As a ‘love receptor’ we are not designed to be an independent and isolated entity. We are designed to be in intimate fellowship with the most powerful source of love in all eternity.
However, when we experience rejection and people cut off the love supply to us, we are often left to fend for ourselves emotionally, and thus we become emotionally independent.
On Our Own
Humans are designed as social creatures. We are designed for fellowship. We are designed to be close to God and each other. We are designed for family life and marriage. We are designed for rich social interaction. We are not designed to be on our own, or left to fend for ourselves.
However, when we suffer rejection we are cut off from the sense of incorporation, value, acceptance and relationship which we are designed for. We also fear other people, since they will potentially bring further pain upon us.
Being on our own, cut off to some degree from those we are designed to connect with emotionally, means we are forced to find meaning, support, comfort and a range of emotional and personal benefits, from ourself, not those who we want to love us.
Degrees of Independence
While we each experience rejection uniquely and personally, we have different degrees of impact and different degrees of independence that springs from what we have been through. Some people become arrogantly and fiercely independent. Others become independent enough to survive, but continually seek to be dependent.
Our personality also influences how we respond to the feeling of being cut off. Some are survivors, some become aggressors, some crumple, and others hide their pain away and smile through it all.
I am lumping all the variations and shades of possibility into this one summary lesson on emotional independence, so it may apply to you in varying degrees.
Emotional independence is a withdrawal from needing others. Many may come to this because they are forced to, in that those they want to be emotionally dependent on have cut them off or hurt them in some way. Others may withdraw out of spite or hurt feelings, cutting off the possibilities that are offered to them.
The withdrawal exacerbates the problem, because it forces the isolated person to rely even more on their own independence, keeping them from the relationships which may potentially fill the void they feel within.
I am a Rock
1960’s artists, Simon and Garfunkel, produced a song titled “I am a Rock” in 1966, speaking of the emotional independence response which I am describing here. The lyrics of the song are quite telling.
“I am a rock, I am an island. I’ve built walls, A fortress deep and mighty, That none may penetrate.
I have no need of friendship; friendship causes pain. Its laughter and its loving I disdain.
I am a rock, I am an island.
Don’t talk of love, But I’ve heard the words before; It’s sleeping in my memory.
I won’t disturb the slumber of feelings that have died. If I never loved I never would have cried.
I am a rock, I am an island.
I have my books And my poetry to protect me; I am shielded in my armour,
Hiding in my room, safe within my womb. I touch no one and no one touches me.
I am a rock, I am an island. And a rock feels no pain; And an island never cries.”
Unable to Relate
Emotional independence is more than a posture of protection. It signals a lost capacity. It involves an inability to relate confidently with others. If the rejected person felt whole and confident they would have no need to withdraw from others and isolate themself.
The fortress of protection signals their own inner brokenness. They are not only unable to relate but become unable to need others. Even though they desperately want to need others, they are trapped in a place where they cannot risk needing them. Thus they are unable to need them.
This independence locks them in their isolation.
If you have ever tried to encourage emotionally independent people you will know that they are virtually unreachable. No amount of suggestion, encouragement, prompting and setting up opportunities for them will get them to give up their defensive posture.
I have seen some people commit enormous energy and time into trying to rescue someone who had become an island to themself, yet without success.
One of the sad situations I see at times is that of people who have become emotionally independent yet who try to establish relationships. They want to find friends and a spouse, so they socialise and encounter people.
Their encounters, however, lack the emotional freedom which should be normal. They are emotionally independent, despite their inner pain, and so they end up relating mechanically, by learned formulas, or with control or other processes to corner the person they want to relate to.
Their emotional independence disables them from generating a simple, pleasant relationship with others. They are still functioning in life, but it just doesn’t work out for them the way you would expect. They are emotionally compromised and their emotional independence blocks the most powerful glue to quality relationship.
Be Sure to Need God
If you are emotionally independent, for whatever reason, please be careful to need God. You do desperately need Him, but you might find that you cannot let go and be honest with Him and build quality relationship with Him.
If you are trapped there and can’t do anything about it, then the later lessons on the Love of God should be very helpful. Maybe you could look into and pray about discovery of God’s wonderful love, in preparation for that lesson yet to come.