Practices From the Inside Out: Independence, Codependency, Interdependence?

Practices From the Inside Out: Independence, Codependency, Interdependence? June 30, 2018

Independence, Codependency, Interdependence?

We value independence. It is something we demonstrate, fight to defend, and are proud to express.

When we say something or someone is independent we mean they support themselves. There is a sense in which being independent means we can take care of ourselves. We often think of being independent as an aspect of becoming an adult.

The country where I was born sets aside an entire day to celebrate independence. We began with a declaration of our independence and a war to protect it.

Many of us believe in a metaphor in which our essence as a people grows from an independent spirit. We see our country as an expression and a bastion of independence in the world. Some of us are the descendants of independent individuals who left other places to find a new home.

Other people recognize things about us and our country which might make us seem more codependent.

When we talk about codependency we usually mean excessively relying on a partner. Codependency often involves needing to support someone on account of illness or addiction.

Some of us look at how our country and society works and see a great deal of codependency. We may see the ways our society is divided and dualistic as a symptom of unhealthy dependences.

Many of us are confused by the metaphor of independence as we see ourselves becoming more interdependent. We may not see ourselves as taking care of ourselves and expressing our independence. There are many more ways we see how we are growing closer to and relying on other people.

When we buy clothes and food from places on the other side of the planet, how independent are we? Can we truly be independent when we know and trust people who live in places around the world?

What is Our Independence All About?

How do we see our own independence? What does it mean to us?

It can be challenging for us to reflect deeply about our own independence. We get caught up in the patriotism and fireworks, the hotdogs and picnics of Independence Day. It can be easy for us to just do what we need to do to get through the day and head back to work tomorrow.

As I reflect on independence and interdependence my understanding changes. Rather than being opposites in some dualistic, codependent way, they balance each other.

We are not either independent or interdependent; we are both.

There are experiences and aspects of life which help us see ourselves as independent. Other parts of our lives and things we experience help show us our interdependence.

My reflection helps me see how I am independent. It can be a challenge for anyone to tell me what to think, what to believe, even what to do. I am independent enough to think things through for myself.

The most challenging moments and experiences I can remember were ones I faced on my own. There are times when we stand on our own, facing challenges and difficulties. These times show us our own strength and our own faith.

We look for opportunities to put our potential on display. Our independent spirit supports us as we discover how independent we can be.

At the same time, reflection shows us how interdependent we are. So many people have helped us and contributed to who we are and what we have been able to do.

Our lives are vast networks of relationships and connections. There are things we face on our own and things we face along with other people.

Each of us is unique and each of us is part of a universal whole.

Practicing Independence and Interdependence

How do independence and interdependence shape us and the ways we live our lives? Do we experience spiritual life as more independent or more interdependent, or both?

We practice balancing independence and interdependence. As our understanding grows we put it into practice each day.

There are moments when I practice independence. I live into the metaphor of standing up for myself, making my own choices and putting them to work. Life is filled with new insights and lessons which show I can take responsibility for myself.

Then there are other moments when I practice interdependence. The number of people on whom I rely to simply get through a day can be overwhelming. Life often reinforces how much I need other people to get anything done.

As I reflect I find new ways to practice independence and interdependence. Questions arise as well as insights to fuel the fire of our reflection. The flames dance in our hearts and independence and interdependence grow closer together.

Distinctions grow hazy and independence and interdependence become two sides of the same coin.

Celebrating Independence and Interdependence

Our celebration of the independent and the interdependent aspects of our lives are not limited to one day.

We may not set off fireworks or prepare special food, but we can still celebrate each day.

Our lives are filled with moments which remind us of seemingly contradictory truths. We choose not to divide them into competing categories but to focus on how they fit together.

We are independent and we are interdependent. Standing up for ourselves, we are members of a larger community. The insights and questions we gain on our own show us how other people see things.

Those people who declared their independence to begin this country so long ago did it together. They needed each other to demonstrate how independent they could be.

We learn deeply personal lessons today about how we need to live together.

Spiritual life draws us together into relationship. Each of us has our own, independent understanding which shapes the interdependent understanding we share.

Each day brings new challenges of its own. We deal with these challenges with our own balance of independence and interdependence.

Are we practicing independence or interdependence, or both, today?

How will we celebrate our independence and our interdependence this week?

[Image by soozed]

Greg Richardson is a spiritual life mentor and leadership coach in Southern California. He is a recovering attorney and university professor, and a lay Oblate with New Camaldoli Hermitage near Big Sur, California. Greg’s website is, and his email address is

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