How to Overcome Emotional Dependency

As most of you would have observed by now, I’m going through a pretty rough patch in life. Rough would be an understatement, most days it feels like I’m crawling on my knees through shattered glass just to get by. I’m 50 shades of confused, frustrated and miserable a lot of the time. I struggle with self-esteem, staying positive and finding purpose in life on a daily basis. I blamed everyone around me, including myself, and spend more time wallowing in self-pity than I’d like to admit. I didn’t understand why all of this was happening to me. I always felt like my happiness revolved around how someone else treated me, probably largely due to how my previous relationship panned out.

In a desperate bid for some clarity, while sobbing to myself on the bed in a relatively hysterical state, I googled “Being emotionally dependent on someone” just to read up some quotes on people who have gone through a similar situation, hoping they’d make some sense for me. Yes, I google everything. Recipes on how to make food, to self-diagnose myself when I’m sick, and when I need life advice..

What I did not expect was coming across this FANTASTICALLY AMAZINGLY GREAT EMPOWERING ARTICLE called “How to Overcome Emotional Dependency”. I expected generic advise that would slip away from me the second my eyes left the page, but after reading through the whole thing, I feel so grateful towards the brilliant and wonderfully empathetic author of this article for helping me regain a substantial amount of self-assurance and sanity. You know how you can listen to the advice of many, but accept none until you come across something so true and logical that you can’t possibly ignore?

Yeah, this was it for me. I feel absolutely compelled to share this article with you, in sincere hope that it will help whoever’s been feeling as shitty as I have. I hope that after reading this, you will find new direction and begin rebuilding your life, piece by piece, as I am trying to do. These are words I will refer to time and time again, over the next few months.

How to Overcome Emotional Dependency
(source: click here for the original article on

When your happiness starts to rely on any person, achievement or outcome (or a fragile combination of these) then you may discover that you’re emotionally dependent. It’s not an easy thing to face, nor is it your fault but it is a challenge which is vital to address.

It takes great courage to learn how to overcome emotional dependency but it’s worth doing so that you feel more in control of your life. Becoming gradually more independent and less attaching takes time and practice but it can be done.



When you’re struggling, it’s tempting to reach out for the wrong answers to life’s problems. These include leaning too much on people or trying to escape how you feel through self-destructive habits. It’s good to take stock of what you become when you’re dependent.

That realisation can also be useful when you’re struggling. For example, may be tempted to contact someone again just because they didn’t reply to your first message but then say “Okay, I don’t really want to be that person”. The more needy you become the more you realise:

“The secret to happiness is freedom”

It starts with embracing the concept or ideal of freedom. That doesn’t mean you can never depend on anyone at all in any situation. But it does mean making a commitment to gradually overcoming dependency and becoming more emotionally free in whatever way you can.

You might look at the path to independence as a learning experience that leads to greater peace, hope and happiness. The good news is that you’re already on that journey and will gradually be able to feel calmer and happier more often without relying on any outcome or anyone being there for you.



The ironic thing about wanting to be less “needy” is that the solution may be to recognise that your needs are actually very important and won’t go away if you neglect or ignore them. Dependency is often a result of both neglect and self-neglect of important emotional needs.

Emotionally speaking, we all need certain things such as calmness, a feeling of safety, a sense of purpose, self-acceptance and opportunities for connection. It’s good to keep your needs simple but it’s also important to do something about them and to prioritise them.

“From now on my happiness comes first”

Feeling needy is usually a sign that you need to be doing more for yourself. The path to emotional independence involves figuring out not only what you need but how to constructively help yourself. There are always many different ways to make yourself feel a little better, one step at a time.

Part of looking after your needs is regularly measuring how you feel and doing something about it. You might decide that one thing would be great for you but then it starts being stressful so you decide there’s no point forcing yourself to carry on. So it’s good to adapt to your changing needs.



People who haven’t learnt how to look after themselves emotionally are more likely to reach out for someone else to do it for them. But no matter how good someone makes you feel, it’s still a good idea to preserve and develop as much emotional self-reliance as you can.

“It’s my job to look after me”

It takes a lot of practice but eventually you will be able to take care of yourself in situations where you might normally depend on someone else. For example, if you feel lonely or stressed you could experiment with different ways of making those negative feelings dissolve.

There are many ways to make yourself feel better: calming breathing, gentle massage, consciously switching off thoughts or meditating, enjoying films or music, talking on the phone, going for a walk and so on. Make it your project to figure out and repeat what works best for you.



An important step along the road to freedom is allowing other people to be free rather than holding onto resentments about their behaviour. It may be tempting to get angry with someone who isn’t there for you during a crisis or lets you down in some way but it isn’t the solution.

Consider how many times you may have passed a homeless person in the street and not even thrown them some loose change. When you become an “emotional beggar” you’re in a similar situation. You can ask for help but there’s no point demanding it because nobody owes you anything.

“The only way to free yourself from other people is to free them from you”

Part of the solution is simply accepting that people have natural limitations when it comes to friendships, relationships, humanity and understanding. They may find it hard enough to stay positive as it is already without having to look after those who can’t seem to look after themselves.

Imagining that anyone “should” help you when they haven’t explicitly agreed to do so can come across as manipulative because it confuses your needs with their responsibility. It’s not worth testing anyone’s limits by pressuring them to be someone they may not even be capable of becoming.



It’s likely that children learn a lot about how to become emotionally independent through the simple act of playing. As as adult, there’s no need to be any different. Alone time can be seen as “playtime”, a chance to rediscover that child-like sense of authentic joy and spontaneity.

How much you enjoy your undisturbed playtime depends partly on how willing you are to improve the experience. It can become the ultimate chance to look after yourself, unwind and explore hobbies and interests. Some people even get addicted to being with themselves. As Maxwell Maltz said:

“If you make friends with yourself you will never be alone”

By transforming the experience of being with yourself you can make a new friend for life. You can practice doing things just because they’re fun rather than to achieve anything. Loneliness may be little more than boredom combined with self-pity or with wanting companionship too much and too soon.

A good start is to stop resisting the fact other people aren’t around and see it as something sacred and vital to growth. It takes time to get into it but fascination, exploration and creativity are great substitutes for neediness. You could even make a list of interesting things to explore:

  • Books and articles
  • Music and music videos
  • Movies and shows
  • Comedy videos and shows
  • Games and diversions
  • Fascinating facts and info
  • Educational videos and courses
  • Creative projects

You could also become more playful in your everyday life, experimenting with retro dance moves, dramatic singing, silly voices, funny faces, crazy phrases or humorous observations. Less serious music can also create a fun atmosphere, whether it’s James Bond theme songs or Flight of the Conchords.

A hermit’s true discovery is that anyone can eventually become perfectly content on their own, far from the imperfect outside world. Realising how much you can give to yourself and remembering you are the only person you can totally depend on can free you of the much less reliable human race.



Negative mental habits are one of the main factors that cause people to run away from their own company and depend on others. Maybe you punish yourself by dwelling in the past, overthinking negatively, being impatient, insisting on perfect results or stressing yourself out in some other way.

Self-harshness is a product of trying to forcefully control things, which includes being angry with other people because it affects how you feel within your interior world. The alternative is learning to talk to yourself positively, dwell at peace with the present moment or find constructive distraction.

“I’d rather relax than control anything”

Two kinds of self-pressuring to watch out for include forceful insistence (“pushing” sensations that go with thoughts such as “I need this!” or “It must be like this!”) and fearful resistance (“pulling” sensations that go with thoughts such as “Oh no!” or “It can’t be like this!”).

We all beat ourselves up every now and then but it’s important to catch yourself in the act and let it go. You can gradually replace self-punishing behaviours with acceptance, playfulness, self-encouragement, self-calming, positive focus and positive self-talk examples of which include:

I’m willing to make the best of any situation
I’m so proud of myself for facing all these challenges
I’m willing to do the best I can to be as happy as I can be
It’s amazing what I can achieve with work and patience
I am open to all the good things that can come my way
I am learning to be stronger and more positive
I am so grateful for [whatever it may be]
Everything is going to be okay
I am a cool/nice/great person
I deserve to be happy
I love myself
I can do this
Another way to reduce self-harshness is to cultivate a sense of fun and playfulness around other people. Activities might include playing board games, card games, computer games or light sports. The key ingredient is not “playing to win” but taking everything less seriously.



A lot of neediness may stem from difficult events that happened during childhood or adolescence. Identifying these events and the way you responded to them as a child is a great way to recognise why you may have got stuck in a place of emotional dependency.

You don’t want to get lost in the past but exploring it to some extent can help you to let go of patterns of thought, feeling and behaviour that you may have formed when you had no idea how to deal with what was going on. It’s good to avoid “re-living” the same story over and over again.

“The role of the present is not to reverse the past or compensate for it”

Therapy can help. Part of the solution is learning to distinguish between present situations and past situations they may remind you of. You can also increasingly distinguish between the helpless child you once were and the self-calming, self-caring, self-approving adult you’re becoming.

You may identify certain “triggers” that make you feel helplessly attached. You can then start seeing such things as an invitation to a trap you don’t have to fall into rather than as something irresistible or impossible to ignore and which inevitably pulls you into dependency.



Emotional dependency can create overwhelming and confusing emotions. Reacting impulsively to that internal state can be very dangerous. What seems like a great idea when you’re in a “reactive” mood could turn out to be a really bad idea so it’s worth stepping back from that.

When you feel calm you can think things through carefully. But feeling needy, upset, sad, stressed, angry, manic, tired, hungry or drunk isn’t a great basis for drawing conclusions or making snap decisions. To avoid consequences you may regret, it’s good to heed the advice of Winston Churchill:

“If you’re going through hell, keep going”

When you’re in the grip of intense feelings it can seem as if they will never go away. But the truth is that they always do when you give them enough time. This is why people often remind themselves “This too shall pass” rather than doing something reckless merely to escape.

The irony is that desperately reacting to make feelings go away often escalates problems with people. Rather than becoming involved in a potentially never-ending cycle of drama, it’s often better to allow emotional “ups and downs” to run their course by avoiding the temptation to do anything rash.



You may sometimes need to confront painful emotions that you are experiencing. A lot of people push away their physical feelings rather than trying to sense them directly and this causes them to “run away” from their emotions and become dependent. The solutions include:

Expressing and embracing your vulnerable child-like self
Suspending all thinking and just resting for a while
Relaxing your body and breathing deeply to help experience emotions
Saying “Mmmm” a little while breathing out through the nose
Sensing your physical feelings and letting go of resistance to them
Focusing on staying calm even while physically feeling emotional pain
Not focusing on or creating any associated thoughts or mental images
Not suppressing, pushing away or reacting against your emotions
Not identifying with or trying to amplify or prolong emotions
Radically accepting and loving your emotions whenever you can
Seeing yourself as a survivor and recognising your strength
Confronting and dealing with feelings like this may seem like an impossible thing to do but it’s healthier than trying to ignore them, repress them or escape from them. By learning to acknowledge and physically feel any emotions you can learn to move beyond them.

It may also help to talk to other individuals who struggle through a support group for codependency, love addiction or substance abuse. People who have been through similar issues are less likely to judge you when you’re going through a hard time.



A bit of adventurous self-introspection will often help you identify patterns of dependency in your thoughts or behaviour that you can work on overcoming. An example might be having an attitude of wanting “all or nothing” from people instead of appreciating whatever is freely offered.

You may also recognise how you start thinking about what you want so that you can nip some of that dependent thinking in the bud at early stages. Spending too much time or energy focusing on what might be good for you may seem positive but it can be dangerous for one reason. As C.S. Lewis put it:

“Don’t let your happiness depend on something you may lose”

If you start attaching to anything or anyone too much you’re giving them too much importance and so you may need to give both yourself and them more distance in order to avoid becoming dependent. The sooner you realise this risk the easier it is to avoid getting into trouble.

You can even recognise and let go of neediness in your everyday thoughts. Changing your language is one way to tackle that. Instead of saying “I need to” you might start saying “I’d like to”. Instead of saying “I need this” you might say “I would quite like that”.



It’s easy to get carried away by the idea of wanting things to be a certain way. It starts with
a mild preference but then it gets twisted in the mind, going through several stages:

“That might be nice” → “That couldn’t possibly be bad for me” → “That would make me happy” → “I probably need it to be happy” → “I’m starting to feel strangely unhappy without it” → “Nothing else could make me happy” → “I could probably never be happy without it” → “I’m unhappy, that just proves how much I need it” → “I need it so much that nothing else exists anymore”

An example is meeting someone and starting to imagine that they are “the one” instead of “just one of many” and not necessarily even good for you. It’s better to avoid wanting anything too strongly. To stop yourself jumping between the steps of desire mentioned above you could say:

“That might be great but I can survive without it just fine”

It’s very dangerous to believe that something can “make me happy”. What’s really happening there is that you are making your happiness depend on it and that dependency then makes you unhappy. The more you focus on what you think “makes” you happy the more you start to depend on it.

People often try to inspire themselves by focusing on a personal goal. Focusing on what inspires you is a great idea and a goal can be part of the fun but you can still do that without making everything depend too rigidly on a particular outcome. The solution is inspiration but without “goal fixation”.



We all sometimes experience a feeling which, on a subconscious level, might be explained in terms of a child jumping up and down and screaming “I want my ice cream!” It may be that the child is spoilt or just so distressed that it genuinely seems as if ice cream is the only possible answer.

To any adult observing the scene, it is obvious that the child could be okay even without getting any ice-cream. And so it is important to observe the child within yourself and to recognise when you might be holding your own happiness to ransom by insisting on something you might not actually need.

“I am willing to try my very best to be happy in spite of X, Y and Z and even without A, B or C“

Identifying what you have recently made your happiness rely on can be an eye opener. For example, a troubling thought like “People are driving me crazy!” can be reinterpreted as “I can’t be happy unless everyone is great” which is clearly a little overdependent and unrealistic.

Another example might be “Nothing is making any sense!” which is another way of saying “I demand that everything always makes sense” and not strictly necessary for a happy life. Recognising which arbitrary conditions you keep placing on your own happiness can increasingly set your mind free.



It’s very easy to suddenly become psychologically addicted to anything, such physical intimacy, companionship or external approval. Nobody can blame themselves when this happens because they often do so without fully realising the precise role that they played in making that happen.

If you start telling yourself that you “need” something this is likely to alter your “reality”. You can persuade yourself of anything but it’s good to take responsibility for doing so. When you depend on something, your mind creates a system of self-reward and self-punishment around it.

“I did this to myself”

For example, I could keep telling myself over and over again that I “need” to see a black cat run across the street. If I genuinely start believing that and hoping for it then this will affect my emotions. When I finally see a black cat run across the street I may even feel blissful.

I could say that the black cat “makes” me happy but it’s not really true. I made my happiness depend on it by strongly persuading myself it was what I needed. I rewarded myself with happiness at seeing the black cat and punished myself with disappointment if I didn’t see it.



The more we idealise what we want, the the deeper we sink into the quicksand of desire. The more you imagine anything to be perfect or put anyone on a pedestal the more you are setting yourself up for a disappointment. What seems like the Holy Grail can sometimes turn out to be a poisoned chalice.

Worshipping anyone as if they are some kind of “saviour” figure is particularly dangerous. Imagining that someone has a magical ability to make you whole is really a way of persuading yourself that something is wrong, that there’s something you can’t live without or that you can’t be okay.

“Nothing is ever quite what it’s cracked up to be”

It may seem like idealising someone is a great compliment but you’re not doing yourself or them any favours. Sliding into dependency will make you feel like a stalker the moment they change their minds about having you around. Focusing on their flaws for a while can help offset such over-attachment.

Idealisation is a form of escape from life. Rather than coping with reality, we create a fantasy in which we can lose ourselves. It’s easy to become addicted to a fantasy but it’s inevitably disappointing. Anyone we worship in our imagination can be boring once we get used to what they’re really like.



Some people believe that they can’t love themselves unless someone loves them or that they don’t exist unless someone acknowledges them or approves of their existence. They mistakenly assume that their survival depends on being attached to someone on whom they have to depend.

Imagining that you can’t live without someone or something only gives them power over you. You may subconsciously think that being denied what you want would cause you to fall apart but it’s an illusion that can become a self-fulfilling prophecy only when you start strongly believing it:

“Everything is going to be okay”

As long as you’re determined not to abandon yourself then you never have to fear anyone else’s absence. You may sometimes go through a hard time but you also have the ability to get through it, comfort yourself, soothe your distress, learn positive lessons and come out stronger.

You might even visualise yourself without having what you want but as a strong and self-caring person with high self-esteem. If you feel dependent on someone who is also dependent on you then it may also help to visualise them being okay so that you can both detach a little.



Independence doesn’t always have to mean that “happiness comes from within”. It’s okay to have a few people and activities that inspire your happiness. In fact, working on having a few stable interests and buddies in your life is very much part of the solution to becoming more independent.

Even if nothing seems wildly exciting to begin with, there’s something very healthy about gradually building up different sources of contentment rather than single-mindedly chasing one particular goal or short term “fix”. It also means heeding the following advice:

“Don’t put all your eggs in one basket”

When there are a few things to focus on then it doesn’t have to be devastating if one area doesn’t work out for any reason. Without complicating your life too much, you can make it interesting in a number of different ways rather than having one or two outcomes on which you strongly depend.

It’s never too late to develop new hobbies, passions and friendships but it’s also worth remembering that sometimes you may need to put a sustained effort into these areas before you can expect to get anything out of them. In the long term they can become very rewarding and fulfilling.



It’s not usually worth needing anything from the wrong people or situations. You may sometimes find yourself “barking up the wrong tree” but sometimes the solution is to figure out what it is that you need and to accept that it doesn’t have to come from that particular source.

When you start being a bit clingy ask yourself what it is about a person, situation or outcome that you like so much. This allows you to figure out how to substitute that by looking for it elsewhere rather than seeing them as having some kind of monopoly on that benefit.

“Nothing is irreplaceable”

For example, if you love how much someone empathises with you then you could look out for a few more people like that and learn to do it for yourself and others. Any need can be met in a variety of different ways so learn to identify what you want and patiently go after it in more than one form.

A relationship breakup is one of the hardest challenges and similar to overcoming drug addiction. As in “rehab”, the most effective approach is “cold turkey”, giving up all contact with the other person, starting a whole new chapter in life and remembering that time eventually heals all.



When you’re emotionally dependent, you’re more likely to have unrealistic and slightly intense notions about what you can expect from others. This may be driven by a naive idealism about what friendships, romantic relationships and other arrangements are “supposed” to be like. It’s easy to:

Confuse mere friendliness with friendship
Confuse a casual friendship with unceasing loyalty or availability
Confuse being attracted to someone with them being right for you
Confuse romantic curiosity with serious romantic interest
Confuse a romance or relationship with unconditional love
Confuse any cool experience with the start of something greater
Confuse doing someone a favour with them having to do something for you
For example, you may think friendship must always be “true” and involve “being there for each other” in hard times or always being genuine or kind. You may think that a partner should love you forever, can never turn their back on you or must forgive you just because you’re sorry.

Needing more from people than they feel ready or able to give just isn’t realistic and it can also make you appear unreasonable. Even in a crisis, it is pointless to push on someone to do something for you just because you would be willing to do the same for them: no obligation strictly exists.

“A bond can be beautiful even when it’s temporary and limited in scope”

Everyone is good for some things and useless at other things. Some people will be great at empathising with you or boosting your confidence. Other people will be useless at that but they might be a hilarious travel companion or the perfect partner for a new hobby. Nobody can be all of these things.

There’s nothing wrong with “fair weather friends” as long as you remember what you can’t expect. Nobody can be a substitute parent and their idea about how everything works may be much more casual. Many friendships are about occasionally amusing each other and nothing deeper.



Disappointment is a common human experience but a good way to recover from it is to look at what you expected in terms of virtues that aren’t possible for everyone, given their natural weaknesses and limitations. Instead of accusing anyone of a moral crime, a better conclusion might be:

“They’re only human, they have lots of good points but x is clearly not their forte”

For example, if someone lets you down when you feel sad then you might be tempted to think “What a bad person!” A better way to look at it might be: “They have many good points and sometimes they are kind – just not in an unlimited way or in every situation. I can work around that”.

If empathy, humanity or some other virtue does not always come naturally to a person then needing it when they simply don’t have it in them involves demanding something that is in a sense “supernatural” for them. It’s unrealistic to insist that anyone should rise above their limited nature.



The power of focus is what can get you both into trouble and also out of trouble. A good way to prevent yourself from becoming too attached to anyone or anything is to practice switching your focus regularly or asking “What am I going to focus on?” so that it never becomes too narrow or selective.

A good way to ween yourself off anything that starts becoming addictive is to throw yourself into some other area of life that can keep your focus balanced. If you’re willing to find something inspiring enough to totally distract you then you probably will succeed.

“Maybe it’s time to spread my wings”

It may help to consciously stop yourself from focusing on, thinking about or visualising whatever you need to depend on less. You may need to give up bad habits such as compulsively checking phone messages and remove reminders such as photos, social media and so on.

If you never focus on something it can’t control you emotionally. You don’t want your life to be about one person, situation, goal or outcome. A good way to change that is to decide what you should be focusing on less and what you should be focusing on more and proactively making that happen.



Outcome-independence may well be the essence of freedom. You can develop a more independent frame of mind if you practice imagining the main outcomes a situation could have and then embrace each of those scenarios by looking at them as positively as you can.

“Whatever happens could be a good thing in some ways. It may even be for the best”

The funny thing about life is that you never really know what’s good for you. Sometimes you need a “bad” experience in order to learn the amazing lessons that will result in becoming a much happier and more independent person in the long term.

As Oscar Wilde put it, “There are only two tragedies in life: one is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it”. Sometimes we get exactly what we want and it is a disaster. But when we don’t get what we want, we often forget that it might not have resulted in a fairytale ending.



Putting any kind of forceful pressure on others to meet your needs can ruin good situations or make bad things worse. You can often avoid such consequences simply by making it a rule to outwardly behave in much the same way as someone who has complete emotional independence.

No matter how you feel, you can make an agreement with yourself to communicate in a way that allows people to relax and feel totally free. By doing so you are refusing to let any personal feelings or difficulties get in the way of things going smoothly and you are also following a simple rule:

“Go with the flow”

A good way to take things slowly with people is to imagine what it might be like if you were already way too busy or had too many friends. You are less likely to “come on too strong” or need “too much too soon” when behaving as if you already have everything you need from life.

Playing the role of someone who “has it all” can help you avoid giving anyone a sense of being inappropriately pushed or relied upon. You can “fake it till you make it”, using the appearance of totally casual behaviour to allow people take things at their own natural and often gradual pace.



It takes time and practice to become more independent. Part of it is improving what you can do for yourself and part of it is having the patience to wait for some things in life to fall into place rather than depending on the next person or outcome that might be good for you.

“Rome wasn’t built in a day”

There is often a risk that people will feel punished just because they aren’t the kind of person you’re hoping to meet one day. So rather than trying to change anyone it’s better to be patient, diplomatic, to accept that “everyone has their uses” and to look out for people who are good for you.

It’s okay to struggle and to make mistakes. But one of the biggest mistakes you can make is setting yourself some artificial deadline such as “I should already have what I wanted by now”. Some people don’t end up with anything they wanted but discover a far greater happiness later on.

“If you continuously compete with others, you become bitter.
But if you continuously compete with yourself you become better”

Everything will get better if you’re willing to slowly but surely build a simple, good life with a flexible attitude towards contentment. As long as you never want too much there will always be enough time for everything you want. Above all, it’s never too late to start feeling joyful.



Nobody is entirely independent and even people who seem very “strong” are not as free as they imagine. Their sense of emotional well-being often relies on what’s going on in their lives and on knowing that someone who cares about them is a phone call away should they ever need help.

But it is possible to learn how to overcome emotional dependency, at least enough to feel much better. At some point, even when things aren’t going very well, you’ll be able to say “I’m happy not really because of what’s going on but in spite of it”. Developing that attitude takes time and practice.

The answer is a combination of greater emotional self-regulation, self-encouragement and a willingness to broaden your horizons while prioritising your happiness.