Beyond Independence: Embracing Interdependence


By Gary Z McGee



“If you don’t become the ocean, you’ll be seasick every day.” ~Leonard Cohen

In a world filled with “seasick” people living in an ocean of cosmos of which they are barely aware, the few people who discover the wherewithal to become the ocean is rare indeed. Why is this?

It’s because the seasickness is due to a lack of connection with cosmos. The seasickness is fear. It’s disguised as mortal dread. It’s hiding just beneath the surface. It’s a sense of urgency, like our back is up against the wall. It’s an underlying anxiety, a sense of having lost something vital. It’s a feeling of quiet despair, like we’re slowly drowning.

The only way to no longer be at the mercy of this “seasickness,” this mortal dread, this existential angst, is to do as Leonard Coen suggested and “become the ocean.”

But we cannot become the ocean by remaining codependent. That’s not possible. We cannot become the ocean when we are not even aware of the ocean. First things first, become at least aware of the ocean before we become it. This requires independence.

Interdependence manifests when independence trumps codependence. Unhealthy codependence is resolved by courageous independence which is itself resolved by healthy interdependence. Let’s break it down.


Transform codependence into independence:

“To go wrong in one’s own way is better than to go right in someone else’s.” ~Dostoevsky

We all know there’s something beyond the codependent state. It’s called a state of independence. Unfortunately, most of us choose to remain in a codependent state despite our knowledge of independence. Why is this?

We remain codependent because it’s easy, it’s safe, it’s secure, and, most of all, because it’s comfortable. There is a correlation here between remaining in a codependent state and that feeling of seasickness mentioned earlier.

You see, the codependent state keeps us buffered from the seasickness. It’s still there, mind you, just beneath the surface, causing no end of anxiety, stress, angst, discontent, and disconnection from cosmos, but it’s tampered by the all-too comfortable, easy, secure, safety of the codependent state. It’s false armor preventing us from feeling vulnerable in the face of our mortality.

This would be just fine if it were healthy. But it’s not healthy. Quite the opposite. Buffering the seasickness is akin to repressing the shadow. Just as the shadow only gets darker and angrier, so too the seasickness just gets sicker and more nauseating.

More importantly, it prevents us from understanding, really understand, that everything is connected to everything else. The excessive invulnerability of the codependent state stifles our intrinsic and vital vulnerability. We only get sicker and less connected.

In order to once again become aware of how everything is connected to everything else, we must gain the wherewithal to take a leap of courage out of codependence and into independence.

This is no easy task. It requires upheaval, both psychologically and socially. It requires killing the tiny ego that keeps us stuck in the holding pattern of our codependence and unleashing the awakened ego that has the courage to become independent enough to break the pattern.

So, we have tiny ego versus courageous ego. Invulnerable yet weak ego versus vulnerable yet strong ego. Petty ego versus awakened ego. In our seasick society, the clash between these two sides of our psyche is usually won by the tiny ego which longs to keep things easy, safe, secure, and comfortable.

Courage, or the lack thereof, is almost always the deciding factor. Other factors are traumatic experiences or tragic, life changing events. But we cannot control experiences or events, we can only control how courageous we are in response to them. So, the focus should be on courage.

As the great Anais Nin said, “Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.” Indeed. Our awareness of the ocean shrinks or expands in proportion to our courage to do what it takes to no longer be seasick.

The winner between the petty ego and the courageous ego will determine our level of dependency. Most people will “lose” the battle and remain stuck in a codependent seasick state for the rest of their lives. Few people will “win” the battle and graduate to a courageous independent state of awareness, where they are at least aware of the ocean and their seasickness subsides to a dull ache. Fewer still will ever feel the interdependent state of the interconnected soul and become the ocean itself.


Transform Independence into interdependence:

“We are all narcissists, some deeper on the spectrum than others. Our mission in life is to come to terms with this and learn how to turn our sensitivity outward, toward others, instead of inward.” ~Robert Greene

Once we have used our courageous independent ego to diminish the broadcast of the petty codependent ego, we can finally tune into the broadcast of the interdependent soul.

This too is no easy task. Again, our ego must die. But this time, it’s a creative destruction. It’s a cathartic annihilation. Our courageous ego must now have the courage to walk into its own cocoon, knowing that it means complete destruction, but with the faintest hope that it will come out the other side having been initiated by Soul.

The metaphor we use is the cocoon. But unlike caterpillars, which work on instinct to enter their cocoon, it is our responsibility alone to cultivate the courage necessary to enter our own cocoon. Yet another leap of courage is paramount for the uninitiated human to enter a phase of initiation into Soul work.

No easy feat, dissolving egos. But the Soul does so with pluck and aplomb, with molten mettle and mercurial moxie. The letting go process is easier if we just surrender our ego to transformation.

Where the caterpillar instinctually grows its wings through the annihilation within the cocoon, the human counterintuitively grows its soul through the ego annihilation within its “cocoon phase.” This is the epitome of soul-craft.

On the other side of this beautiful annihilation is a soulful illumination: the Interdependent Ocean. It has come to carry us to an exquisite juxtaposition: the glorious and painful journey of persistent self-overcoming. It teaches us how to be whole. It teaches us how to simply be. It teaches us how to swim.

As Alan Watts brilliantly stated, “What one needs in this universe is not certainty but the courage and nerve of the gambler; not fixed conviction but adaptability; not firm ground whereupon to stand but skill in swimming.”

After the disassembling, the reassembling. After the cocoon, the butterfly. After the ashes, the phoenix. After the death, the rebirth. But with rebirth comes great responsibility. With lessons-learned-the-hard-way comes consistent adapting and overcoming to healthier ways. “After enlightenment, chop wood carry water.”

Interdependence is a heightened sense of independence that’s dependent (ironically) upon healthy detachment. As James Hillman pointed out, “We are composed of agonies not polarities.”

It is no easy matter understanding oneself. Self-realization is strenuous. It’s arduous, painful, and existentially upsetting. Even after discovering the Ocean of Interdependence. It’s an onslaught of agonies smashing into a plethora of polarities. It’s a quantum entanglement of codependence wrestling with independence wrestling with interdependence. The self is not a fixed entity but a set of “intrinsic potentialities.” It’s masks all the way down perceiving delusions all the way up. And each individual is more unique than a fingerprint. Nobody’s experience will ever be the same.

Which is why discovering the Ocean is so important. Once we have our mortal coil firmly in alignment with the underlying essence, once we feel—ego to soul—how everything is connected to everything else, we discover a healthy detachment from the seasickness. We assimilate it. We integrate it into the whole. We become one with the Ocean.

In such a state, we are able to register more fully with our seasickness and, instead of turning away or repressing it, we come out the other side of the cocoon able to “dance” with it. Our wounded heart rises up, bloody and bruised, but with bandages trailing behind it like a cape. We dance. We swim. We float. We sail. We may even fly into a limitless horizon that was, in the time before, merely a limiting boundary.



About the Author:

Gary Z McGee, a former Navy Intelligence Specialist turned philosopher, is the author of Birthday Suit of God and The Looking Glass Man. His works are inspired by the great philosophers of the ages and his wide-awake view of the modern world.


This article (Beyond Independence: Embracing Interdependence) was originally created and published by Self-inflicted Philosophy and is printed here under a Creative Commons license with attribution to Gary Z McGee and It may be re-posted freely with proper attribution, author bio, and this statement of copyright.






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