Emotional health

One of the signs of being indepen­dent is the ability to give of yourself, of your time, of your energy, of your material goods. Because you are self-sufficient, you feel complete and thus able to give to others.

Most of the joy of living comes from true giving – giving without strings attached. Take children for example. The joy of raising children is the joy of giving. This is giving at its purest form. You do not give with any ulterior motive involved – you do so for the child. Giving with strings attached is trading when it is stated and manipulating when it is not.

A number of studies have found that when your mood goes up, you are much more inclined to give of yourself. In the same vein, giving of yourself raises your mood. Giving and your moods are interrelated, when one goes up the other does too. Both are contagious. When you are around giving people, you feel better and you are more inclined to give of yourself.

Giving is not only an antidote to mood swings; it is the way to emo­tional health. Once you start getting involved in helping others, you start to forget about your own problems. Giving is also the key to keeping rela­tionships alive. It is to your advantage to contribute to others rather than to withdraw constantly.

“You start liking yourself better when you are contributing to others – your self-respect and confidence start going up.


What about a woman who gives all the time and is constantly stepped on? This is what psychiatrist Dr. John Rust calls “the Joan of Arc depression” – the person is being burnt at the stakes while she tries to make everyone happy. “This is not true giving,” observes Dr. Rush, “it is either a misperception or an obliga­tion or a form of manipulation that is not working.”

You have to give without expecting anything in return if giving is to work. If you give because you are supposed to or are duty-bound by social custom, you do not get the benefit – you only become more tied to social bondage. Giving is the clue to having better relation­ships with all people, not just with friends.

One of the great paradoxes of life is that by giving to others you end up receiving more yourself. The opposite of a giving person is a person who withholds. You may withhold your wit, wisdom, love, knowledge. The paradox is that you end up the loser by withhold­ing this. According to Dr. Emery, to become self-reliant you need to be a “host instead of a guest in life.”

Above all, what you want is to give to others close to you is a relationship that is nonjudgmental and fully accepting.


By giving to others, you are showing acceptance of them. This gift comes back to you in the form of greater self-acceptance. When you are accepting of others, they move closer to you.

The independent way to be in relationship is to let other people be themselves. Your non-accep­tance of them is a form of de­pendency; you are demanding that they fit your ideals perfectly in or­der for you to be happy with them. Thus, you are making happiness dependent on their perfection.

If you are not accepting of much of your life, people do not want to be around you. Your rejection of reality and other people gets in the way of how you relate to others. Most people, for example, dislike being around complainers. Complaining usually is a manifestation of dependency.

By complaining, you reveal something of the world you are not accepting and are depen­dent on. Speaking and asking for change is often the best policy. However, if you continually complain about aspects of reality you cannot change (the weather) or will not change (your job) it is a form of depen­dency.


According to Dr. Emery, an­other sign of social dependen­cy is constantly making value judgments of people. Your judgments turn others off and stop you from seeing the world clearly and accepting it as it is. That is partly due to feeling you have the final say about what is good and bad.

This is compounded by how you make your judgments. You are more judgmental if you are emotive about value statements. Your judgments and complaints usually tell you more about yourself than about the things you judge. In addition, your judgments often are forms of projection. You are judging something in others that you do not want to accept in yourself.


Closely related to being judgmental is being slanderous. Malicious gossip and charac­ter assassination are endemic throughout society. To be the person slandering someone or to accept unquestioningly the slander is a symptom of social dependency.

Mike Geller a communi­cation specialist studied the process of slander in detail. He writes, “Children learn the value of slander at an early age. It helps them to get attention or eliminates completion in friendship games.

The extent to which slander operates among adults – in personal, business, profession­al, social and political situations – proves that some people do not outgrow their tendency to slander. And the frequency with which it is effective proves that few adults have learned to identify slander by TESTING accusations before reaching judgment.”

People will seek you out to hear your latest piece of gossip. At first glance, the gossip appears to be the most popular person around. However, on closer inspection this turns out to be false popularity. If you are a slander, people will soon become wary of you, they begin to wonder what you are saying about THEM.

Frequently, those who do a lot of slandering nearly always end up being slandered by others. “The message is clear,” Dr. Emery prof­fers, “to become socially indepen­dent, you have to stop slandering and stop giving credibility and encouragement to people who slander.”


Dr. Emery believes you can tell how dependent you are by what you say you cannot tolerate; the less you can tolerate the more dependent you are.

How many traits of others do you tell yourself you “cannot stand?” To become more socially independent, you need to become aware of what you cannot tolerate in others and learn how to increase your tolerance.

You will be more socially inde­pendent if you begin to accept your friends and associates non-accep­tance of some aspect of yourself. Take your success for example. Dr. Emery ran a study with a group of friends and acquaintances.

To half of them he sent a letter stressing the success factors of a book he wrote; with the other half, he stressed the failure factors. What did the eminent cognitive therapist find? In general, those who were told he was doing well did not want to hear about it and those who were told he was doing badly gave him great encouragement and support and helpful ideas.

He then reversed the process. He told those in the first group he was doing poorly and the second group he was doing well.

He got the same effect: people who had not been interested in his success were supportive and helpful when they heard the book was doing poorly.

The lesson: “Friends have much more trouble accepting your success­es than your failures. This is some­thing you have to accept about most people. Most people see your success as upsetting the delicate social bal­ance between you and them.”

As you become more independent, those around you often will not like it – particularly those who are the closest to you. People you have been dependent on over the years have gotten used it.

They have become comfortable with your asking their permission, advice, forgiveness and accountabil­ity. Even if they do not like the bad aspect of your dependency, they have gotten used to it. Most people do not like to change, even if it is from bad to good.

You know you are moving forward when you start seeing some resis­tance. Welcome this; it is a sign you are starting to grow and becoming more independent. Nearly all forms of change meet with some resistance.

The lesson: “Friends have much more trouble accepting your successes than your failures. This is something you have to accept about most people. Most people see your success as upsetting the delicate social balance between you and them.”


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