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Hyper-Independence Is a Trauma Response. How Do You Overcome It?

Independence is a necessary skill used to propel us through adulthood. As we get older, we learn how to keep up with life’s demands, our responsibilities and maintain our well-being all on our own. 

Like many other traits, such as being adventurous, hardworking, or generous, independence can quickly become unhealthy when taken too far. 

In this case, you might find yourself living life hyper-independent and struggle to understand how it may be linked to your past. 

However, hyper-independence has been linked to traumatic experiences and often manifests as a trauma response

Let’s have an honest discussion about what hyper-independence is, how it’s related to past trauma, and what you can do to overcome it. 

What Is Hyper Independence?

Are you someone that attempts to do everything all on your own? Not because you want to, but because the idea of relying on another person for help is simply out of the question.

If so, you might be hyper-independent. 

Hyper-independence refers to a person who tries to be fully self-sufficient in all things, even when it weighs a heavy physical, mental, and emotional burden.

These individuals will refuse to ask for help, despite how desperate they may feel. 

A hyper-independent person will struggle greatly to rely on others and would rather face the challenges of accomplishing everything alone than depending on another person. 

Since hyper-independence is so draining, why do some people live this way? Most individuals struggling with hyper-independence do so as a trauma response.

A man attempts to lift a large brick by himself. The title reads yes, hyper independence is a trauma response
hyper independence trauma

What Is A Trauma Response?

When we experience or witness a distressing, terrifying, or extremely stressful situation, this is defined as trauma.

During a traumatic event, our coping mechanisms that normally work are overwhelmed, causing our bodies and minds to enter ‘survival mode’. 

These traumatic events can be one-time things such as a car accident, injury, natural disaster, or assault. Or, they can be more chronic, long-term situations such as childhood abuse, neglect, or domestic violence. 

Our brains are hard-wired to keep us alive.

Once the traumatic event is over, the brain tends to hold on to this state of survival mode just in case, even if the circumstance happened months or years ago.

This is when trauma responses come into play. 

A trauma response is any unconscious over-adaptive coping mechanism that our brains have held onto long after experiencing trauma. This response happens as an engrained reflex rather than an intentional act.

Why Is Hyper Independence a Trauma Response?

Not every person that experiences trauma will develop hyper-independence.

In fact, some people express feeling unable to cope as an independent adult because of their trauma.

Nevertheless, hyper-independence can present itself as a trauma response when old wounds are carried forward into adulthood. 

Individuals raised without their needs met may develop hyper-independence as an armor against the pain of being let down. They may find it impossible to rely on others since they were always taught to fend for themselves. 

It’s not necessarily that hyper-independent people want to do everything by themselves, they simply don’t feel safe with their needs in another person’s hands.

Neglect and abuse, especially during childhood, can cause hyper-independence as a person may struggle to trust others and feel extremely vulnerable reaching out for help.

These individuals may worry that another person will abuse their power if they become a source of aid for them. 

More>> How To Use Shadow Work To Unpack Trauma

What Are The Symptoms Of Hyper Independence?

It may be difficult to see hyper-independence in yourself. Being independent isn’t bad by any means, but too much of a good thing is never healthy. 

If you feel as though you might be hyper-independent, ask yourself these questions:

  • Am I a chronic ‘overachiever’? 
  • Do I often take on more work than I can handle?
  • Do I find it uncomfortable or impossible to ask others for help?
  • Do I often suffer the consequences of not asking another person for help?
  • Do I find it difficult to pass work tasks onto someone else?
  • Do I have a hard time letting my guard down in a relationship?
  • Do I struggle to tell others close to me my personal information?
  • Do I often worry that others will betray my trust?
  • Do I have very few close friendships?
  • Am I typically very stressed or burnt out?
  • Do I resent or avoid people that seem “needy”?

If you answered yes to multiple questions, you might be suffering from hyper-independence.

While you may not think hyper-independence is really that bad of a trait, there are many long-term problems that can arise from being overly self-sufficient. 

What Problems Are Caused By Hyper Independence?

Humans are meant to be in connection with one another. Life is hard, and it takes a community to get through unscathed.

However, those who struggle with being hyper-independent may suffer far more in life than others who can reach out for help when they’re struggling. 

Two common problems associated with hyper-independence include:

Shallow Relationships:

As we discussed, hyper-independent people may have difficulty opening up and letting others in.

This is a result of being hurt in the past and is a way to protect themselves against being let down. This often results in problems such as chronic loneliness, inability to have meaningful connections, and few close friends. 

More>> Tips For Handling a Trauma Bonding Friendship

Burnout:

Burnout is a term used to describe a person’s mental and physical state that takes on too much for too long.

When people that are hyper-independent aren’t able to ask for help or divide tasks up with others, they are constantly on the go, with little downtime.

Instead of asking for help, they grin and bear the weight of doing everything all the time. This can lead to burnout, exhaustion, and mental fatigue. 

Other Problems Caused By Hyper-Independence Include:

  • Attachment issues 
  • Relationship anxiety 
  • Relationship burnout
  • Communication problems 
  • Abandonment issues 
  • Self-destructive behaviors 

Treatment for Hyper Independence:

So, if you struggle with hyper-independence, what can you do about it? Is it able to be treated? 

Yes! While the term hyper-independence isn’t a diagnosable condition, it’s rooted in trauma and manifests as a trauma response. The care and treatment provided in trauma therapy are often extremely helpful for overcoming hyper-independence. 

Getting to the root of your trauma can help you identify what other trauma responses you may have accumulated other than hyper-independence. 

More>> 5 Reasons Why Therapy Might Not Be Working

Therapy can help those with hyper-independence build healthier, closer relationships, guide them in addressing their own personal limitations, and enable them to work through past wounds and connect where this trauma response came from.

In addition, your therapist can help you learn where you may need to set boundaries and empower you to let go of any problematic behaviors that no longer need a place in your life.

Be patient with yourself as you enter the journey of unlearning your trauma response. Be honest with your therapist if anything is overwhelming or too painful, and come prepared with what you want to talk about in therapy ahead of time.

Your therapist can help you work through the cause of those uncomfortable feelings and get you on your way to a healthy level of independence. 

Access should not be a barrier to help.

Soberish is proudly sponsored by BetterHelp. If you have tried (and failed) to find a therapist with the knowledge and background to help you navigate your specific issues, try BetterHelp. Learn more about my counseling journey with BetterHelp or visit their website below.

Treatment For Hyper-Independence At Home:

If you cannot attend therapy and are looking for ways to overcome your hyper-independence from home, keep these tips in mind. There are a few pillars that are necessary to address to begin unlearning your trauma response. 

Address Trust Issues:

Working through your trust issues is essential. You’ll never be able to rely on others if you’re constantly worried they’ll let you down. You don’t have to trust everyone immediately, but trusting even one or two people close to you is a great place to start. 

Work On Relationships:

Building close relationships with others is another way to actively unlearn your hyper-independence. To feel safe and secure with other people, you must give them the space to do so.

Think of anyone in your life that loves and cares about you. They most likely want to support you in any way possible, so opening that door is vital. 

More>> The 7 Stages of Trauma Bonding

Recognize The Ability Of Others:

It sounds easier said than done, but when you can acknowledge the ability of others to get a job done, you’ll be more willing to delegate tasks you simply don’t have the time or energy to do.

Give yourself homework: try handing off one task a week to another person and record how you feel before, during, and after. 

Final Thoughts on Hyper-Independence and Trauma

Recovering from hyper-independence isn’t an overnight process. It takes time and patience to unlearn something your brain deems necessary to survive.

It takes a village to get through life; nobody deserves to go through it alone.

As you begin addressing your past trauma, be aware it may be incredibly uncomfortable at times; however, it may be the best thing you ever do for yourself. 

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