Loving Dependence

Should you depend on other people?

Go to the profile of Ajay Khandelwal PhD
Jan 29, 2018
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English equivalent of the Japanese term “amae” (甘え) - the feeling of pleasurable dependence on another person

We live in strange times.  In western culture the prize is to be independent, resilient. When you visit your GP, you have around six minutes to explain what is wrong, what hurts, and to recieve a diagnosis, medication and treatment plan.  Of course, you've done all this yourself on the internet, but your just using your GP to check.  The GP may refer to their computer for part of the consultation, so maybe you don't even have the full six minutes, so it's good you did some preparatory work.  If you want to try and smuggle/raise another matter once you're with your GP, you might be asked to book 2 appointments in future.  Decades ago, psychotherapist doctors such as Michael Balint liked to learn about their patients, to find out what their life story was, but modern doctors don't really have the time to do that anymore.   Modern GPs see lots of patients, for short appointments.  Perhaps the short appointments are one way of way of keeping the "neediness" and "dependency" evoked by patients and their troubles at bay?  

The modern NHS will suggest that you don't go to A and E except in a real emergency, and that you try and self-care as much as possible. Be resilient.  Look after yourself.  Buy your own medicines. There is great value in being independent. Being the author of your own destiny is a laudable aim. Yet, what about the state of dependency?  What about really depending on another.  Psychotherapy allows you to be dependent on your therapist.  This dependency creates the space for real self exploration and self discovery and the hard work of thinking for yourself.  Instead of six minutes you have fifty minutes.  You can come in with one thought or feeling, and allow yourself to meander, dream, free associate, talk, until you arrive at a new place.  The symptom you came in with disolves and becomes something else.  You were looking for the doctor to give the answer, but the fifty minutes allows you to find your own answer, or another question.  Through therapy, a very intimate form of depending on another, paradoxically, you can arrive at a much more deeper form of independence.  It's something you have uncovered, with the help of another, which is uniquely yours.  Perhaps those people who can concede how much they need and depend on others, and seek the help they need, are, in fact, truly independent.  Those who think they are perfectly self-reliant, masters of their own destiny, are in fact, unsettled by the depth of their need for others.


Go to the profile of Ajay Khandelwal PhD

Ajay Khandelwal PhD

Psychoanalyst, Guild of Psychotherapists

I have 25 years experience in the mental health field running addictions and psychotherapy services. I have a BA from Oxford University and a PhD on family dynamics from Essex University. I am registered member of the College of Psychoanalysts, UKCP and BACP and the Guild of Psychotherapists.

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