Dependence, Co-Dependence, Inter-Dependence

It’s interesting that we hear so much talk about not being co-dependent… about being very independent.  We even pride ourselves on it and now you may be hearing about inter-dependence.   If you’ve been reading my newsletters for a while, you might even remember the newsletter from last year called “Independence Builds Barriers.”

Today we’re going to talk more about how the two actually play together, and first let me share a story…

There’s a lesson I learned many years ago from another one of my great teachers, “If you can’t do something…”  Actually there are words of two of my great teachers merging together here.  First, Tony Robbins, taught us a mantra that I still use today when I hear the words “I can’t” come out of my mouth.  Tony said, “If you can’t, you must.”  (I’ll talk more about why that impacted my life so much in another article, but for now I want to combine it will another teaching.)    I was in a course called the Illusion Conclusion, with a teacher named, Jerry Stocking, and he said to a man in the course something like this, “Sometime you should stand in a doorway and block it.”  It seemed like a strange thing to say to a student, so we all listened attentively.  The man replied, “I would NEVER do that.”  Jerry replied, “My point exactly,” he continued, “Can you imagine a possible situation in life where standing and blocking a doorway might be appropriate and even good.”  The man replied, “Well… yes.”  Jerry replied, “Right now, you can’t be that man.   You’ve put yourself in a box and you have to live according to it.  I suggest you find that part of yourself, and own it.”  I wondered what parts I’d denied in myself…


What parts of you have you denied?


The lesson being…  anything that we make “not ok” in our world puts us in a box and limits our experience.  So many of us have said, if even silently and unconsciously, “I don’t need anyone.” Or  “I’’ll never depend on a man (or a woman.).  “I have to have to have a relationship.”   

What ever you may have said with regard to independence, needing a relationship, always doing it yourself… you need to find that part of yourself so you can access it, when and if you ever need it. 

It’s  actually about finding the whole of ourselves… and sometimes the whole of ourselves isn’t pretty.   Sometimes the whole of our selves means being angry.

There was a time in my life when I swore I never got angry…  looking back at the time when I couldn’t get angry, I also didn’t have any boundaries and I could never say no.   So if somebody did something or treated me in a way that was really not ok, instead of getting angry, I might have gotten upset to myself or to a girlfriend, but I would never get angry.  Instead I made excuses for the person… “oh, they are having a bad day… oh, his parents blah, blah…  they didn’t mean to… they’re doing their best.”  Yet simultaneously I would feel betrayed, not taken care of, or even violated in some cases.  There was no self care in there for me.  I needed to learn that it was ok to feel angry.  I didn’t need to act on it, but I had to embrace that part of myself so I could have full access to me and the protector within who knew how to set boundaries. 

So going back to the topic of independence … if we can’t choose to be independent because we are so driven to be connected in relationship, then we don’t have full access to ourselves nor do we have access to the full possibility of relationship.  The same thing happens if we are so committed to be independent that we can’t choose to be interdependent.

Independence was something I was really good at…  I told myself I don’t need anybody…  I can do it all… I can pound the nail, carry the wood, lift the boxes, handle the bills, take care of the house… whatever, I could do it.  If someone asked to help, my standard answer was, “No, no, I got it.”  I didn’t have access to that part of me that could ask for help, because I made a vow, “I’ll never depend on a man.”  and beneath that, “I can’t depend on anybody really.”


Are you over committed to independence?

Are you over committed to connection?


So between the vow and the belief it was very hard for me to accept help and it was even harder for me to be a partner, because partnership means we support each other… whether it’s an intimate partnership or a business partnership.  Why bother having a business partner if you’re not willing to depend on them.  Why bother having an employee if you’re not willing to depend on them.  Why be in romantic relationship if you’re not willing to depend on them at times.

Now, let’s look at the flip-side, co-dependence.    That was a concept I really didn’t understand… “What the heck does that mean,” I thought many times.  Oh my goodness, I should have known… I was doing it!

There are couple of aspects that I see in the simplest definition of co-dependency, that I find key.  First, we let our mood and our experience of life be defined by the moods, opinions and values of a partner.  In the past, I didn’t know how to exist on my own.  If I wasn’t validated by my partner, I had to let go of my opinions, values, even desires.  I was so dependent, read co-dependent,  on that relationship, that I didn’t exist otherwise…  which brings us to point two.  My identity… who I was depended on my status in relationship… whether I had a relationship or not, how it was going, and how others perceived it was going.   (For years I didn’t feel I had any value without a relationship… so imagine some of the choices I’ve made.  I was driven to have a relationship so I made some pretty lousy choices as times.  )

Each of us must find a space where we are whole and complete with or without a relationship… or with or without a business partnership… where we can be both independent and dependent.  Remember, if you are driven to do anything… to always be independence or never get angry or never block a doorway for example, you put yourself in a box…


This week I invite you to take yourself out of the box. I invite you to look at your always and nevers.  I invite you to find your wholeness on a deeper level.


I’ll leave with the quote I use so often in workshops and share so often with clients.  It’s a quote from the poet Kahil Gibran in his book The Prophet.  In it he writes on marriage and says… “Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music.”

Only when two people come together in their own wholeness and independence, can they then come together in partnership to create magic, to quiver together in ecstasy, to dance together in love. 


Find your independence.  Find your dependence.  Find your wholeness so you can dance fully with your beloved, with the divine, with your business, with life. 


In love, light and ecstasy,

Joanna Shakti

*At Ecstatic Intimacy, an all-inclusive website for singles and couples, we welcome all sexual orientation(s), gender(s) and relationship expressions. In this article we utilize the pronouns he/she/him/her.

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