The term "emotional independence" may appear to be contradictory to the human experience and tendency to be drawn emotionally to other people. Despite this, a certain level of emotional independence is a necessary component of what psychologist Daniel Goleman calls "emotional Intelligence." Developing your ability to be more emotionally independent provides you with an emotional balance that is not solely affected by external factors such as the emotions of others. Instead, the more emotionally independent individual is able to mediate their emotions and reason with them to identify appropriate responses.
Learn to take responsibility for your emotions and the associated behaviors. In the book "The Emotional Catering Service: The Quest for Emotional Independence," author Sandra Michaelson explains that emotional independence is accomplished first by relinquishing the need to be a victim. Feeling compelled to be a victim in this context is equated with emotional dependence and allowing others to affect your reactions, emotions and thoughts. The first step toward taking emotional responsibility is to identify the source of your feelings and reactions. If you find that much of how you feel affected by other people, learn to challenge from where your thoughts and feelings originate, directing them internally over time.
Become more comfortable with asserting your feelings and opinions. Emotional independence is nurtured in part by your ability to be assertive about how you feel, without concern for reactions by others. In contrast to aggressiveness, which is based on dominance, assertiveness is confirmation that your feelings and opinions hold the same value as those of other people. Feeling comfortable stating your point of view in a way that doesn't impose it on others is a sign of emotional independence. Similarly, maintaining your point of view, even if it opposes another person's point of view, is a sign that you are emotionally independent.
Spend time with your sources of emotional support, but away from anyone on whom you feel emotionally dependent. Relationships are one of the most common venues for an individual to become emotionally dependent to the point where their assertiveness and decision-making become impaired. If you find that you are emotionally dependent in a relationship, supports in the form of friends and family can help you regain your stance. Over time and with the encouragement of your supports, you can and will become more aware that you are emotionally capable without needing another person to define your emotions.
Identify and eliminate relationships in which you are the "caretaker." Care-taking is a characteristic of emotional dependence and is an unhealthy approach to making you feel more valued and needed. Although taking care of a friend or family member may be necessary at times, seeking out reasons to do things for someone that they are capable of doing is not healthy for either one of you. In addition, people who seek you out to take care of them are characteristically unhealthy emotionally and don't typically reciprocate feelings that might support your emotional independence.
- Journal of Extension: Emotional Intelligence: A Pathway to Self-Understanding and Improved Leadership Capacities
- The Emotional Catering Service: The Quest for Emotional Independence
- DrShirin.com: Codependency Relationships Marriage
- The Relationship Among Emotional Intelligence, Academic Achievement, and Demographic Characteristics in First-year Community College Students
- Danielgoleman.info: Emotional Intelligence
- University of New Hampshire: Emotional Intelligence
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