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  • Fe Robinson

When independence is getting in the way...

“The inability to receive support from others is a trauma response. Your “I don’t need anyone, I’ll just do it myself” conditioning is a survival tactic…Extreme independence is a trust issue” Jamila White

Working often with people who have had experiences that have traumatized them, I frequently come across the pain of extreme independence. This is a way of being where a person has no expectation or even hope of others helping or supporting them, and sincerely believes that they are better off trying to do everything for themselves.

When trust and faith in the world at large, and in other people, is lacking, the natural consequence is that it is not possible to take in support. What is offered by others will likely be met with suspicion, or even hostility. Beliefs may prevail that there are ulterior motives, insincerity, strings attached etc etc. Sadly, events may have repeatedly shown this to be the case, being realistic not everyone is able to offer help or support altruistically and sometimes games are played.

The difficulty is, we see what we expect to see. We miss what we do not expect to see. Given consciousness is a prediction machine, and we are continually projecting our expectations out into the world, we will most often perceive that we get exactly what we expected to get. It all becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy and a vicious cycle.

So, what to do? Step one is to become aware of the underlying beliefs that you are operating from. Explore what your automatic thoughts are that repeat. What assumptions do you make about the world and about other people repeatedly? Look for patterns, and know that the beautiful thing is that patterns repeat, so if you miss them first time worry not, they will come around again.

Step two is to open up to possibilities. Arguing with yourself or saying your beliefs are just not true is not fruitful, it is likely to lead to resistance inside. It’s far more powerful to ponder what else might be possible. What other interpretations might be the case? What would a wise friend or colleague say? What do you notice if you look at things from someone else’s perspective, or from the position of an impartial observer?

Step three is to notice your emotional responses, the common feelings that go along with your trauma response. Coming to understand the underlying feelings, the fear, the hurt, the anger, the shame…whatever it is that is contributing to the loop of thoughts-actions-feelings-sensations is important to acknowledge, and to hold with kindness.

It is by working with the feelings and body sensations of your trauma reactions that you can begin to achieve deeper change, because you are working with the way your body holds and responds to your memories of what happened then in the here and now. Creating the capacity to hold and nurture your own inner experience is a powerful way of being with yourself, and it can re-connect you to yourself inside, and help you establish the trust you need to know that you can keep yourself safe, wherever you are and whomever you are with. From there, trust in the world can begin to be established.

Living with trauma is not easy. Its effects can be far reaching and unpredictable, and hard sometimes to even spot. If you need help in getting to the bottom of what is happening for you relationally to move past challenges, then perhaps working with a trauma informed psychotherapist may be for you.


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