S2 EP102 – The Challenge of Emotional Dependency

Episode Summary

You might be emotionally dependent without knowing it – many people are. Discover in this podcast what emotional dependency is and how to attain emotional freedom and loving relationships.


Hi everyone. This is Dr. Margaret Paul with the Inner Bonding podcast, and today I want to talk about emotional dependency. Many people are emotionally dependent without knowing it. I’m going to be discussing the difference between emotional dependency and emotional freedom and responsibility and the effect emotional dependency has on relationships. 

The definition that I use of emotional dependency is that you are dependent on others for your feelings of self-worth, safety, and lovability. You’ve handed away to other people the responsibility of defining whether or not you’re okay, because you’re not defining that for yourself. You’re looking to others for approval, attention, love, and validation to feel like you’re okay. You’re dependent upon what other people think of you rather than having learned how to define your own sense of worth and create your own sense of safety. 

We become emotionally dependent when we don’t know how to take loving care of our own feelings. If you never learned to do that, if your parents didn’t role model personal responsibility for their feelings, if you grew up believing that other people are responsible for your feelings, which most of us did – I certainly did, then you had no way of learning this. My parents believed that others were responsible for their feelings, and they would get angry and blame me, each other, and others when any of us didn’t do what they wanted. And of course, no one could ever could do it good enough for them.

When you make others responsible for your feelings, which is your inner child – your soul self who often communicates through feelings – feels rejected by you, left alone, and abandoned by you. Every time you make someone responsible for whether or not you’re okay, you’re basically telling your inner child that that you don’t care about him or her, that your inner child, your feeling self, isn’t important to you. That your worth is only about what other people think of you, and that you don’t want to be the one to love yourself. The lack of loving yourself, and instead abandoning yourself, can lead to feelings of inner emptiness. You might feel empty when you make others responsible for your feelings, but you might do this because you don’t know what else to do.

So for example, let’s say that you’re feeling anxious or depressed, and when most people are anxious or depressed, they tend to look externally for the cause. That’s what emotionally dependency is. You might say, “My boss yelled at me today”, or “My husband or wife ignored me today or put me down,” or “I’m afraid of losing my job.” There’s just a lot of things that you could say that are external and certainly, some of them are going to cause anxiety or depression. But what most people don’t do is they don’t go inside and say,” How am I treating myself in the face of these challenging situations? What am I telling myself? What are my beliefs? What am I doing that may be contributing to this anxiety or depression? Am putting a lot of pressure on myself? Am I judging myself? Am I ignoring my feelings and needs? Am I turning to various addictions?” These are all ways of abandoning oneself, which always creates anxiety or depression. So, to be emotionally responsible rather than emotionally dependent, you would be looking within instead of just looking externally at what somebody else is doing or what’s happening in a challenging situation.

When you’re coming from emotional dependency, there’s a lot of ways that you might make another person responsible. You might have a pulling energy of being a victim, like poor me, I need somebody to take care of me. I’m so miserable. Somebody has to come and help me.” That’s a kind of energetic pull on somebody for them to take care of your feelings. Like sad eyes. One of my clients once said to me, “When my girlfriend looks at me with sad eyes, I just can’t stand it in it.” He was a caretaker, so the minute she gave him her sad eyes he would take care of her feelings. Sad eyes or anger or blame are ways of trying to make someone feel guilty enough to take responsibility for their feelings. Do you get angry and try to guilt somebody or shame somebody or bully somebody into doing what you want or giving you what you want, or are you overly nice to make people like you and give you what you want?

All these controlling behaviors are signs of emotional dependency. When you’re emotionally dependent, you’re trying to have control over how people feel about you because you’ve made them responsible for your sense of worth and safety. Emotional responsibility is completely opposite, which is what the Inner Bonding process is about. It’s about wanting responsibility for your own well-being. If you’re feeling anxious or depressed, or angry, or guilty or shamed, or alone and empty or jealous, you want to know what you’re doing or telling yourself that might be causing it or contributing to it. You want to learn to take loving care of yourself, and the practice of inner bonding eventually creates that deeper sense of emotional responsibility, and eventually emotional freedom. 

This means that you’re not going to look around to find something or someone to blame. 

And then, in step two of Inner Bonding, you focus in your heart, in that place of love in your heart – the place that wants to take loving care of your own feelings. You consciously choose the intention to learn, about what you’re doing, what you’re thinking, how you’re treating yourself, and learning with your higher self about love and truth, and invite the love, compassion, strength, and wisdom of your higher self into your heart. And then, in step three, you would have a dialogue process with the anxious or angry or depressed part of you to discover how you are treating yourself that’s causing these feelings, and with your wounded self about why you are treating yourself this way – what the false beliefs are that are behind your unloving behavior toward yourself. 

And then, in step four, you open to learning with your higher self, your higher guidance, asking about the truth about any false beliefs you’ve uncovered, and what would be loving to you right now. What can you say or do that will make your child inside feel loved and cared for rather than angry or depressed or anxious? Because of a lack of role models for being a loving adult and taking loving care of your feelings, your higher self needs to be your role model for loving actions on your behalf. Then in step five, you would take that action, whatever it is. It might be picking up a doll or stuffed animal that represents your inner child and hold him or her, letting your feeling self know that you are learning how to love yourself rather than continue to abandon yourself. It might be speaking up with someone, or eating better, or getting some exercise, or getting more sleep, or learning to meditate, or looking into changing jobs, or getting emotional support from a facilitator. It could be many different things, and then, in step six, once you take a loving action, you go back in and see how you are feeling as a result. If you feel some relief, you know you’ve taken a loving action. 

The Inner Bonding process is a form of learning to take personal responsibility – the opposite of emotional dependency. It creates new neural pathways in the brain for the loving adult. It leads you to taking loving action on your own behalf, and that’s what emotional responsibility is. So it’s really important if you want to feel that fullness inside and move beyond anxiety and depression and other wounded painful feelings, to decide you want emotional responsibility, that you actually want to stop blaming someone or something else. Just start to notice when you’re feeling upset about something. How often do you immediately think about, well, who’s causing this? This person said that or that person did something hurtful. How often do you look outside yourself for the reason for your feelings? Start to notice how often you want to blame somebody or something for feelings that you might be causing.

It’s important to understand the difference between the wounded feelings that you’re causing by your thoughts and actions, and the painful feelings of life that are being caused by others and by situations. 

The wounded feelings that you cause are feelings like anxiety, depression, guilt, shame, anger, jealousy, aloneness, and emptiness. The deeper painful feelings of life are the big feelings that we could not manage as we were growing up – feelings such as loneliness, grief, heartbreak, helplessness over others and outcomes, and fear of real and present danger. While these difficult and painful feelings are not being caused by you, you still need to take responsibility for lovingly managing them. If you’re not going to end up emotionally dependent, you need to learn to bring much compassion to these feelings, and open to learning about what these feelings are telling you about a person or a situation. Fear of real and present danger is very different than the fear and anxiety that that comes from making something up or projecting into the future. Real and present danger alerts you to action you need to take right now, such as fight or flight, while anxiety and other wounded feelings are telling us that we are abandoning ourselves.

Couples get together at their common level of emotional dependency, which is your common level of self-abandonment, or your common level of personal responsibility and self-love. If you tend to be a caretaker, taking care of your partner’s feelings, you are doing this in the hopes that your partner will eventually take responsibility for your feelings. 

Do you believe that if you love someone enough, they will heal their neediness and insecurity and become secure enough to share love with you? Our love can certainly support someone in learning to love themselves, but only they can learn to take emotional responsibility for themselves.

My client, Jessica, told me that her partner has low self-esteem and asked me how she can get him to find his inner peace, security, and self-worth. She also told me that he smokes pot as a way he avoids responsibility for his feelings. 

Jessica is operating from a huge, false belief – that her love – which really isn’t love because what she gives to him is conditional on him changing – will make him feel worthy and secure, and then he will stop smoking pot and give her the love she isn’t giving herself. She’s thinking of marrying him and having a baby with him, but she isn’t accepting that she can’t make him change. She either needs to accept him the way he is and learn to take care of herself in the face of his insecurity, or not be in the relationship. But Jessica is addicted to caretaking as her form of control, coming from her own neediness and self-abandonment. Because her partner’s neediness is much more apparent than hers, she doesn’t realize that she’s equally emotionally dependent, believing that he has to change for her to be okay.

My client, James, told me in our first session that he has been married for 15 years and the whole time he’s been a serial cheater. He cheated with someone before they married, and his wife found out and forgave him. Now his wife has found out that he has continue to cheat on her. She wants to work on it with him, which is why he decided to work with me. James told me he loves his wife and has no idea why he keeps seeking sex outside of the marriage.

As James worked with me, it became apparent that he felt very insecure, and used sex with other women to fill his emptiness and feel validated. James was emotionally dependent on having sex with multiple women.   

His sexual addiction was his way of filling the emptiness that he was causing by his self-abandonment, including a complete lack of self-validation, and consistently judging himself.

Of course, this started in childhood from the role modeling of his parents – from how they treated themselves and how they treated him. In addition, his father was also sexually addicted and cheated on his mother. In fact, one time James was in a car with his father when his father had sex with another woman in the front seat, with James in the back seat. James had also found his father’s Playboy magazines when he was 12, which also contributed to his sexual addiction.

I said to James in our first session, “Your sexual addiction is coming from emotional dependency leading to needing outside validation. And the first thing I’d like you to practice is taking all judgment off your sexual addiction, because judgment is the opposite of self-validation. Your self-judgment continues to make you feel insecure. Anytime we judge ourselves, we make ourselves feel insecure and unlovable and unloved. You have an adolescent boy inside who feels very insecure, and when he feels insecure, he looks to get validated by having sex with multiple women. He needs your validation, but you don’t know how to do that because you didn’t have any role modeling for that. Learning and practicing Inner Bonding will teach you how to love and validate yourself in very deep and profound ways. And when you do learn to do that, you won’t need outside validation. The practice of Inner Bonding heals the emotional dependency that is leading to your sexual addiction.”

Fortunately, James was willing to learn and practice Inner Bonding to learn to love himself rather than continue to abandon himself. It took time and practice, but James was able to completely stop cheating on his wife.

It’s important to note that, as much as his wife loved him, and as much sex as he had with women, his emotional dependency, insecurity, and emptiness was not healed until he learned to love and validate himself. Getting love and validation did nothing to heal his emotional dependency. Only learning to love himself healed this. 

My client, Christine, told me in our first session that she had always been taking care of others and was exhausted by it. She wondered why her relationships weren’t working when she was giving so much.

Of course she was exhausted, because always caretaking others, which is a form of control that comes from emotional dependency, is physically and emotionally depleting. If you feel exhausted in your relationships, consider that you are likely emotionally dependent. 

Laura asked me the following question on one of my webinars. “I have felt healed in lots of ways since having my two children. I feel I have a healthy relationship with my children. I really enjoy them. But my partner just ended our relationship because he felt rejected and unloved. Could my emotional dependency have transferred to my children, meaning I no longer sought his love anymore?” 

“Laura,” I said, “a man who leaves a relationship because he felt rejected and unloved by you is a man who was abandoning himself. And this is not unusual when a woman has babies and is very devoted to them. If he’s abandoning himself, then he will feel rejected by the attention that you give to the children. I don’t know whether you have emotional dependency or not, but it sounds like that you have a healthy relationship with your children. You’re giving to them and you’re enjoying them. So it sounds like he was like a third child, and he wasn’t getting enough love and attention from you, and since he felt rejected and unloved, he certainly wasn’t giving it to himself. Instead, he was rejecting himself, not loving himself, abandoning himself and making you responsible for his feelings, so he was emotionally dependent. He likely left to find someone else to take care of his feelings.” 

My client Rebecca also asked me a question on a webinar. “How do I handle jealousy over a neighbor?” she asked me. “My fiancé is constantly helping her. He says he likes helping people, and he won’t ignore her just because I’m uncomfortable. My dad was a cheater, and I can’t seem to help myself thinking he’s cheating, even if he isn’t cheating.”

“Rebecca” I said to her, “obviously if you continue to make him responsible for your insecurity, you’re going to push him away. It sounds like your fiancé is a nice person that he likes helping people and that he doesn’t want to take responsibility for your discomfort, which is good. I understand that your dad was a cheater and there’s trauma there that you need to work with, but your jealousy is being caused by your self-abandonment. What you need to do is practice Inner Bonding to see how you’re abandoning yourself. How are you creating your discomfort? What are you telling yourself that’s making you feel insecure? What part of you are you handing over to your fiancé to take responsibility for? This is what you need to explore, and learn to give yourself what you are expecting your fiancé to give you. It’s your self-abandonment and the resulting emotional dependency that is the underlying cause of your jealousy.”

My client Sarah sought my help because the man she was dating, which seemed like a promising relationship, suddenly decided to move to another state. She didn’t see it coming and now feels he wasn’t being honest with her. Now she’s scared about dating and being hurt again. 

It’s always hard to tell at the beginning of a relationship whether or not someone is being honest. If you are going to date and take the time to get to know someone, you need to be willing to be hurt. We always need to be okay with being hurt, because if you’re not okay with the being hurt, you’re we’re going to close your heart and then you’re never going to find out who’s right for you. But the only way you can make it okay to get hurt is to not make the other person responsible for you. If you are emotionally dependent, then when someone isn’t honest or leaves the relationship, you will feel devastated. When you’ve learned to show up for your feelings as a loving adult, you might feel sad and your heart might hurt, but you won’t be devastated. The loving adult learns how to lovingly manage this kind of pain. 

When you hold back to not get hurt, you will not be connected with your feelings and your guidance, which makes it hard to recognize if someone is authentic or dishonest. If you keep your heart open and you stay connected with your guidance, it won’t take too long for you to tune into what’s really going on with relationship. It’s about being able to tune into the energy, which you can’t do when you are in your wounded self, making the other responsible for your safety, worth, and lovability. When you’re being very tuned into yourself and very present with yourself, then you’ll be able to tune in to whether or not somebody is being authentic. This takes some time. It may take a few months. But you will be able to know the truth about someone if you are connected with your feelings – your inner guidance, and your higher guidance.

I often have clients who come to me because they broke up with their partner because they weren’t feeling in love anymore, but once they are broken up, their in-love feelings some back, and now they are miserable because their partner has moved on, and they are confused about why they now feel in love when they didn’t when they were in the relationship.

One of the issues of emotional dependency is that self-abandonment results in two underlying fears: the fear of rejection, of losing the other person, and fear of engulfment, of being controlled and losing yourself. If you enter a relationship fearing rejection, you might give yourself up for a while to try to have control over not being rejected, but giving yourself up often results in feeling trapped and losing your feelings for the other person. So then you leave the relationship thinking you are with the wrong person, but once you leave and you are no longer giving yourself up and feeling trapped, your feelings for the other person come back. If you do move back into the relationship without dealing with your self-abandonment and the resulting emotional dependency, you will again give yourself up and again lose your feelings for your partner. Then you might again decide that you’re with the wrong person and move on, only to repeat this with multiple partners.

Until you do your Inner Bonding work to develop your loving adult who doesn’t fear rejection because you are no longer rejecting yourself, and who doesn’t give yourself up as a form of control to avoid rejection, and knows how to set boundaries against being controlled by a partner, you will continue to repeat this pattern. Learning to love yourself and take responsibility for your feelings is what heals self-abandonment and the resulting emotional dependency.

I encourage you to take my 30-day home study courses to learn to love yourself, to learn to have loving relationships, and to learn to connect with your spiritual guidance Love YourselfWildly, Deeply, Joyously in Love and Unlocking Your Inner Wisdom.

My recent books will also be a big help to you: The Inner Bonding Workbook: Six Steps to Healing Yourself and Connecting With Your Divine Guidance,Diet for Divine Connection: Beyond Junk Foods and Junk Thoughts to At-Will Spiritual Connectionand6 Steps to Total Self-Healing: The Inner Bonding Process.

And, of course, we have much to offer you at our website at https:www.innerbonding.com.

I’m sending you my love and my blessings.

Related Articles


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *