A few mornings ago, while out on my weekly walk in nature, I noticed something interesting yet heartbreaking. A woman was attempting to teach her young son independence. Her behavior was innocent, but I’ve seen this picture before: Little boy crying and his mother slowly backing away in a noble attempt to impart resilience, mental toughness, or tough love. And as she did, he cried more and more. It harkened me back to my first summer at overnight camp, when, as a mere second grader, I cried myself to sleep for two straight months.
But why? Why would this well-intentioned mother, like my father when I young, put her son through such a forced separation?
The answer is that our culture conditions us to think that inducing independence, at all ages and in all walks of life, is necessary. But I promise you it is not.
In fact, attempting to teach children or anyone independence is among the most perilous of mistakes because, from an absolute perspective, there’s no such thing as independence.
That’s the reason this youngster was vigorously crying. Children don’t see separation. They’re born knowing that we share a Being; that nothing exists apart from experience; that there are no such things as “me” and “not me.” Thus, when programmed to be who they are not (independent or separate), children often spend much of their lives coping—turning to substances, relationships, practices, states of mind, or activities—in a debilitating quest to overcome insecurity and find their way home to the one Being we share. On the contrary, it’s actually the opposite path that spawns the most secure and resilient children and adults. Fortifying that we are not separate is what brings out our best. It’s what allows the true Self to rest peacefully and purposefully as itself.
Remember: Programming someone to be who they can never truly be—a separate entity—is the source of self-doubt and the need to cope. Knowing we’re all images of a single Being, and reinforcing this fundamental fact, is the essence of Love.