Monday, January 10, 2011

Interdependence and Maturity

I just finished reading the book I Don’t Want to Talk about It: Overcoming the Secret Legacy of Male Depression by Terrence Real. Many of his thoughts were helpful and worth reflecting on but I want to focus on something he said about maturity and connection. In detailing the way men develop depression he does a good job showing how boys are not encouraged to grow relationally and how this causes them to separate from parts of themselves that would ward off depression. One aspect he underscores is how boys are encouraged to disconnect from their families. He says, traditionally oriented therapists may actively discourage family therapy, citing the need for the boy to have “a place of his own,” in which to “work out separation.” But the true meaning of psychological “separation” is maturity, and we humans stand a better chance of maturing when we do not disconnect from one another. But what maturity truly requires is the replacement of childish forms of closeness with more adult forms of closeness, not with dislocation. As boys turn into young men, closeness not just to the mother but to both parents – indeed dependent closeness to anyone – is equated with childishness. Growing up becomes synonymous with moving out. Maturity and connection are set up as choices that exclude one another. (pg. 143)

What a painful reminder that in our culture dependent closeness to anyone – is equated with childishness. How often as parents and friends do we discourage, react against or demean dependent closeness? I realize that there is danger in being overly dependent. There are times and seasons where we are alone and have to learn how to navigate such periods with resiliency. Standing alone is part of growing to maturity. As a parent I want to help my girls be able to stay buoyant in difficulty and become spiritually mature. Like Terrance Real I believe this maturity is facilitated, not only by standing alone, but by being able to appropriately (and vulnerably) depend on others. Obviously, Christian theology underscores this. We are to depend on the Lord and His church. For the first half of my life, I foolishly worked hard to become a good independent person but later as I really began to grow in the Lord I realized what a backwards approach that was if I really wanted to mature as a Christian. It feels good (it feeds our flesh) to stand on our own and awkward to learn how to depend on others. Generally, I watch others struggle with both, wisely choosing to stand alone or wisely asking for help and/or depending on others. However, out of the two I would say the majority of people find it harder to vulnerably trust others. Therefore, I really appreciated the reminder that we often demean interdependence and I often play right into this. Dependent closeness is equated with childishness and this type of ‘childishness’ is to be encouraged. If I remember correctly Jesus encouraged us to change and become little children if we really wanted to participate in His Kingdom (Matthew 18:3).

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