

The person who rebelled to try to get away from her parent as a way of attempting to be independent – to be her own self – will approach the crossroads of working through the childhood dilemma with as much – maybe even more – fear and defense as the person who complied and submitted and never rebelled at all.

This is all to bring us back to the truth: Are you really independent? Or are you just deluding yourself to keep from experiencing your own early pain?  And your own early longing for a parent who has done his or her own work and can both be their full individuated self while at the same time supporting you to become your self?

Sadly, what people will do – as individuals and as groups — to try to avoid this pain, while at the same time pursuing this longing, is mind- and heart-boggling.  They will abuse themselves and each other. They will abuse the earth that is our home. They will try to control others’ hearts, minds, souls. .  . and, of course, bodies. They will submit or rebel against. And while doing these things, most of the time they will be claiming, to themselves and others, that they are independent.  Most of the time asserting that they are free. Most of the time pretending they are in power, or fighting to be the ones in power.  Anyone who gets power that way isn’t really in power. Anyone who lives that way isn’t really independent.

How can people be truly independent unless they do their own work to resolve their issues from the inside out.  How can people be authentically independent if they have no willingness to be interdependent in the most healthy way?  Look out into our world and ask yourself … How much true independence do I see? Not much. How much true interdependence do I see? Not much.

How are we going to become truly independent from the inside out unless we do our own inner healing work to the root?  We’re not. Don’t be deluded or seduced into thinking otherwise.  Don’t be fooled by distorted new age spiritual teachings, or old-age traditional ones, either. Don’t be duped by personal growth leaders who haven’t really been trained to do the deep work with another’s psyche and soul, and even worse, haven’t done their own deep healing to the root.  Don’t be hoodwinked by the quick fix treatment of symptoms by techniques that may help you make believe you’re independent because you can function again, while just hiding the deeper cause and root of the symptom.

Don’t be deceived. Our real independence – individually and communally – rests on our own healing one by one by one.

These truths about real independence are reflected not only in the minds, bodies, hearts, souls, and lives of individuals, but also in those of couples, families, organizations, communities, countries, and our world at large. How often have we seen violent rebellion in which the rebel faction ends up enslaving the populace as much as the old regime did? How many times have we seen rebellious action on the part of a portion of the populace only to have their ideals and goals disintegrate, or the changes they want to enact, however lofty, fail to materialize, or even materialize and then fail to be sustained? This is a reflection of the need for each and every one of us – even the activists amongst us – to do the inner work necessary to truly make change…not out of “rebellion” against past or present authority but from true, conscious longing and commitment to heal ourselves and to heal our world.

We cannot afford any more to delude ourselves. To pretend with ourselves or others. The rich and powerful are not necessarily any more truly independent that those in their employ or those who are impacted by their actions, who are poor and oppressed.  If you have to amass limitless resources to feel secure, how independent can you really be? If you have to use your power over others or at the expense of others, how truly free and independent can you be?

Don’t be deceived. Our real independence – individually and communally – rests on our own healing one by one by one.

© Judith Barr, 2014

*I am not saying that children who are being abused – or adults for that matter –shouldn’t find their way to safety.  But there are more grounded, more truly effective ways to do so than rebellion.

WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP MAKE OUR WORLD SAFE
FROM THE INSIDE OUT

As we go about our daily lives – both in the afterglow of Independence Day and all throughout the year – we need to explore within ourselves how independent we truly are.

As you go through your day, explore what your early experiences with independence were. Were you encouraged to individuate, and to truly be who you are, with gentle guidance and teaching? Or were your attempts to be your true self stifled? Or alternately, were you given “free rein” with no guidance at all?

And, how did you react as a child? Did you try to do everything you could to please mommy and daddy, in spite of who you truly were? Or did you perhaps rebel against everything, the consequences be damned?

Then…as you experience authority in whatever form you experience it today, take note of how you feel. Is the feeling familiar? Can you trace that feeling back to your childhood experience? Is the feeling similar to your own childhood feelings, as best as you can recall them, in response to the authority of your parents or other adults?

We all feel the need to make change in our world … a world which so desperately needs change. But in order to make true, sustainable change, we need to explore and heal the wounds which prevent us from truly being independent.

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