Fears and self-putdowns keep us weak and submissive. As
we learned in chapter 5, to overcome them, fears need to be
confronted --faced and conquered, perhaps by desensitization
(methods #6 or #8 in chapter 12) or simply by carrying out the scary
but desired behavior over and over. Thought stopping (method #10 in
chapter 11) can curtail the self-putdowns.
Passivity. Passive, compliant, dependent people hold back most of
their negative emotions because they fear alienating the people on
whom they are dependent. They suppress feelings "to keep the
peace." They rationalize being quiet and overly nice. They may avoid
"feelings" so much they are not even aware of the emotions raging
inside of them. The outcome of the suppression may be unfortunate;
sometimes such people are said to be "emotionally constipated." Their
emotional dishonesty may on the surface enable them to appear well
adjusted and self-controlled but they may be hurting inside. Moreover,
the unhappy situation will continue if no action is taken. Before a
person can become assertive--or even happy--he/she may have to
reclaim and tune in to the emotions inside. A variety of therapies
(Ramsey, 1978; Pierce, Nichols & DuBrin, 1983) have suggested ways
of relearning how to emote, how to become whole again. Try venting
your feelings, as described in method #10 in chapter 12.
Remind yourself. Since dependency is comfortable, you may
need to constantly remind yourself of the unwanted long-term
consequences of remaining unchanged: resentment of being
dominated and/or weak, low self-regard, no life of your own making,
loss of respect from others, the unfairness of people taking advantage
of you, etc. Make yourself unhappy with your conformity, dependency,
Improve your ability to cope. The feeling of helplessness can
only be countered by improving your ability to cope and your
awareness of that ability. By willfully changing your environment and
your own behavior, you start to see yourself as a self-helper, not as
Expect only gradual changes. Most of the time we can't
suddenly become decisive, assertive, and independent. Failures and
backsliding are part of learning; don't awfulize and be overly critical of
your mistakes. Be gentle but firmly assertive with yourself.
Level III: Becoming skillful.
Level III: Learn problem-solving, assertiveness, communication skills
If you feel you can't make decisions or stand up for yourself, skills
are needed to be independent, decisive, and self-assured. The self-
help methods at this level are probably the most useful, powerful, and
relevant to counteracting passive-dependency.