How to overcome emotional dependency

Sadly, emotional dependence is a trait that characterizes many relationships today, and not just a couple. Do you feel identified? We teach you 7 steps that will help you overcome it.

Reviewed and approved by the psychologist Elena Sanz on October 30, 2021.

Last update: October 30, 2021

In very simple terms, emotional dependency happens when a person is convinced that they need someone else to be happy, fulfilled, or complete. It affects millions of people, and can manifest itself in any type of relationship (couple, friendship or family). To help you counteract it, we have prepared 7 steps to overcome emotional dependence.

Unfortunately, these kinds of attitudes are normalized in our society. In some cases, it is taken as a reference to true love, or as a total commitment in the relationship. He forgets the psychological framework behind it, as well as its consequences. With our steps to overcome emotional dependence you can leave it in the past.

7 steps to overcome emotional dependence

Researchers agree that emotional dependence generates obsessive thoughts, rejection of social relationships and leisure, sleep disorders, depression and anxiety. Often these consequences go unnoticed by those who suffer from them, so that overcoming emotional dependence is not always easy to materialize.

There are many variables that determine whether an individual develops this type of attitude. For some specialists, unconditional love and acceptance during the first years of life play a key role. The manipulation that can be exercised by the person on whom that dependence falls is also an important fact.

Be that as it may, overcoming emotional dependency requires a lot of discipline, determination, commitment and, of course, help. If you have already determined that you are a dependent person, be sure to follow the following tips to overcome it.

1. Talk to a therapist

If when we have pain we go to the doctor, when we feel emotionally bad it is important to see a mental health professional. They have the tools to help.

Therapy to overcome emotional dependence is undoubtedly one of the most efficient paths that you can choose to travel. There are dozens of models or approaches that have proven useful, such as the accelerated dynamic experimental psychotherapy (as the evidence points out).

As we have indicated, problems during childhood are a perfect fertilizer for attitudes of emotional dependence to emerge. In this sense, a qualified therapist can be of great help to explore these problems and find strategies to solve them.

Similarly, an optimal approach can also be helpful in strengthening some attributes that often contribute to the development of dependency. Some like self-esteem, self-confidence, or self-compassion are just a few of the most important.

2. Practice habits apart from the people you love

Emotional dependence can develop in relationships with a partner, among family members, or among friends. It is an attitude that anchors mood, happiness and fulfillment towards a person. Therefore, to overcome it, you must learn to emotionally detach yourself from the people you love and make up your circle.

Don’t misunderstand what we just told you. With these words we do not pretend that you distance yourself from them or that you reject them, only that you put into practice a series of strategies to avoid that your mood, your happiness and your fulfillment depend exclusively on them.

This is where the key is: a dependent person is convinced that his happiness is only possible with one person. There are many ways to separate yourself from this exclusivity, including practicing habits alone or with other people. Here are some examples:

  • Take yoga or meditation classes.
  • Play a sport in nature.
  • Go to the movies or any other place of entertainment.
  • Spend time alone doing something you like (painting, drawing, reading, knitting, and so on).

These are just examples, since there are hundreds of activities that you can do alone or with other people that will allow you to break that feeling of exclusivity.

The goal is very simple: learn that your happiness is not anchored to someone and that you can enjoy it without feeling guilty or incomplete.

3. Make a list of your strengths

Low self-esteem is compost that constantly stimulates emotional dependence. Many times this arises from the fear of being abandoned, by the desire to seek total acceptance or to believe that one is not good enough to deserve the love, appreciation or company of people.

In this sense, making a list of your strengths can help you regain your confidence. Start with the most superficial, and then go deeper and deeper to find those things that you do not usually think about.

After making this list, share it with the people you see fit and be receptive to hearing what other things they think might be on the list. We promise that it will be much longer than you thought, and that in turn you will get several surprises.

4. Learn to manage your emotions

Another tip to overcome emotional dependence is found in controlling emotions. Said this way it seems very obvious: if you manage your emotions better, then you will not suffer from emotional dependence. However, in practice this is much more complex.

Like any type of dependency, it is related to strong, confusing, or in some sense overwhelming emotions. The impulsive reaction to an emotion is often the flame that sets off the fuel of dependency. So, controlling or managing this impulsivity is key to overcoming emotional dependence. We leave you with some ideas in this regard:

  • Be aware of the impact these emotional reactions have on you and others.
  • It is not about repressing or hiding them, just about managing them better.
  • Take the time to think about what you feel, why you feel it, and how you want to express it.
  • Analyze the context and some variables before expressing an emotion.
  • Learn when it is better to be silent and when to express your ideas or feelings.
  • Practice breathing techniques.
  • If you wish, you can attend therapy for the support of a professional.

5. Drop idealistic expectations

False expectations often characterize dependency relationships, in which affected people constantly suffer for not seeing their ideals fulfilled.

Another characteristic of emotional dependence is found in idealistic expectations. That is to say, when we idealize a person or relationship above reality. We give it a character of perfection that moves away (or in any case does not correspond) with what it truly is.

This type of perception can skew you when evaluating what you have in front of you. It can also give you a false idea of ​​happiness. If you don’t stop embracing some idealistic postulates, then you won’t be able to overcome emotional dependency.

By doing so you will be able to see what you have in front of you objectively. You will be able to assess, among other things, the consequences and the damage of the attitude that you have been exercising until then. It will also allow you to determine how good it is for you to continue with that degree of dependency, what is best for you, what makes you really happy and what you need now in your life.

6. Assume your responsibilities, not those of others

Another of the anvils that prevent you from being dependent on someone is that you have not learned to distinguish your responsibilities from those of others. This seems like an unimportant attitude, although in reality it is the source of millions of problems.

When you do not learn the difference between your responsibility and that of others, you think that they are all your fault. That is, you will find a share of total or partial responsibility for the actions of others. If we contextualize this in a relationship, it is inevitable that it leads to emotional dependence.

For example, it can arise as a reward for those supposed mistakes that are assumed as their own. It will be done as a way to compensate for the error to prevent the relationship from wrecking. This is one of the many manifestations of not learning to distinguish what is your responsibility and what is not.

7. Learn to recognize patterns to avoid them

If you follow the recommendations to overcome emotional dependence, by this point you will have already made a huge advance. However, this does not prevent you from relapsing in the future.. To avoid this, you must learn to recognize those patterns that you now know are related to this attitude.

For example, you can recognize when a person is trying to manipulate you, when you are sacrificing your individuality, when your priorities take a back seat to satisfy that person. These and other behaviors will allow you to be on your guard so that you learn to put your mental health and your principles before those of others.

Before concluding, we warn you that overcoming emotional dependency can take time. Patience can then be your best ally, since with it you will learn to assimilate progress in the order in which they arrive. Be constant and you will see how you manage to change your life from all angles through what you have learned.

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