As a nation and as citizens of this nation, Indians celebrate seventy-three years of independence from colonial rule this year. Historically, such events hold meaningful significance in the existence of humans as social beings. Being independent of oppression, suppression, discrimination, abuse, and violence is the central right of a free life.
Before we go any further, let us establish why we thought this topic fits our Love and Relationship themed e-magazine. The explanation is simple- the biggest, happiest, and the most satisfying relationship you can ever have is the one with yourself! So there, that justifies enough, right?
Etymologically, the word ‘independent’ derives its roots from Latin: in (not/un) and dependere (to hang from/depend). In this sense, being independent is experienced by not being dependent on (or hanging from) things, people, or ideologies. One can draw inspiration from them, but not necessarily depend on them to exist!
Have you felt oppressed and bound in life? As though you wish to live your life one way, and yet you end up living the other way? What does that feel like? Would you like to experience freedom in your life, as our ancestors did 72 years ago? Have you been aiming to live life on your terms, instead of being pulled and pushed?
(P.S: readers can affiliate themselves with their nation’s freedom struggle story while reading).
Drawing from contemporary studies and works in the field of Psychology, this article decodes why is being independent important, how to be independent emotionally and also, how to be independent and happy!
(Psst… Letting you in on a little secret- the key is self-awareness and self-love. Let’s understand more).
The need for being independent!
Remember those days, when our great grandfathers struggled to survive during the colonial times of India. Our people were mocked and bullied in their identity as Indians. Several times, they were stripped of their social titles, which used to contribute to their sense of self-esteem and self-worth. Sadly, there were times when they were denied their dignity of being a human. Under the pretext and illusion of providing a ‘better’ quality of life, our ancestors were persecuted, tormented, and frightened. Being independent was denied!
Imagine the emotions they would have experienced, but denied in expression. I imagine they would experience feeling helpless; you want to live one way and you can help neither yourself, nor your beloved, nor the nation to live life in dignity and freedom. I also imagine them feeling bound, coiled uptight. It’s like you want to move, spread your wings; sadly, they were clipped the moment you raised them.
Let’s zoom out from the freedom struggle picture and zoom into our life struggle. Many of us struggle to feel free and helpful to the self and others for a large part of our wake time. We report, “I wish I could. Somehow, I never can. Something happens and then I give up!”. There are times when we feel like we are in a limbo or living life in autopilot mode, feeling helpless to control/regulate aspects of our thinking and decision making.
For instance, consider this problem of overthinking that many of us struggle with. We just don’t realize when we drift into loops of rumination about the past or loops of worry about the future. And we dearly wish to stop that and yet we fail to.
Want to read more from our Love Therapy segment?- Love is a Decision or an emotion? Click to find out.
Drivers: The colonial rulers that prevent you from being independent
Does the emotion sound familiar: helpless and bound? If it does, then this will make sense. Our ancestors were bound by foreign people and their ideologies & power. They were oppressed and bound by an external force. And they felt helpless and angry.
Similarly, we are ruled by some set of beliefs that we encage within us. We use the word ‘belief,’ which is a stronger word for thought. As humans, we may have many thoughts. But when we become convinced and confident of the truth in that thought, it becomes a belief. And how do we get convinced? It could be due to repeated exposure of that thought, or that thought could have been validated (reinforced/approved) by someone we loved in our childhood, or that thought would be highly valued by our significant caregivers as a precondition to be loved.
These beliefs are the operating system manual of our personhood (that is who we are as a person, a human). They act like the lens through which we live our life – the choice of our sensations, the perception of our world, the interpretation of events in our lives, our preferences, our strengths, and our limitations.
To remember it simply, use this equation:
Thought + Reinforced/approved/validated several times (during the early years of our life) => Belief => Operating System Manual of our personhood.
Sadly, sometimes our beliefs are unhealthy and unproductive. They become the colonial rule, which restricts our freedom (to see unique perspectives, to accept the unknown, to be comfortable with uncertainty, and the like). In the field of Transactional Analysis, they are identified as Drivers (Kahler, 1975). I particularly like this term because it connotes the driver of my life.
Kahler (1975) identified five major types of drivers (beliefs) that can restrict us from being independent. They show up (manifest) in our behavior and thinking.
- Be perfect
- Be strong
- Try Hard
- Please (others)
- Hurry Up
Note, that these beliefs developed much early in our life when we had limited cognitive strength (brain development was not complete). Hence, as children, we struggled to make sense of the world within the best of our available capacities. Such beliefs are hence only natural to develop.
However, do we have to necessarily be driven by them now as adults? Are they serving the purpose they once did?
Why is being independent important?
You can answer both of my above questions by tracing your emotions when you were driven by these colonial rules (driver beliefs). For instance, I was once constantly driven by this belief of being perfect and strong at all times of my life, with all people in my life, in all the roles I played in my life. These rulers were supported by the driver of pleasing others as well several times. How did I feel back then?
I felt tired, exhausted, angry, uncomfortable, and helpless. Uncomfortable because despite being so perfect and pleasing, something always felt amiss (myself). Helpless because I never did enjoy being so tired, exhausted, and angry at the breaking point (obviously, because it affected my relationships). This constant need to be perfect at all times took up a large part of my time, the need to always be strong took away my original, true feelings, and the need to please others automatically denied me from pleasing myself. And I would labor hard to meet these needs!
Ultimately, when these needs weren’t met (I’m human and to err is to human), I would blame myself for being incapable and unworthy of love (neither love from others nor self-love). Honestly, I never even realized that I can want different things in life and that it is okay for me to consider my personal needs!
Have you had similar struggles? Didn’t these struggles prevent you from being independent? Didn’t these drivers make you doubt your value? Didn’t these rules deny your right to self-love?
So, it can safely be established that feeling and being independent is important for our well-being, for our sanity.
How to be independent emotionally?
Let’s zoom back to the time of our ancestors to learn from them. Like me, they also did not want to be driven by the colony, simply because their basic human rights of dignity were denied. And why is my right to live in dignity so important? Because they liked who they were, they loved their nation, they loved their identity as Indians, they loved their culture (which was being diluted), they loved their community and society, they loved their families!
Now zoom out from there and zoom into our lives today. We are neither taught nor encouraged nor allowed to love ourselves. It is considered selfish and egoistic. To clarify, ONLY self-love is surely selfish, but self-love is a necessity. When we cannot love ourselves, how do we expect others to love us?
“I have nothing in me that I can love myself for!” Often my clients ponder whether they have qualities to be loved for within them. And I’m sure many of us, who have been intensely and rigorously driven by these beliefs would find it difficult to believe that they are worthy of love.
If you are one of them, do this exercise: switch your mode of functioning from being a ‘doer’ to an ‘observer’ for sometime of the day. Observe your day, your feelings, your acts, and thoughts of that day. Pick out one positive feeling or act or thought you experienced that day (for example, holding back your words to not offend the other is a positive act; thinking about a friend you miss and wish well for them or decide to call them is a positive thought; feeling good when someone compliments you is a positive feeling). Note it down. At the end of the month, the diary will meet your real personhood!
This is based on the truth that every human is prepackaged with innate tendencies of altruism (goodness).
Being independent and self-love: the love entangle
Being independent and self-love form a beautiful couple. Remember that it is healthy only when we experience being independent and in self-love when they are balanced in our necessity. For instance, the salt in our food is a necessity and yet, too much or too little can alter the taste of our food. Similarly, balance the act of being independent by situationally adhering to your driver-beliefs and sometimes, letting them for a party. Balance self-love as well, by mindfully loving your self in ways that you can love others at the same time. In other words, self-love shouldn’t be at the cost of someone else’s pain.
It is observed that over time, being independent and self-love walk hand-in-hand. Our recognized love for who we are allows us to break free from the colonial rule of our driver-beliefs. And when we are able to break free from them, we begin to love ourselves even more!
Share your thoughts, experiences, and feedback. Let’s engage in conversations that help reveal our driver-beliefs, our goodness and let us take the driver seat of our awareness, our life, and our existence.
Kahler, T. (1975) Drivers: the key to the process of scripts. TAJ, 5(3), pp. 280-284.
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