We are born dependent on our environment to survive. Their survival depends not only on physical food, but also a healthy emotional eating. Love, warmth, attention, affection and joy are some of the ingredients of the food necessary for the emotional development of emotional autonomy.
When the food is insufficient for emotional childhood, a person remains in the stage of emotional dependence that is in fact an emotional dependency. A lot of research has shown that people who are raised in a positive emotional environment have better physical and emotional health than people who grow up in an atmosphere of emotional conflict.
As children, we are entirely dependent on our parents to build our identity and our freedom to be. When this identity and freedom is suppressed, ignored or rejected, our adult life becomes very profoundly marked by a lack of self-esteem and an inability to manage emotions and feelings.
Andrew suffered so much lack of love during his childhood that he is unable to express his feelings at all. Sarah has so much ‘fear of losing’ in a romantic relationship that she becomes jealous often. This jealousy caused the breakdown of each of her relationships. When Louise falls in love, she becomes the shadow of the other person, and ceases to exist as herself.
Most people grow into adults are capable of being independent financially and materially, but how many are capable of being independent affectively and emotionally? Many people are unable to live in emotional autonomy. Why? Because some limiting beliefs acquired in childhood stop them. These beliefs determine behavior. There are, for example, people who live entirely in their heads, and have no idea what is happening as far as their feelings and emotions go.
Others live in permanent insecurity, and have many fears and anxieties that make them dependent and vulnerable to the judgments of others. And then there are those who manipulate and control others with negative feelings to be loved.
A person who suffers from emotional dependence believes that love can only come from others. Since they don’t love themselves, they have difficulty in appreciating love they do receive. It’s like a leaky pot. You can pour in water ten times over but it’ll never fill. The emotionally dependent person, even if loved, feels a void caused by the difficulty to love and recognize their own worth.
Since their feelings and emotions can only come from others, they feel the need to control others in order to be loved. This control can be exercised through guilt, criticism, blame, anger, but also by impotence, fear of losing, discomfort and illness. Excessive control is responsible for most problems in couples’ relationships, parent/child relationships and the boss/employee dynamic.
One of the most dramatic effects of emotional dependency is alcoholism and drug addiction. Research has shown that alcohol and drugs produce the neurotransmitter dopamine, which plays a key role in the sensation of pleasure. Alcoholics and drug addicts look to drugs and alcohol for positive feelings they received during their childhood. However, the price to pay is physical and emotional suffering that far exceeds the amount of ephemeral pleasure that chemicals can provide.