Developing Emotional Independence

Many of us with addictions and mental health issues find ourselves in codependent relationships, and we often are emotionally dependent on the other people in our lives. We base our emotions and moods on other people’s and are emotionally susceptible to their changing feelings. As part of our recovery, we can choose to develop our emotional independence.

We reach a point where we realize that if we want to maintain our balance and inner peace, we can’t allow our emotions to be swayed by those of other people. In codependent relationships, our emotions can be easily impacted and altered by other people’s. Our entire mood can be brought down by someone else’s frustration. We can experience intense anxiety if someone is upset with us. We prioritize other people’s emotions over ours and sometimes modify our actions to try to pacify and appease them. We become dependent upon their approval and have essentially given up our emotional independence.

Developing emotional independence is about making the choice to prioritize our own inner peace. It’s about deciding that we will feel how we choose to feel. We can maintain our sense of calm and peace regardless of the thoughts and feelings of the people around us. We can stay calm and happy before, during and after a conflict. We can decide not to be pushed and pulled, manipulated and veered off course by other people’s emotions.

Start creating your go-to calming routine. It might include deep breathing, visualization, meditation, prayer, being in nature or journaling. You might sing, hum, or repeat affirmations. Whatever works for you, make it simple and repeatable, so that you can implement it any time you feel stress coming on. Whenever you feel a rise in your anxiety, when your heart starts beating faster or your breathing becomes rapid and shallow, try not to feed your anxious thoughts but instead direct your energy to your routine. You might find that even just a couple minutes are enough to bring you back down to a calm, centered place.

Now, practice using this routine any time another person’s energy is impacting you negatively. If you find yourself feeling angry, aggravated, impatient or frustrated, or even if someone has hurt your feelings, you can make the decision to feel calm and at peace anyway. Your calming routine can become one of your healthy coping strategies. With practice, it will become your default response to triggering emotions. Where we might have responded with reactivity, anxiety and sadness, we can choose not to allow other people’s feelings to bring us down.

Learning to work with our emotions is an important part of recovery. Call (800) 871-5440 for information on our treatment programs.