Hyperindependence: Healthy or Harmful?
Hyperindependence: Healthy or Harmful?
The freedom to decide your life path is generally positive, boosting individual happiness and satisfaction, but is there a point where it’s possible to have too much independence? And if so, what does that imply about a person’s mental wellness?
What is hyperindependence?
Hyperindependence takes independence up a notch, going beyond self-reliance and entering the territory of never accepting help — even when you need it most. This inability to depend on others could be a response to previous trauma, such as toxic relationships in which you felt you could not ask for help or times you tried, and failed, to receive support from loved ones.
As a society that values individualized thinking and personalization, it can be challenging to see when independence goes from healthy to harmful, but there are signs to look out for.
Signs of hyperindependence
We applaud those who do not need anyone to help them financially, emotionally, spiritually, or otherwise, but the value of human connection can fall to the wayside when this independence becomes a survival mechanism.
Here are signs that independence is actually hyperindependence:
- No (or few) friends
- Inability to commit to relationships with others
- Shying away from anyone who comes off as needy
- Taking on too much and saying no to help
- Difficulty trusting others, even when they have proven their trustworthiness
- Working long hours to stay busy and have excuses to cancel on social plans
- Substance abuse
Those with a fierce, unyielding independence don’t want to be seen as weak. The betrayals, abandonment, or broken trust you may have experienced cause you to prefer to go at it alone, but you are not alone.
What does trauma have to do with it?
At least half of the population will experience a traumatic event in their lifetime, such as death, severe injury, or sexual violence. While trauma can heal naturally over time, some people develop long-lasting distress that may be a sign of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or another trauma disorder.
When a person has had power and control taken from them, they are in a hyperaware state of checking for danger or turning numb as a survival mechanism. This can extend to turning inward to solve all problems and crises that arise as you want to feel free to make choices for yourself.
Trauma signs to watch for
For survivors, the traumatic event will never be forgotten. The cause, whether a car accident, childhood abuse, war, or another horrifying situation, changed your life.
If you or someone you love is struggling with PTSD, the following symptoms may make daily life challenging:
- Intrusive thoughts, flashbacks, and memories relating to the traumatic event
- Avoiding memories or discussion of the event
- Changes in thinking and emotions
- Dissociation or numbness
You may feel alone and distressed, but it is possible to move forward and process your trauma with the help of others.
How do trauma and hyperindependence collide?
Trusting those who have earned it can bring a fullness of life, but when you are a trauma survivor, believing in that trust can be remarkably difficult. The resulting hyperindependence serves to protect you because it has worked in the past to prevent more hurt from reaching you.
Being independent brings a sense of safety, but overindependence stems from fear. Consider your own actions, relationships, and your ability to rely on others when needed. Are you independent, or do you refuse to rely on anyone for fear of being hurt?
Denying others the opportunity to help also denies you the chance to let others in and create lasting relationships. Humans are brought together when we acknowledge our vulnerabilities by asking for help or advice. Neglecting the social aspect of life can bring deep feelings of sadness and loneliness.
So, is hyperindependence a good or bad thing?
It might be easy to say independence is good and hyperindependence is bad, but labeling human experiences is never that simple. That said, hyperindependence can create issues at work, school, and home, leading to a lessened quality of life.
The inability to count on anyone else makes group projects, household chores, and many other common tasks challenging to complete. The closing off of oneself also closes the door to seeing the benefits of interdependence — working with others to achieve a goal.
Instead of focusing on what’s wrong with the way you react to others, focus on taking simple steps to improve your reaction to needing help.
You can balance independence and inviting others in
Think of it this way: You can control your trauma recovery by opening yourself up to others. You don’t have to give away more than you can handle or let go of the reigns completely, but you can release the burden of taking care of everything yourself.
Give yourself a break
To avoid building walls so high that no one can climb, cut yourself some slack. Consider why you feel the need to push away from others when you need help and how things could be if you decided to reach out to others. It might be difficult to face the reasons for your trauma, but introspection can lead to healing.
Believe in your worthiness
Wounds take time to heal, and your trauma response does not make you a bad person or a person unworthy of being supported by others. Remind yourself of that as many times as you need to until you internalize it and live by it. You don’t have to let your past hurt control your present experience.
Start small and build up
Ask for help with tiny tasks, even if you can handle the task yourself. Notice how it affects your mental and physical health to let others be there for you. Give people the chance to prove they can be counted on. While it is scary, you might be surprised by how well others respond to you.
Seek professional help if necessary
If you need additional help, a trauma treatment center might be a good next step. You can find support from professionals, such as those at Pathlight Mood & Anxiety Center (Pathlight), where we focus on the mind, body, and spirit of the whole person.
If you choose to seek treatment or ask others for help, know that seeking this support does not make you weak or dependent. It makes you human. And being human, in all its wonderful and awful vulnerabilities, is a beautiful thing.