Emotional Dependence

Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati

Why do people want to keep in contact with the departed? You have to live your life independently and individually, regardless of whether you are together or separate. If your children go to another country to study, live or work, they have departed from your home yet you maintain the feeling of affection and love for them.

The feeling is always happy when you think of your children for you know that wherever they are, they are happy, doing what they want to do, living how they want to live, succeeding in the manner that they want to succeed. There is a sense of happiness for your children. The need of keeping in touch comes due to emotional dependence.

Desire and intention

Emotional dependence is based on kamana, iccha, desire. That dependence makes you feel connected, that somebody is there to look after you when you need support, health, assistance. Everybody is seeking security; everybody is seeking to overcome the fear of isolation, inability and incapacity.

To overcome this fear, there is always latching on to somebody emotionally and that is the beginning of a relationship. It is not bad, it is not good. That is the life we all live in this world right from Stone Age until now.

This has been stated by Sri Krishna, Sri Rama, Sage Vasishtha and other rishis.

Emotional dependence is a fact and reality of life. This emotional association becomes restrictive when it is connected with selfish, self-oriented, self-fulfilling kamanas. There it takes the form of asakti, attachment, mamata, deep emotional entanglement, moha, infatuation. However, the same association can be maintained in a positive manner. Then it becomes a virtuous giving in which two kindred spirits recognize, respect and honour each other. They do not extract anything from each other. This can be seen in the lives of rishis, and in the life of Sharada Ma and Ramakrishna Paramahamsa.

They were husband and wife, in the truest sense of the world. People think of the husband and wife relationship in a physical and material sense. The relationship may not be as extreme and detached as between Sri Ramakrishna and Sharada Ma, yet even five percent on this side of the scale will give a better understanding and perception with a detached objectivity about the other person. It will lead to greater understanding and cooperation if the intentions are right.

When the intention is right, there is always release from emotions and the mind. The associations of a lifetime are seen as mutual support, which have nurtured and nourished one’s own spirit. That is known as the sadhu life. Sadhu life does not mean a renunciate’s life, but a life of goodness.

Sense of isolation

In one part of society, this emotional association has taken the shape of dependency, attachment, infatuation and deep emotional entanglement. In that state, one is incapable of standing on one’s own feet without support and confirmation from the partner. A close communication between partners develops when they share all aspirations, hopes and frustrations. They are open to each other.

You feel totally alone and isolated due to lack of reflection and understanding of the roll of the atma in life and due to the absence of somebody in your life.

That loneliness and isolation cannot be filled by your children, no matter how good they are, for they came later into your life. The first person who came into your life was the wife or husband. The children have their own aspirations and have made their own choices. The person who supported your choices was the partner.

Despite children being good and over-devoted to the parent, the sense of emptiness and isolation still continues in the mind and heart of the person who has lost a partner. When that loneliness becomes deep, the question does come into the mind of how to communicate with the other person who has been a friend, a partner for so many years of your life.

Two categories

If by God’s grace, communication does happen between the spirit of the departed person and the person here, what will be the talk? “How are you? How are the children?” – “Please protect the children and keep an eye on everybody here. You know, since you have gone, I have been missing you, I have been suffering, I hope you are all right.”

Does that talk, that communication, actually fill the gap, the absence and the vacuum in the heart? To some people, maybe just hearing the words of solace which they believe come from the other side is enough. It is a mind set which finds comfort and solace in that, and that is one category of people.

Another category is people who let go and find comfort and solace in thinking that ‘I have been very fortunate in this life to have had a companion who has understood me, who has supported me and who has nurtured me and I am thankful and grateful to God for giving me such a happy life’. They are thankful for that and release it. They pray to God, ‘If there is a next life, again may I enjoy the same beauty which I have enjoyed in this life’.

That can be the attitude of the sadhu, the person who is good and virtuous and who has released attachment. A person who has released is not bound by emotional strings anymore. Once the bird is free and the string of attachment is broken, the bird can fly anywhere and need not ever come back to your finger again. That is the reality of life.

To find your own inner solace when feeling the absence of a loved person you can repeat the guru mantra while visualizing the image of that person or while doing trataka on a photo of that person. This will fill the emotional vacuum and bring peace into your life.

—2 August 2015, Ganga Darshan, Munger