interdependence and codependence

a few days ago, i asked what it is that i can do to help stop the kind of violence that so harshly burst into my friend’s life the other day. here is a comment i received:

i think this goes along with trying to change someone or can you actually “make” someone do something. you can’t. these attackers are the way they are and won’t change unless something drastic happens to them, and even then, they may act out even worse.

i think i understand where this comment comes from but i can’t wholeheartedly agree.

the fact that i can’t make anyone do anything doesn’t mean that i am completely powerless over the world.

i have lots of options, many of them good ones:

  • i can voice my opinion
  • i can “be the change i want to see” as gandhi so aptly says
  • i can listen
  • i can try to understand
  • i can point out options
  • i can influence.

letting the buddhist in me talk, i can also note that we are all connected. the young man that drove a golf club into my friend’s skull and i – we are connected. he is my brother. he is my brother just as my friend is, just as the person who wrote the comment above is.

i always like to remind myself that saddam hussein, too, is my brother. do i like what many of my brothers do? no! i don’t like it, i don’t condone it – but still, they are my brothers. we are from the same gene pool, we strive for pleasure and try to avoid pain, we want what’s good for us and those close to us.

moving over to my judeo-christian roots, i am reminded of the story of cain and abel. cain kills abel and god shows up and asks, where is your brother, cain? and cain says, what do i know? i am not my brother’s keeper!

well, to a degree i think we are each others’ keepers. don’t ask me to what degree – i’m trying to figure that out as i go along (as have others, from politicians to housewives to ethicists for the last x-thousand years).

but i do know that what i do and what i say has consequences for others. and i tryto influence things in such a way that these consequences are good for all concerned.

one component of violence is objectification: making “the other” into an object, precisely not being aware that “the other” is not so other, that he is my brother. not being aware that we are interdependent.

codependence is different (and i think that’s where the comment came from – the idea that influencing someone would be an instance of codependence).

codependence is when i think the other is me. well, “think” is probably the wrong word here – let’s say when i emotionally perceive no clear boundaries between me and my brother.

funny enough (again, funny is probably not the right word here), this lack of boundaries can get so burdensome that we can swing to the other end of the spectrum, which is objectification. in violence, the two get intermeshed: on the one hand, the boundaries are transgressed, and on the other hand, the transgression doesn’t matter because the other is just an object.

the person who is violent is one who cannot abide the balance between realizing that “the other” is his brother on the one hand, and respecting his brother’s boundaries on the other hand.

isabella mori
counselling in vancouver

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