Personal peace begins when we stop waiting for others to change and we start focusing only on ourselves. This is a hard thing to do. In my own life, I have stumbled through relationships finding the fault of my unhappiness in the inconsiderate actions and behaviors of others. At the time, I thought it was a selfless act on my part, putting the focus on other people. Placing my energy, my time and my thoughts on others. “If they change, they will be happy and then I can be happy.” This is the classic dance of a co-dependent person. In facing my co-dependent tendencies head on, my mantra is this: my happiness is my responsibility and the only person who needs to change, if I am unhappy, is me.
We are communal creatures, us humans. We need each other and our culture has programmed us to be co-dependent when what we need to work towards is being intradependent. As co-dependents, we find our sense of value, esteem, worth, love, purpose, etc. through others and more often than not, this leads to very low self-esteem because we give ourselves away with no requirement for balance in the exchange of energy.
Intradependence isn't a common term and there isn't much study on it. My take on intradependence is that it is different than independence. Intradependence seeks wholeness through self-actualization and does not strive to disconnect from others in that process, like independence does. Intradependence learns about self from being in community with others. We are intrinsically connected and everything we do impacts the communities we exist in. Independence is impossible. Even if we are disconnected from government and people, we are in community with the land, resources, animals, etc. There is always some kind of dependence happening.
Becoming intradependent is a process, probably a lifelong process and it is a daily practice. In practicing an intradepenedent model, my self-worth/esteem is no longer tied to the opinion, actions, or attitudes of others as it has been for most of my life. I am learning how to still meet my need of giving joy to people while honoring my need to do so without any self-sacrifice whatsoever. All these years I thought the two were mutually exclusive.
Today, I challenge thoughts that creep in compelling me to fill up someone who I perceive as having a void or to demand that a loved one change in some way. I no longer make snap judgments about people in political parties other than my own (I don’t have one anymore, so that’s pretty easy) and I have let go of the need to measure my beauty, success, value and worthiness of being loved based on propaganda, Facebook or stories I was told about these things when I was young.
Sure, people need to change. We all need to change. Today, I understand that I cannot change others by affirming what is wrong with them, by shaming or blaming even when their acts and attitudes are destructive/oppressive. Some people have crossed into the no-return-zone, but most people have not crossed over that threshold—though, we sometimes treat them, talk about them and think about them as if they had. All we can do is make our own needs clear and let go of expectation. Some relationships will grow and most will fade.
How we fix crappy situations and harmful people is by letting go of the need to control them. When we take the focus off what everyone else is doing wrong, we make space to fully exist in the world. Our anxiety lessens and our heart opens. Being vulnerable is no longer something to protect and withhold for fear others will abuse it, it is now something to test in order to create connections. When we create intentional practices of self-love and emotional intelligence, we begin to see with new eyes. Obstacles and the status quo are no longer walls to break down, they are illusions to untie ourselves from. Power-hungry and fearful people are no longer the keepers of our peace and happiness, they are teachers for us to cut our teeth on in order to expand in our wisdom.
I have gratefully found that practicing intradependence has increased my capacity to be compassionate, improved my communication, strengthened my ability to regulate my emotions (not limit, push down or deny--UNDERSTAND) and I have a much easier time extending forgiveness where I need to so I can let go of the stories that have had me imprisoned.
And just like any practice... it is always, one day at a time.