"Yeah but when I would try to make it more/Well it was always less/There's a thin line between pleasing yourself/and pleasing somebody else."
The chorus of this Indigo Girls' song (YouTube link below) has haunted me for almost two decades. Why do I find this song and its lyrics so memorable? Why is it stuck in my head and why does it make me tear up after all these years?
Maybe it's because at all junctures of our lives, in all kinds of interpersonal relationships, we all struggle with that thin line between love and dependency. Specifically, what is the difference between the two, if there even is one? And if that distinction exists, where does one end and the other begin?
I think this is the perpetual dilemma of human connections, be they romantic, platonic, professional, familial, or something else: When are we inner-directed and when are we outer-directed?
When we are dependent, I think we are outer-directed and focused on the "other.": Are we pleasing them? Do they find us smart? Attractive? Funny? Indispensable? Are they thinking about us and taking us into account in any given situation?
When we experience real love and connection, in whatever form, we are perhaps more focused on our own inner state of mind and less preoccupied with how the other side of the equation is perceiving us. We experience a set of less adulterated feelings that we can take ownership of, and that are less susceptible to manipulation by outside forces. We don't care about outside perceptions as much.
The latter state of mind is what I strive to achieve every day. It's a huge struggle that often feels insurmountable. But it's worthwhile, because whenever I try to make it more (and I often do), it's always less. And when I don't try as hard, I tend to land on the side of the thin line that makes me feel secure, independent, inner-directed, real--and most of all--free.