Psychological Self-Help

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Dependent people manipulate others. Getting people into doing
things for us may be a self-deceptive way to deny our
helplessness or a way to prove our charm or cleverness and/or
others' gullibility or weakness. Correspondingly, many people
love to have someone depend on them and look up to them;
thus, they are easily manipulated: "I just have to be nice and
flatter Mom or cuddle up to Daddy and they'll do anything for
me." The last example is harmless enough, but the
manipulation can involve "playing hard ball." For instance, an
effective way to get care and attention from our parents or
loved ones is to make bad decisions, be indecisive or
irresponsible, and get in trouble. Dependent people learn that
weakness and passive defiance are very powerful and difficult
to deal with: "I'm powerful, I can drive them up a wall" or
"They don't have any choice but to take care of me!" Like an
attention-starved child, some dependent people act as though it
is better to get in trouble than to be neglected. Sometimes,
governmental systems encourage dependency: "It is better to
have a baby and go on welfare than to stay in school and have
to look for a job." If anyone cares about you, being "down and
out" and helpless are powerful ways of getting help. Certainly,
being compassionate is commendable, but compassion must
strengthen the weak, not further weaken them. 
Dependency may stem from an insatiable need for love or a
need to prove one's importance: "Give me more proof you
really love me" or "I want Mommy to love me more than she
does anyone else in the world, even more than Dad" or "I want
you to love me totally, like my Daddy did." We all have needs
to be babied and cared for, of course. And, perhaps, we are all
a little resentful that we aren't loved and nurtured enough (for
our inner child). But it is only in extreme cases where we
constantly demand proof of love. 
Some psychologists point out the similarity between the fear in
dependency and the fear in agoraphobia, which is a fear of
being away from home and in crowds or open spaces where we
have no support. Both can be intense fears that debilitate us. 
Martyrdom and masochism may, in some cases, also be closely
related. The subservient person who neglects him/herself while
serving others "hand and foot" may feel taken advantage of
and lead a life of suffering--that's a martyr. Shainness (1984),
a female psychiatrist, has written a book, Sweet Suffering,
describing the tendency of some women (and men) to fear
authority and to put themselves down to such an extent that it
becomes a form of masochism (an enjoyment of pain and
A common reaction to dependency is anger. Others may
respond hostilely to our dependency and we may resent the
dependency we see in others. Wouldn't you hate to be weak
and considered rather helpless all the time? As we saw in
chapter 7, sometimes long-term subservience results in a
sudden outburst of violence but more likely it will result in
continuing passive-aggressiveness ("I won't do anything as
long as you're bugging me"). A resentful child or a disgruntled
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