Many of us deal with the issues and challenges of life by enlisting the help of others to solve them for us and with us, rather than dealing with them alone. In many respects, this is a reasonable response to the situation. Our feelings of loneliness, insecurity, and vulnerability are exacerbated when we are surrounded by others. This need for connectedness satisfies not just our need for protection and security, but also our desire for a sense of meaning and direction in life. We can find enormous comfort and purpose in the company of other people such as our spouses, friends, children, celebrities, the organisations and groups we belong to, and even imaginal others such as guardian angels or spirits who may appear in our dreams. The distinction between a healthy and an unhealthy relationship is determined by our level of motivation in the connection. During times when our threat brain emotions are strong, our connection to people is motivated by fear and the need to be validated, saved, or protected from harm. When our safe brain emotions are engaged, on the other hand, we are driven to foster reciprocal progress in our relationships by expressing compassion, being open, and having faith in one another. Threat brain motivation is expressed as ‘I love you because I need you,’ whereas safe brain motivation is expressed as ‘I need you because I love you.’
The motivating dynamic involved in reliance is a combination of fear and a strong need for relief. This condition causes cortisol (a stress hormone) and dopamine to rush our bodies and brains, causing us to feel euphoric and invigorated (the hormone and neurotransmitter that tells our brain that something or someone is worth getting or doing more of). Those hormones and chemicals may both invigorate and divert us, providing reprieve from the banal and complex challenges of everyday life. They have the potential to become addictive. When it comes to romantic relationships, the “feel good” feelings that come with affection, dedication, and infatuation can provide an exaggerated sense of pleasure that can leave us wanting more and more. This pattern is present in all addictions, and when it interferes with our interpersonal connections, we can become entangled in unhealthy attachments that are difficult to break free from and become imprisoned. Desperate sayings from Reneturrek will resonate with you.
The majority of the time when we are under the influence of and dependent on others, we are in a condition of submission. How we transform an ordinary person into an amazing Other is through submission, which is a threat brain reaction that correlates to the freeze pattern of our flight-flee-freeze repertoire of responses. In our submission and deference to the Other, we become hyper-sensitive to opinion and frantic to please, and we continuously over-inflate their talents and traits while under-appreciating our own skills and features. It is more probable that we will submit to and become dependent on others if we do not pay attention to or understand our emotions, particularly those of our threat brain, and how they inspire and affect us. We are either unaware of, or unwilling to accept and cope with, our unconscious experiences, which manifest themselves, for example, as a sense of being ‘torn’ or conflicted by competing wants and desires, and other symptoms. Psychological defences such as denial (there is no problem) and projection (it is not me who has a problem, it is you!) are overused to cope with our problems.
Affinity with oneself means that we do not perceive ourselves as autonomous, integral creatures, nor do we perceive ourselves as the originators of our own activities, which leads in an inner emptiness and helplessness, as well as a sense of powerlessness.
When we live in this manner, we become increasingly focused on—and reliant on—the opinions of others about us, since what is ‘real’ and significant has shifted from within ourselves to something that is external to us. As a result of being dependent on external factors, particularly other people, our capacity to sense intrinsic self-worth (which is not contingent on the approval or judgement of others) is weakened. Dependent behaviour is associated with the freeze phase of our fight-flee-freeze danger response brain response cycle. There are four perception practises that we can engage in to help us overcome our natural tendency toward submission and dependency. These perception practises are an alternative to the common strategies of denial, projection, repression, avoidance, quick fixes, and simplistic solutions that many of us resort to when we are conflicted, stressed or uncertain.
When we are threatened, the first exercise is to become aware of and ease those feelings, because awareness is obscured by the intense pulsations of our danger brain. The use of safe brain techniques such as rhythmic breathing, practising self-compassion, and scheduling time for relaxation and grateful contemplation will all be beneficial in this situation. The second practise is to open up and accept. Our instructors teach us that it is important not to overlook or disregard the unique, bizarre, synchronistic, mystifying, or conflicting situations that occur in our life. In this technique, we begin by softening the voice of our inner critic, which prevents us from receiving what we are meant to receive.
Developing inquiry as an inquisitive and inquiring reaction to our inner experiences is the third discipline, and it is this response that helps us build our ability to interpret and comprehend our inner experiences. There is a more deep shift in the way we listen to experience in the fourth practise, one that builds on and supports the preceding practises of noticing/soothing, receptivity, and inquiry/understanding, all of which are described above. Our ability to envision becomes increasingly important in the fourth practise, as we explore our unconscious processes and devote greater attention to our inner rather than outward lives.
Our attention is redirected by perception techniques, which helps us become more acquainted with and trustful of ourselves over time. When this occurs, we find ourselves more capable of understanding and trusting people, of experiencing the quality and possibility of reciprocal love, and of nurturing mutuality in our interpersonal connections, among other things.