Better Than Independence

July is frequently considered the month when we celebrate independence on July 4th each year. Most people claim to value independence. Despite this, some people remain dependent on parents, government, charitable organizations, substances, even the television line-up, etc. This seems like the easy way. They let someone or something else take care of their wellbeing. However, what happens when these factors which are beyond their direct control become unavailable for some reason. Independent people maintain their wellbeing when things go wrong, even if all is lost. Walt Disney is an example of someone who bounced back after the failure of his first successful business. Oprah Winfrey suffered horribly as a youth, but you would never know it from looking at her today. You can probably think of many others who have suffered and managed to live a happy successful life. Their success and happiness came independent of the circumstances around them, but something else that we celebrate in July probably contributed to their continued wellbeing. July is Social Wellness Month. Social wellness involves interdependence and leads to improved emotional, health, and community wellbeing.

Life doesn’t make any sense without interdependence.  We need each other, and the sooner we learn that, the better for us all.
-Joan Erickson

Interdependence is a big part of social wellness. Stephen R. Covey stated that “effective interdependence can only be built on a foundation of true independence.”-The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. How can dependence be unstable and interdependence be desirable when they both indicate reliance on something outside of the individual’s control? The answer is that interdependence leads to greater degrees of accomplishment. Let me attempt to explain the difference between the three levels of interaction. When someone is dependent, effort results in little or no achievement (e.g., I spent the whole day asking people to move an object for me and at the end of the day, the object stayed put). When someone is independent, effort results in achievement reasonable for a single person (e.g., I spent the whole day moving an object ten feet by myself). When interdependence is practiced, effort results in more being achieved than the individuals involved in the effort could have achieved in isolation from each other through a phenomenon known as synergy (e.g., Stacy, Chris, and I spent the whole day moving an object forty-five feet, rather than the thirty feet it would have moved if we had worked independently).

Similarly, how does your emotional wellbeing differ if you are dancing at a party versus dancing alone in private? The effects of the pandemic demonstrate the importance of interdependence on social wellness. Some people threw social distancing aside whenever there was the least downturn in the number of cases because they felt so unwell being separated from others.

Health can also be affected. Let’s say you want to go on a hike through the mountains or go play in the Ocean. It is safer to bring a buddy. If you do not practice interdependence, you may not be able to find someone to go with you and lose out on the healthy exercise, or you go alone and suffer the possible consequence of getting lost, injured, and/or even dying.

Interdependence also improves the social wellbeing of the community. I spent a quarter century in Hawaii. One thing that makes Hawaii unique is the selfless generosity of the native people, a value known as Kokua (pronounced: koh-koo-ah), which is a verb meaning to help others with no expectation of personal gain in return. Though unintentional, the interdependent relationship between the giver and the receiver improves through each act of Kokua. Selfless service is also common in Florida. When we first moved to Orlando, neighbors offered furniture, assistance, and recommendations, making our adjustment to the new area almost instantaneous.

Take the I out of Illness, add W and E, and you have wellness.
-Charles Roppel

Social wellness involves interdependence and leads to improved emotional, health, and community wellbeing. If there is one thing that the pandemic has shown us it is that Joan Erikson was right. We need each other. Though independence is a noble goal, social wellness requires interdependence. Some people have been able to maintain interdependence even while social distancing during the pandemic. You can do it too. If you, or people you know, are struggling with achieving or maintaining interdependence, come see me or one of my fellow Cornerstone Centers for Wellbeing counselors. You too can improve your interdependence and increase your social wellness. Go out and kokua. Celebrate Social Wellness Month and enjoy the synergy of social wellbeing.

Live your best life,
Jared W. Chantrill, LCSW