Gregory Jantz, Ph.D.
Just stay busy, Patricia told herself. Keep moving. Bury yourself in work. Do as much as you can and more so. Everything was falling apart in Patricia’s life but her job. Her husband was threatening to leave, again. Her daughter wasn’t speaking to her, again. When Patricia was at work, she could forget all of those family problems. There had to be someplace in this world where she was worth something. It wasn’t at home right now, that was for sure. Stay busy. Bury yourself in work. Do as much as you can and more so. She was so tired.
Dependent people can expend a great deal of time, energy, and thought running away from themselves and their problems. A dependent person who feels empty of value and worth may turn away from value in who they are and instead look for value in what they do. This shift is a way for the dependent person to say, “Don’t look at who I am because who I am will never be enough; look instead at what I can do.” Value and worth are moved away from self and moved toward production and activity. When a person is constantly moving away from self, that person is always on the move.
When you run away from yourself, then you are always on the run, which is exhausting. There is a point when fear no longer is effective, and that point is the point of exhaustion. Are you exhausted? Are you tired of running and ending up nowhere good? You may find yourself at the brink of utter exhaustion, continually attempting to control people and circumstances to create safety. Within that frenzy, there can be no moment of relaxation.
This is living on the edge, and dependent people live on the edge of fear at all times. Under a constant barrage of fight-or-flight adrenaline, you can careen from crisis to crisis, convinced you are one step away from total disaster, one step away from being revealed as unworthy, without value, unlovable, damaged.
You need to ask yourself, Why would I agree to such a difficult life? Why would I willingly place myself within such difficult relationships or continue to allow my relationships to be so difficult? One of your answers may be fear—fear of being exposed, fear of being empty, fear of being abandoned, fear of being rejected, fear of being considered insignificant, fear of losing security, fear of losing connection, fear of losing control, fear of not being enough. Dependent people can live beneath the monstrous shadow of fear that looms over their lives, unaware that what they really fear is their own shadow.
Why are you afraid of? Do you know? Or are you afraid to uncover your fears? Many people go to great lengths to hide their fears, not only from others but also from themselves.
Facing fear is best done from a position of safety. Dependent people rarely ever feel safe and, if so, only for a fleeting period of time. This makes facing fears an especially challenging task for those with dependency traits. Challenging, but not impossible.
Depended fear is based on a lie, even many lies, often told to you or experienced by you as you were growing up. These childhood lies can grow up into full-fledged fears when you are an adult. As a child, you may have been terrified of the dark, assuming a lack of light meant an abundance of danger. The force of that fear may still press against you as an adult.
Yet, as an adult, you are better equipped to press back against that fear, with understanding and maturity. As a frightened child, dark can seem an endless night. As an adult, you can learn to see past the dark and toward the dawn.
Authored by Dr. Gregory Jantz, founder of The Center • A Place of HOPE and author of 35 books. Pioneering whole-person care nearly 30 years ago, Dr. Jantz has dedicated his life’s work to creating possibilities for others, and helping people change their lives for good. The Center • A Place of HOPE, located on the Puget Sound in Edmonds, Washington, creates individualized programs to treat behavioral and mental health issues, including eating disorders, addiction, depression, anxiety and others.