Interindependence: A New Concept in Relationships – Feminist Reprise by Dianne Post

In Lesbian Ethics, Vol 4 No 1, Spring 1990

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Interindependence: A New Concept in Relationships – Feminist Reprise

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Interindependence

The concept of interindependence is simple. If I wish to stay independent, others with whom I closely relate must also be independent. Since we are interlinked in the world it becomes our interindependence–one womyn’s independence maintained by the independence of another–that allows each to maintain our individuality and uniqueness.

The concept is implicitly recognized in modern physics by the principle that we are not observers of the physical world but participants therein. Even the action of observing influences the outcome of the world as observed. This independence that I speak of is not to be confused, though it often is, with selfishness, aggression or the inability to deal with others. It is none of these. The independence I speak of is a personal awareness of one’s own power, one’s own ability to navigate the rivers of life. It is the ability of an 8-year-old to walk out into the dark night, alone, and have the strength to know that she will survive. It is the ability to avoid the quicksand of helplessness. We must have the ability to say, this is who I am without reference to anyone else and without reflection in someone else’s eyes. While we are a composite of our experiences, we are more than that. We are the essence of ourselves and of how we use those experiences, prior relationships, family, to become ourselves. Yes, I exist in relation to other people, but I must know myself alone.

In our common understanding of the meaning of independence, we think of not becoming dependent on someone else. But we must also think of not letting someone else become dependent on us. An example is the facilitation of our daughters’ growth. They are dependent on us as babies and the entire process of their growing up is to become independent. As good mothers we feel a constant tension between pushing them toward less dependence, yet holding them back out of fear.

Likewise mothers grow if their adult daughters do not allow them to become dependent either economically or emotionally. We are all familiar with the elder parents who now fear to venture from their houses without the helping/restricting hand of their grown daughter. Even flowers sheltered from the wind and rain do not grow. At the first storm they die.

The essence of all laws of nature is self-consistency, i.e., each thing obeys its own internal pattern (independence as I define it) and interdependence, i.e., each property determines all the rest. Thus, if each lesbian’s behaviors define mine, each lesbian must remain independent for me to do so–interindependence is born.

Interindependence: A New Concept in Relationships

by Dianne Post

In Lesbian Ethics, Vol 4 No 1, Spring 1990

I saw a woman sleeping. In her sleep, she dreamt life stood before her and held in each hand a gift: in the one hand love, in the other freedom–and she said to the woman, “Choose.”

And the woman waited long: and she said, “Freedom.”

And life said, “Thou hast well chosen, if thou hadst said ‘love’ 1 would have given thee that thou didst ask for; and I would have gone from thee, and returned to thee no more. Now, the day will come when I shall return. On that day I shall bear both gifts in one hand.”

I heard the woman laugh in her sleep.

~ Olive Schreiner, 1901

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Interindependence: A New Concept in Relationships – Feminist Reprise