Emotional support is a need, not a burden 

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Humans need companionship and are built to seek social ties, but yet we often still view relying on others as something that is inherently dangerous. Illustration by Kaitlyn Tran/The Daily Campus

American culture is very individualistic. The elusive American dream – which the jury’s still out on if this is attainable nowadays or just merely an illusion – relies on the idea that you do it all yourself without the help of others. However, this is not realistic, especially when it comes to our basic needs as human beings.  

Humans are inherently social creatures, with a need for companionship. We’re built to seek social ties. Loneliness leads to higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Studies have found holding a loved one’s hand reduces the brain’s response to a perceived threat. Also, it’s been found that individuals will perceive a hill to be steeper when standing at the bottom of it alone compared to standing with a friend. Our innate need to belong is a well-studied psychological phenomenon.  

Additionally, we have emotional needs — essentially states or conditions that must be filled or occur in order for one to feel happiness or peace. These include security, volition, attention, emotional connection, connection to one’s community, privacy, a sense of self, a sense of achievement and a sense meaning for one’s life.  

And really, these needs go hand in hand with our need to belong – especially because community and emotional connections are explicitly designated as emotional needs. Thus, it is perfectly acceptable, and actually important for us to rely on others for our emotional needs.  

If you Google, “rely on others for emotional needs” most of the results relate to emotional dependency and the dangers of it. But equating all of the emotional needs that others can help us fulfill as full-blown emotional dependency is what’s truly dangerous.  

There is a difference between emotional dependence, which indicates an unhealthy reliance on a relationship and little ability to function independently, and emotional support, in which you use your relationships to support you through tough things. Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.

Emotional dependency really describes someone who cannot take full responsibility for their own feelings. Someone who is emotionally dependent – often in a close intimate relationship – cannot embrace, accept, or nurture feelings of sorrow, grief or anxiety on their own, and it is often associated with low self-esteem. So yes, emotional dependency is a negative thing and not a psychological state you want to find yourself in.  

However, simply using your close relationships as emotional support, i.e., relying on others for emotional needs, is not the equivalent of emotional dependency. Articles with titles like, “How to Become Emotionally Self-Reliant” that insinuate connections with others are wasteful liabilities and misleading. 

The fear of becoming emotionally “needy” ignores the fact that we do need others. Sure, you don’t want to put all of your happiness in one romantic partnership, but it’s okay to ask for help. Good friends will want to be there for you during a tough time, and you should take them up on that. Sometimes just talking something out with another person can bring a new sense of clarity to the situation. It’s okay to ask for advice from your support network in a confusing circumstance.  

In general, it is ridiculous to assume that one could manage all of the emotional tasks that come with being a human being in 2022 completely on their own. Think of it like the buddy system – when you need an emotional hand to hold, your buddy will be there, with the hopes that you’ll provide the same support when the roles are reversed. Ask for help; it makes this life thing easier.  

In other words – and for my fellow fans of the popular astrology app Costar – ask yourself, are you isolating yourself unnecessarily from others? Today, there’s that little voice in your head telling you need to be alone to feel your feelings. You don’t. It’s okay to take a step back and clear your head if that’s what you need. Just don’t do that thing where you shut out loved ones that could help you process your emotions. Allow yourself to accept support. And Costar – if you’re hiring, I’m applying; clearly I’m an avid fan.  

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