BY DAVID RICKEY — Marriages, mortgages, and just-missed connections. In the annals of clinical psychology, the term “Co-Dependence” describes a relationship between 2 people where the well-being of one is perceived as dependent on the well-being of the other.
In other words: “I can’t be happy unless you are happy.” The subconscious subtext: “Your happiness ought to be secondary to my happiness.”
America’s narrative about itself reflects individualism, autonomy — and what Mel Gibson in the movie, Braveheart — and Ronald Reagan in office called, “freedom.”
The young Americans who occupy the Occupy movement say that they are neither politically nor economically free. And psychologists and spiritual teachers say that we are even less so, spiritually-speaking.
In fact, we are among the most codependent people on earth — both collectively and individually.
We can’t live without our music, movies, mobile devices, lovers, addictions . . .
And as a group, we sure as hell can’t live like this without China — that is, the cheap goods in Walmart and Walgreens, or the daily $2 billion in cash that Chinese entrepreneurs and officials transfer here each day to finance our debts.
Are we individualists, or simply self-interested?
“Individualism” is actually self-gratification: “My happiness is all that matters, and others exist merely to insure and support my well-being.”
Look at individuals like Lehman’s Dick Fuld and AIG’s perfect tiny prick and “W” fundraiser, Hank Greenburg. People who propelled the 2008 financial crisis were primarily focused on their own profit in complete disregard of the effect of their intent on others — or what Greg Mankiw, Harvard professor and W’s ex-economic guru dubbed, an externality.
Micro-finance pioneer, on the other hand, Mohammad Yunus created a model called ”social business” that commits itself to positive externalities. Yunus argues that successful enterprises aren’t driven by generating a profit but by generating a social good or an improvement in psychic well-being. His modest proposal: end poverty globally.
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The spiritual analog is that we are not really discreet, separate individuals. We are an organism that participate in a common fabric of being that we call consciousness.
The evolution of Consciousness has created human beings who are capable of self-reflection. This has given rise to an illusion of separateness, when its purpose was to evolve the ability to choose beyond instinctual responses. We now have the task of consciously recognizing our co-dependence on each other and on our environment so that we can make wiser choices that benefit the whole organism.
Michael Douglas says Gordon Gekko was wrong: Greed is not Good
The Karmic feedback we are now experiencing is “merely” the teaching we need to recognize the deeper truth of our co-dependence.
It is now painfully clear that no one’s actions are independent of others. Greed, Hoarding, exploitation of the surroundings, including other people, are instinctual needs, governed by “The survival of the fittest”.
When anyone seeks to meet only their own instinctual needs the consequence is that others invariably suffer. However the lesson we are being forced to learn is this: “My more spiritual needs can only be met when I focus my concern on the needs of others.”
David Rickey is an Episcopal priest and psychotherapist. His columns share real-life advice about relationships, personal purpose, and a deep-reading of prophets and contemporary seers. Follow David on Twitter.
* Editor’s note: We owe attribution to former U.S. president Richard Nixon (January, 1969 -- August, 1974) for the phrase in the headline. In 1971 he confessed, “I am now a Keynesian,” after his administration abandoned the gold standard. Variations of Nixon’s quote are cited today by conservatives like 2012 presidential candidate Ron Paul as an example of how Republicans have compromised economic policy and principles.