Dear Why Team member,
Happy 4th of July!
Who in America doesn’t enjoy the most popular Holiday of the Summer: The 4th of July - Independence Day?! Throughout the country, children decorate their bikes to go to the 4th of July parade; every grocery store sells pies decorated with blueberries, strawberries and whip cream to commemorate our flag. Then every eye is delighted at the end of the day by the colorful fireworks that light up the sky with a variety or colors.
What a celebration!
But, how many of us consider its historical significance or even know the story? History teaches us so much and I believe this historical novel: “Rise to Rebellion” by Jeff Shaara should be a required reading for every American, born or naturalized. The story of how we gained our independence is inspirational - that’s why we celebrate its success every year.
Yet, while it’s true that we won our independence from England – independence was actually achieved through interdependence. If each American had only looked out for himself or herself, with little to no consideration for others, we would not be celebrating our country’s independence freedom this week.
As a Nation, we fought hard for independence, and interdependency helped us achieve freedom. Interdependence is the realization that we need others to achieve a goal, a goal as basic as creating a family, or as grand as becoming a people free from (English) oppression. It is important to not confuse interdependency with co-dependency.
The human journey to maturity starts with dependency as a baby/child, and converts to independency as an adult - or at least it’s supposed to. Somewhere in this cycle, there is yet another level of maturity to embrace- as mentioned above: Interdependency.
As children, we are dependent. The adults in our lives pull all the strings, and unfortunately too often they are pulled in very dysfunctional ways. Often, because of drama and chaos experienced in the family growing up, the child, now adult, has a more fearful, self-protective view of the world. The realistic fears in childhood are often carried into adulthood with a continued need of dependency even though one is an independent adult. Without confidence, one feels that most of everything worth living has to be tied to another person, often our partner. The result is often co-dependency: a childlike state carried into adulthood.
One of my coaches, Dr. Curt Spear, recently defined co-dependence for me. His definition is succinct and powerful: Co-dependence is when we are dependent on an external state to achieve an internal state. In other words, our internal peace and joy has become dependent on external factors: people, situations, circumstances - that are often out of our control. Co-dependency breeds fear and a kind of slavery to what might happen out of one’s control. This fear can lead to anger in an attempt to assert more control. Manipulation can become the order of the day in an attempt to control and order one’s life externally rather than internally. Consider reflecting on this kind of behavior that may arise in you and in those close to you. For the ones living with someone enslaved by co-dependency, patience and compassion should be top of mind when trying to understand that it’s not about you, but rather a hangover from the past, often from a childhood that wasn’t very supportive and at times down-right terrifying.
While we, as a Nation, have been independent from England for 242 years, since we’re on topic, let’s consider our own independence, interdependence, or co-dependence. If you feel dependent on others to behave a certain way, or circumstances to unfold in a certain way, to be okay, consider practicing mindfulness.
Get the app called “Headspace” to start a meditative practice that will help set you free from chains of thought. Most people live with thoughts that propagate fear and anxiety. Learn to see thoughts objectively, rather than subjectively. This can bring great freedom. Over identification with negative thoughts leads to more dependence than independence. For example, consider these differences:
“I am experiencing sadness” rather than “I am sad”
“I am experiencing anger” as opposed to “I am angry”
The one thought can bring freedom, the other can bring bondage.
Shame can come from believing I AM this feeling while the other objective view can bring patience, compassion and understanding. This practice of noticing thoughts is not that hard to do and a mindful practice, will help you master it. It just takes a desire for greater freedom and independence from thought; not a co-dependence on right thoughts versus wrong thoughts. Here’s a fun challenge for the next 2 weeks: every time someone around you - especially your children or a fellow Why Team member - defines him/herself as being a negative emotion, help them see it’s just a feeling they are experiencing now.
Consider this mind blowing idea:
You can’t Be that which comes and goes, only that which is ever present.
I encourage you to constantly tell yourself, especially during rough times, I AM HERE, everything else has come to pass, including any negative thoughts - these too shall pass.
Metacognition: thinking about what you think about is a gateway to independence and healthy interdependence with others. One only needs to observe the world around us today to see those lost in thoughts - and acting out accordingly. Our country may be suffering more from this malaise than at any other time in history.
Now more than ever may we consider what Ghandi suggested:
“Be the change you want to see”
Throughout history we learned how important freedom is, freedom of expression, freedom of religion, freedom to love and to work towards a worthy goal. Even more-so now, I encourage you to work towards your freedom. Consider this Independence Day how independent or dependent you have become. Are you dependent on circumstances to unfold a certain way, or others to behave and act a certain way, for you to be okay? If so, give yourself some grace, you’re not alone, and just notice the thoughts that come and go - you are so much more than thoughts.
Achieving a healthy interdependence with others, collaboratively supporting each other, but not through co-dependency is truly worth celebrating; not just once every Summer, but every day.
Here is wishing you a very
Happy Interdependence Day!