Dependence- Is it a good thing or a bad thing?
Is dependence a good thing or a bad thing? … “Depends”!
Actually, dependence comes in different shades. On one hand we have a case of complete parasitic dependence while on the other hand, ‘Dependability’ is a much desired attribute in Corporates and also in relationships. We only need to understand which is what.
Dependence is an intrinsic part of our life. Friends desire the company of friends rather than being alone. Organizations depend on its employees to take its agenda forward. Even a mighty Nation depends on its residents, just to be a NATION. There is a feel of reassurance in these examples of ‘dependence’.
We also have a dependence of this type:
- A child’s dependence on its parents.
- In olden days, a traditional, non working Indian housewife’s financial dependence on her husband. If her husband died, she was either on the streets or at the mercy of other family members. There is a contrast with the modern educated housewife who shares a co-dependent relationship with her husband. The modern housewife is self sufficient.
In the above examples where the dependent is at the mercy of another, we don’t feel a very positive connotation to the word, ‘dependence’. It is a case of one sided dependence, where one party is more in need of the other.
- This dependence is more physical/materialistic & is ‘external’
- This dependence often relates to basic survival needs
- In an unequal relationship, the self esteem of the receiving party may be at stake
I call this kind of dependence ‘Destructive Dependence’ as it can be crippling & debilitating.
On the other hand, dependence in the case of friends and between a nation and its citizens is relatively mutual. There is no hierarchy in who needs whom more. Neither party has an upper hand nor is subservient to the other.
- This dependence is more emotional than arising from physical or material needs.
- In most cases, it’s beyond basic survival needs. These are likely to invoke feelings of reassurance, emotional support, comfort, confidence and even pride.
- This dependence is more intangible
I categorize this as Constructive Dependence, which is more emotional in nature which is facilitative and nurturing. This is a position of strength.
How does this play out?
In the case of constructive dependence, even the presence of the other entity is reassuring. The absence of the support is not crippling or disadvantageous. It is a case where you don’t depend on the other for survival, but have a psychologically reassuring feeling that, there is someone to fall back on.
Destructive dependence is a case where without support one is inadequate and things will fall apart.
A relationship in which those involved are destructively dependent is similar to the relationship between crutches and the person using it. Without it, the person cannot function. A relationship in which there is constructive dependence is more of one where there is a shoulder to cry on. You can put your hand around while walking on your own or even rest your head when needed and feel good.
Take away for life
In summary, dependence in itself is not a weakness, it can also be your strength. Having somebody to rely on without having your very survival depend on the person is what healthy or constructive dependence looks like. Dependence works best when it’s mutual & building on each other than when one is at the mercy of the other. It is unhealthy or destructive when there is an element of subservience or helplessness.
Each partner in constructive dependence is strongly independent & meaningfully interdependent. A position of weakness can only lead to exploitation and destructive dependence.
Finally we need to realize that the feeling of dependence is more psychological than physical.
If you really look back on life, you will realize that life’s journey is designed to be an evolution from a position of destructive dependence, at the beginning (Child) to constructive dependence on maturity (Adult).
This principle is very much applicable in work life too. We must strive to move from a position of dependence to a position of dependability. From destructive dependence to constructive dependence.
The bridge to cross is called ‘CAPABILITY BUILDING’. While you take this journey for self, it is your obligation to also facilitate a similar journey for your colleagues. This would help build strong organizations.