Continuing with the theme of last week’s podcast episode What Is Person-Centred Psychotherapy, this week I want to look at another psychological concept from my therapy sessions that I found absolutely fascinating. I want to talk about it because it is brilliant to look at, a lot of people “suffer” from it and there isn’t always a lot of information available on emotional dependency. As well as there is nothing that links emotional dependency and locus of evaluation together, until this podcast episode anyway. Therefore, if you’re interested in clinical psychology, psychotherapy and mental health then definitely keep reading.
Today’s podcast episode has been sponsored by Psychology of Relationships: The Social Psychology of Friendships, Romantic Relationships And More. Available from all major eBook retailers and you can order the paperback and hardback copies from Amazon, your local bookstore and local library, if you request it. Also, you can buy the eBook directly from me at https://www.payhip.com/connorwhiteley
What Is Emotional Dependency?
What I’ll do is that I’ll explain how normal healthy relationships work so you can understand emotional dependency is unhealthy. Then I’ll give you some good definitions including my own personal way because some of the definitions get a little hard to grasp.
Therefore, we all know that emotional support in relationships is normal, healthy and it is seriously needed. Since we all like to know that our boyfriend, girlfriend, whatever is there for us after a bad day at work and they are able to support us. That is perfectly normal and it is expected and needed in social relationships.
We all need in relationships with our romantic partners and friendships to be able to support each other. Also we cannot have great relationships without a good level of healthy personal intimacy where we feel safe to disclose things about ourselves.
That is all healthy and normal.
In addition, emotional support helps us to feel good about ourselves, it increases self-esteem and our confidence.
However, when someone becomes emotionally dependent on another person then this can make a relationship unhealthy and rather toxic. Due to if a person is dependent on someone else then they cannot function very well or self-soothe effectively. This means that we need to rely significantly on other people to provide this for us and this typically comes in the form of assuring we are good enough and we deserve their unconditional love.
As a result, when we talk about romantic relationships, this leads us to be very unsure and concerned about our partner’s commitment and/ or approval towards us. This makes us focus on our own doubts about the relationships and our self-doubts. Leading people to feel insufficient in the relationship and our love (or friendship love) is overtaken by our fear. People with emotional dependency typically have concerns about will they abandon me, replace me and leave me? Ultimately the person with emotional dependence becomes reliant on the reassurance of the other person to feel valued, safe and secure.
Leading to relationship degradation.
The main reason for this is simply because it is hard to love someone whilst letting that person be whoever they want to be when we are trying to cover up our own insecurities. With these insecurities typically generated in earlier life experiences and childhood, because when our parents weren’t able to make us securely attach to them, this harms us.
How Do I Describe Emotional Dependency?
Because emotional dependency deeply explores childhood attachment styles and whatnot, I want to quickly summarise all of it so we can move on to some other sections.
Therefore, I describe emotional dependency as when people don’t love a child, or they didn’t love a particular part of them enough as a child. This leaves a massive hole in that child that they desperately want to fill with some kind of love, safety and security. This leads to them in later life forming unhealthy attachments with friends, romantic partners and others in order to fulfil that hole inside them and the person wants someone to offer them the unconditional love, security and safety they were never given as a child.
For example, the sexuality part of my Self was never loved as a child and it was deeply traumatised and abused. This left me really wanting someone, anyone to give the sexuality part of my Self a feeling of safety, security and a kind of love (more like validation these days). So that’s why whenever I form a close relationship (which I rarely do these days because of autism and past trauma) I do tend to make it toxic in relatively short order. Simply because I want, I need that sense of love, safety and security that I was never ever given as a child.
Now I will point out here that all the other parts of my Self were given extreme amounts of love, safety and security. Therefore, people can develop a more general kind of emotional dependency or they can form a narrow type like I have.
Or should I say had, past tense.
In addition, people who develop emotional dependency end up finding it next to impossible to internalise the validation and assurance that someone gives them. Meaning they need to keep hearing it again and again and they find it hard to make it part of their self-image, and fully integrate that part of the Self into their overall Self.
How Does Emotional Dependency Destroy Relationships?
Then to hammer this point out before we move onto the “cures” or therapy techniques for emotional dependency, emotional dependency typical breaks relationships because the emotionally dependent person wears down the other person with their constant or common requests for reassurance that they’re cared about, loved and that their partner wants to spend time with them. The problem with this is that giving in to these requests doesn’t erase all the pain, suffering and it doesn’t fill the hole inside the person.
It really doesn’t.
Therefore, as these requests continue over time, it wears down the other person until they reach a breaking point.
Now I will admit that the people who have to spend with emotionally dependent people are flat out amazing. They do actually go through so much out of “love” (if they’re in a romantic relationship) or dedication to the friendship and that causes them their own pain and annoyance. They are flat out amazing and great people who putting up with it and trying their hardness to help the emotionally dependent person.
But they do reach a breaking point and I seriously don’t blame them. This is hard on everyone and these friends and romantic partners are heroes and incredible for just trying to last as long as they can.
Yet ultimately this is down to the emotionally dependent person to fix and get some kind of psychological support so they don’t have to be emotionally dependent anymore.
Overall, emotional dependency leaves a person not wanting but needingreassurance desperately so they can help reduce some of the pain, suffering and uncertainty inside them. They just want someone to help fill the hole into themselves that just needs love, security and safety.
But this isn’t healthy and this has to change.
How Can Emotional Dependency Be Cured?
I have to admit that nothing in psychology can be “cured” but emotional dependency are psychological wounds on a person. Therefore, they can be healed over time with enough information, dedication and motivation so the emotionally dependent person can work through their trauma and past and learn how to improve their lives.
Since as my therapist put it, at the end of the day, a partner, a friend, whoever can give me as much validation, as much safety and as much security as I want. Yet I know it will never be enough because basically as soon as I leave them I started feeling unsafe, in danger and uncertain again. It was simply how my mind used to work and I knew that wasn’t healthy, but I didn’t know how to change it.
That’s why people who are emotionally dependent on others need to learn how to independently cope and ultimately provide themselves with a sense of security, safety and love.
Which I have to admit we are in an extremely powerful position to do that nowadays because we aren’t children anymore. We are adults, we have the knowledge, we have the words and we hopefully have the life situations that allow us to provide ourselves with these three senses now.
In addition, there is a fair amount of information and resources online to help us overcome our emotional dependency. Including something called “Reparenting” ourselves or Transactional Analysis, which my therapist mentioned in passing and I must do a podcast episode on at some point because I know that will make me look it up.
Furthermore, here are some other tips I found online about overcoming emotional dependency and I think these are all really helpful. Then we’ll move onto the extremely powerful technique of Locus of Evaluations because this is what allowed me to basically kill my Emotional Dependency issues.
· Deal with your past trauma
· Heal with emotions and your emotional wounds
· Understand your triggers
· Increase your circle of friends
· internalise locus of evaluation
· Distance from yourself from the relationship (think of this as a behavioural experiment because you’ll see you won’t die by being separated from the relationship)
· Do your own interests away from the relationship
· Ask what does your friend or partner need from you in the relationship (this is more aimed at partners to be honest)
· Know you are as good as the person you’re emotionally dependent on
· Reparenting and know the areas you need to reparent yourself in
· Understand you have the right to talk about your positive and negative feelings even if it risks upsetting others (within reason of course. Don’t be a horrible person for the sake of it)
What Is The Locus of Evaluation?
As proposed by Feltham and Dryden (1993), a person’s Locus of Evaluation is the place from which a person makes their judgements about themselves, the others and the world, with the term first being used by Carl Rogers.
Therefore, a person can operate from an internal or external locus of evaluation. If a person uses an internal locus of evaluation then they trust themselves, they get their positive and negative evaluations from inside them and they get their sense of self-worth from themselves.
Nonetheless, if a person operates from an external locus of evaluation then this means they get their sense of self-worth, self-esteem and they internalise the value judgements about themselves from important others. This is normally because of childhood conditions.
In addition, it is important to note here that these are never the same for two people or even two aspects of the self. Since whenever it comes to me being a psychology student, a writer, a podcast and basically every single part of my Self (except until recently sexuality) I operated from a place of internal Locus of Evaluation. Due to I know that whenever I write something (be it nonfiction, fiction or university-related) I do the best I can do in that moment in time and I will improve over time.
Therefore, whatever other people think doesn’t make me devalue myself and I don’t get my sense of self-worth from other people. At least 99% of the time, I always love to hear from you podcast listeners but some bad comments won’t make me want to shut the podcast because I believe I’m useless.
However, when it comes to the Sexuality Part of me because that was never loved, given safety or anything as a child. That part of my Self was left behind as the other aspects of the Self developed in healthy, normal ways so I had to change my Locus of Evaluation and bring it.
I did this mainly through a lot of memoir-ish writing and just reflecting and learning about reparenting and Locus of Evaluations. And over time I just realised I really don’t care what other people think of sexuality and how I am and what I do with my life. It is honestly a tiny part of my life but because it was so abused and traumatised it has caused me massive problems in my life.
But now I simply no longer care about the value judgements. I also accepted some harsh truths about my life and my personal situation that helped me to bring in my Locus of Evaluation too. Since I know, truly know that only I can make myself feel safe, loved and secure and I did some reality checks too because some traumas from my childhood just don’t apply these days.
Finally, a good thing to realise when you’re working through emotional dependency is to realise that you don’t need anyone (including the person you’re emotionally dependent on) to give you safety, love and security because only you can give yourself that sense. But you can want them to still be in your life.
There is a massive difference there. Need is about you not being able to function without them and want is you just wanting them to be there as a friend, a lover but ultimately you can function fine without them. Since you gave yourself that power back.
Clinical Psychology Conclusion
Overall, emotional dependency is about when a child isn’t given love, security and safety they will find other unhealthy ways to have it in the future. They might seek constant reassurance, love and safety from a friend or a romantic partner. Yet over time this constant reassurance does wear a relationship down, normally to breaking point.
Thankfully, there are ways to overcome emotional dependency including psychological therapy, reparenting and readjusting your Locus of Evaluation.
Personally, by the time this podcast episode goes out I would have had three weeks (4 sessions) of therapy and honestly it has been the best money I have ever met. Due to I know how to have healthy relationships now, I know how to trust myself and give myself everything I never had as a child and I know moving forward that will be extremely important.
And honestly, I look back at my mental health breakdown the week before I started therapy and the week I started it, and I don’t know how that person is anymore. I know that scared, traumatised and abused part of my Self is still there but he has no power over me now. He will not control my life, he will not make decisions because he’s healed. Or he is healing and now I am learning how to live life with my a decade’s worth of trauma, pain and suffering inside me.
Granted I’ll admit I have no idea who I am in regards to my Sexuality Self because since it was first developed inside me, it isn’t filled with pain, suffering and self-torture. It is free so I am definitely looking forward to exploring that part of me in the future and seeing how all these different parts of my Self interact.
I know therapy can be a scary time and thing to do, but if you need it, definitely do it because it has the power to change your life for the better.
I really hope you enjoyed today’s clinical psychology podcast episode.
If you want to learn more, please check out:
Psychology of Relationships: The Social Psychology of Friendships, Romantic Relationships And More. Available from all major eBook retailers and you can order the paperback and hardback copies from Amazon, your local bookstore and local library, if you request it. Also, you can buy the eBook directly from me at https://www.payhip.com/connorwhiteley
Have a great day.
Clinical Psychology References
Baltes, M. M., & Silverberg, S. B. (2019). The dynamics between dependency and autonomy: Illustrations across the life span. In Life-span development and behavior (pp. 41-90). Routledge.
Estévez, A., Chávez-Vera, M. D., Momeñe, J., Olave, L., Vázquez, D., & Iruarrizaga, I. (2018). The role of emotional dependence in the relationship between attachment and impulsive behavior.
Feltham C and Dryden W (1993) Dictionary of Counselling, Whurr Publishers
Koskina, N., & Giovazolias, T. (2018). The effect of attachment insecurity in the development of eating disturbances across gender: The role of body dissatisfaction. In Marital Relationships and
Parenting: Intimate relations and their correlates (pp. 191-213). Routledge.
Rogers C (1951) Client-Centered Therapy, Constable
Tolan J (2003) Skills in Person-Centred Counselling & Psychotherapy, Sage
I truly hope that you’ve enjoyed this blog post and if you feel like supporting the blog on an ongoing basis and get lots of rewards, then please head to my Patreon page.
However, if want to show one-time support and appreciation, the place to do that is PayPal. If you do that, please include your email address in the notes section, so I can say thank you.
Which I am going to say right now. Thank you!
Click https://www.buymeacoffee.com/connorwhiteley for a one-time bit of support.