Paths to Independence

Paths to Independence

As a Canadian living in the USA I get to celebrate Canada Day July 1 and Independence Day July 4. I’m intrigued by both the parallels and the differences those two celebrations have.

Wikipedia has great little summaries:

“On July 1 1867, at noon, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and the Province of Canada were proclaimed the Dominion of Canada, with John A. MacDonald its first prime minister. Now, the area of Upper Canada was called Ontario and Lower Canada was called Quebec. With passage of the British North America Act, the Dominion of Canada was officially established as a self-governing entity within the British Empire.”

Independence Day is annually celebrated on July 4 and is often known as "the Fourth of July". It is the anniversary of the publication of the declaration of independence from Great Britain in 1776 … the birth of the United States of America as an independent nation.”

Trust me, this is not a history blog. That is NOT one of my strengths (just ask Bill!).

What intrigues me is the two different paths to independence. I think it offers us a wonderful illustration for moving to healthier relationships. Canada made the move much later than the US and to this day continues a very cordial relationship with British Royalty, etc.

Many years ago, after going through a very difficult situation with close friends I booked a few sessions with a therapist to help me work it through and learn what I needed to learn.

It was very productive and helped me to see where I had not been setting good boundaries. I let others’ opinions matter more in my life than my own - about me! I was still wanting external validation and attaching my confidence to feedback from others. I needed help in becoming more independent!

Obviously I’m not alone. Nor am I 100% over this people-pleasing tendency but I have definitely found a lot more independence and freedom from needing to please others. Just like the contrast between how the USA and how Canada obtained their independence (and how it looks now for each country) I think our own paths to healthier independence can vary.

In the process the counsellor wanted me to confront my Dad about the abuse I had received from him. I wasn’t ready for that and actually don’t think that I needed that for my freedom. The path to freedom can be an internal, personal one. In fact, I believe that your freedom in relationships IS NOT dependent on the other person. If I base my freedom on a conversation with another person then I am still dependent on their reaction. That is not freedom.

It may feel like an appropriate step in some relationships to “speak your truth”. Let’s keep the two steps very separate though. If you need to be more independent that is something you choose to do and likely need to process emotionally - with a journal, with a counselor, etc. It is rarely something you can process easily with the person you need to be less dependent with.

It is an older classic but still full of great wisdom - the book is called “Co-Dependent No More” by Melody Beattie. There is also a workbook (easily found on Amazon, etc.). Beattie includes a great little test to help you examine how co-dependent your relationships are.

The healthy version for us as people is healthy inter-dependence. My goal in life is not emotional independence. It is relationships where we share the ability to be fully present, not shrinking and not over-powering with each other. Be seen, valued and honored and offer that in return.

The pendulum can swing sometimes when we discover a need for less dependence but the happy place is with deep, vulnerable and honest connection. Connection free of control, shame, judgment and manipulation.

Here’s to your next steps in healthier relationships!

What are your next steps?

Until next week,

Marilyn

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