My children were listening to an audiobook CD of fairytales this morning. The CD kept skipping and stopping, and I listened to them restart the same story (Der Wolf und die sieben jungen Geißlein) over and over. They didn’t understand that the CD was dirty and needed to be cleaned – they just wanted to hear the story, so they tried again.. and again.. and again. I took it out and cleaned it for them, and then the story played all the way through.
I started reading In Praise of Risk by Anne Dufourmantelle as they listened to their audiobook.
I am thinking of what it means, to take risks (or not), and how we experience life unknowingly facing numerous risks every day, tens or hundreds of unknown avoided deaths in a lifetime. She writes about intimacy (though not as we typically would think of intimacy), and in one of the first chapters she talks about dependency. I recently told my therapist that I don’t like being dependent on her. She said that I’m not, and that rather, I am just “channeling” through her what I needed to get: the missing emotional nourishment that I needed to grow and develop. I guess dependency in some form doesn’t have to be pathological in its expression, because healthy reliance on others in community, partnership, society, I think is just a part of the bonds of life.
I realised that I took a risk in allowing myself to believe that I will be supported in some way by what she provides, that I can rely on her, that she will be there when I need her. Over the past years I have allowed myself to take on a much more childlike form, to place parts of myself in her hands, not hoping exactly, not asking exactly, but simply doing it, experimenting with the potential of loss, harm, satisfaction, an unknown future. It’s a way of seeing that I am worthy of care, both by the fact that she offers it to me, and by my reciprocation and acceptance in allowing her to provide it. As therapy progresses, I feel less and less “childlike”, and our relationship grows and changes to one of more mutuality in our interactions, like an adult-adult parent-child relationship. I still like it though, that I have gone through this process of regression in some way, like a way to tell myself that I can accept it, that I should, that the “child me” deserves it. Dufourmantelle writes:
“To take the risk of dependency is a sign of friendship for this body from just after birth.”
I am thinking of the kids and their CD, playing to the same broken point over and over again, not knowing how a CD works, not knowing what was happening, until I came and cleaned it for them. When we are children our dependency is inbuilt – there is no choice in the matter. But as an adult, when we allow ourselves to depend on someone, to rely on them, our choice is a little more complicated. Shaped and formed by all manner of previous experiences, we have sacrificed parts of ourselves in our childhood dependency to ensure that we would get what we needed. These sacrificed parts will never stop banging at the door until we see them and allow them to live again in all their glory, whatever they are: righteous anger, joy, curiosity, tenderness, sorrow. We know that in relying on someone else, we form a bond … but it is not always easy to know if the bond will be one that causes us further harm, losses, or require further sacrifice. People have all manner of responses to this fear: anxiety, rejection, denial … and sometimes, hope: “Maybe this time, it’s gonna be good.”
I struggle because my experience is that when I rely on someone they let me down. They hurt me. They leave. Usually I would get so panicked that I flip between intense clinging, and total rejection of the other: “I love you, please don’t ever leave me!”, followed by a rapid turn towards me walking out the door and not looking back. My husband, M. is one of the few people who refused to engage, stating over and over that our bond was good, true, and that I could rely on him always. Over time, I realised that my reliance on him was too strong, that I made a child out of myself by allowing him to shoulder so much of my fears in his shelter. So I begin again: I examine my ways of relating to other people and how I bond with them, and I do so with someone who seems like she is up to the task. Like any of life’s small and beautiful creatures one day I won’t need it so much anymore. I already come to rely on myself more and more instead of people outside of me. I find the “mothering” part inside myself, teach it using my “perfect parent” models (of which I am lucky to now have a few), and use that mother part to care for the children inside me. I think that we all have a “mothering” or “fathering” part of us that is capable of caring (given the right circumstances) and a “child” part of us that wants to and likes to be looked after. When these pieces of ourselves are healthy and well-functioning, we can allow ourselves to bond with other people in a more balanced way. When we connect we can engage in a dance of care and trust that is mutual: yes, I want to look after you; yes, I want you to look after me.
“Love—now I risk the word, a bit apprehensively to be sure—is an art of dependency.“