Hyper-Independence as a Trauma Response


What is hyper-independence?

It can be a coping mechanism that you develop as a result of not having your needs met early in life or when you  experience interpersonal trauma. You may feel the need to do things yourself and won’t ask for help because you have learned that it’s not safe to depend on others.  Being fiercely independent can be an incredible strength and sometimes there is some pain behind it. 

So let’s take a moment to shed some light on it.


What can hyper-independence accomplish?

Hyper-independence reduces co-dependence.  Co-dependence is where you do not focus on your own well-being and instead you are consumed with making sure someone else is happy and safe. Similar to hyper-independence, co-dependence can develop in response to trauma. Hyper-independence is the opposite of codependence so it will make you strong and self-reliant, not looking to others to determine your worth or happiness.

Being hyper independent means you can, and you will, take care of yourself.  More than likely you will work hard, accomplish tasks and maintain a lifestyle that is goal-oriented and safe.  As a result of feeling like you could not trust others to look out for you, you go above and beyond in your efforts to look out for yourself.  

It can be helpful in situations to know that you can get things done and you won’t fall apart if you have to get something done on your own.  

But you may start to experience burnout and the pain from your past can start to come to the surface.


What does the pain behind Hyper-independence look like?

The pain that triggers hyper-independence as a trauma response can come from being let down too many times, your trust being betrayed, having to figure out everything on your own in early life, experiencing rejection or abandonment in early life, not feeling like you had anyone to rely on, or needing to be the rock in your family at a young age.

If you have experienced any of this you may feel like being vulnerable or relying on other people will potentially open the door to that pain again and you want to protect yourself from that.

“…hyper-independence is an ingrained emotional response to traumatic events. It’s a form of protective armor to guard against further harm and disappointment.”  (“What is Hyper-Indepdence Trauma in Young Adults?” Newport Institute. January 18, 2023. www.newportinstitute.com/resources/mental-health/hyper-independence-trauma)


How does Hyper-independence impact relationships?

Hyper-independence can have a negative impact on your relationships including guardedness, secretiveness and mistrust.  It’s hard to let your walls down and let someone get close to you. 

Sometimes it’s tempting to keep secrets because sharing personal information is giving someone something that can be used against you and that feels scary.  Because you have been hurt by someone who let you down in the past, it can be hard to trust a new person, even though they haven’t given you a reason not to trust them.  (Marschall, Amy. “Hyper-Independence and Trauma: What’s the Connection?” Very Well Mind. September 19, 2022.. www.verywellmind.com/hyper-independence-and-trauma-5524773)

All types of relationships can be impacted, not just those with a significant other, such as those with friends and family; it can also affect professional relationships at work. “Hyper independence in a professional setting can be a self-destructive behavior that can set you up to fail long term, be excluded from projects and events, and have others view you in a negative way.” (Saxena, Silvi. “Hyper Independence & Trauma: The Connection & 7 Steps for Healing”. Choosing Therapy. August 10, 2022. www.choosingtherapy.com/hyper-independence-trauma/)

Here’s how you can start practicing receiving support instead of doing it all yourself.

It’s important to remember that working through a trauma response is a process that will take time.  It’s okay to take small steps because it can be difficult.  

Work towards opening up to people who are safe in your life.  Safe people show an ability and willingness to listen and be supportive.  You can start by allowing them to help you at a pace that feels comfortable and safe.  Make an effort to ask for help if you start to feel overwhelmed and remind yourself that this is not a sign of weakness. If someone offers to help you move something or pay, practice saying yes to the offer even if you don’t *need* it.  

It’s also helpful to engage in self-care activities and find positive ways to cope with stress.  

Therapy can be a good place to start because you can take it slow and work with a professional to identify what the underlying pain or trauma is that has led to you using hyper-independence to cope. 

So although independence can be a positive trait, taking it to the extreme can wear you down and have a negative effect on your health and your life.  Need help identifying why you have become a hyper-independent individual so that you can heal and start to let people in, feel supported and free to trust people in your life?  Contact us, we can help you do the work to address the underlying pain and find ways to have more fulfilling relationships.


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