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 doesn’t have to be pathological in its expression, because healthy reliance on others in community, partnership and society 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 my therapist 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 allowing her to provide it. Even important is that I take that care inside myself, and allow it to take root in my sense of self: I matter to someone. As therapy progresses, I feel less and less “childlike”, and our relationship grows and changes to one of more mutuality in our interactions. I still like it though, that I have gone through this process of regression in some way, a way to tell myself that I can accept it, 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 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.
I struggle because my experience is that when I rely on someone they let me down. They hurt me, reject me, and they leave. Usually I would get so panicked that I flip between intense clinging, followed by total rejection of the other. 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. Sometimes it sticks in my mind the number of times I asked him in our first couple of years together “Promise you won’t leave me?” and his response: “I will never leave you.” Over time, I realised that no matter how many times he told me, something inside me didn’t shift. I had to change something inside myself, to really trust his words. So I began again: in therapy I started testing my ways of relating to other people and how I bond with them, and slowly it settles. I already come to rely on myself more and more instead of people outside of myself. 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 part to care for the children inside me. I feel supported by myself, cared for, loved, and my childlike dependency on others reduces.
I come to like a certain kind of dependency now. Whenever we trust someone else, we are holding some part of ourselves out to them, risking it. We hope that we can depend on them not to hurt us, a dance of care and trust that is more balanced and 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.“