Everyone likes their alone time, even the loudest, boldest of extroverts. Needing a break from other people is natural, and spending time recovering from a lost relationship is even more so.
What happens when that time spent recovering starts to go on for far too long? When you notice someone withdrawing from others entirely, assuring you they're better off alone, and swearing off future relationships?
Then, they're practicing hyper-independence, and you might want to intervene before it causes some serious damage.
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We all know someone who swears they're better off alone. Maybe it's a close friend, someone who isolates themselves further and further under the guise of being 'independent' and 'not wanting to rely on anyone else'. It can be worrisome to witness as they're often convinced this really is what's best for them. Maybe this person is even you.
That's not to say that being alone is terrible, or that everyone needs to have a partner to thrive, but it's clear when this mindset is more damaging than helpful.
Cutting The Cord
This pattern of behavior is known as 'hyper-independence,' a sense of independence so strong it starts to sever someone from the relationships they already had and fend away any new ones.
Hyper-independence is rarely the fault of the person practicing it, though. Like all of us, they're a product of their environment and have faced a tremendous amount of hurt before that drove them to this subconscious blocking of personal connections. Specifically, these types of people have gone through a severe betrayal or loss of trust.
Either someone did them wrong in a monumental way, or over time they've piled up numerous instances of supposed "friends" being unreliable when it mattered most. They've become fed up, and so to not risk having their heart broken again, they decide it's easier and safer to withdraw completely.
Their brain isn't satisfied with that explanation alone, though. Maybe it makes them feel weak or embarrassed. Instead, they claim this is all in the name of independence. Why would they need anyone else when they can do everything on their own?
A False Front
The kicker is that hyper-independence isn't real. Not in the way these people think, anyway.
Part of them knows that this behavior is a mask that covers up their true desire for connection, a desire they're now scared of as they think it'll only lead to pain. As mentioned before, not everybody needs or wants to live with a partner for the rest of their life, but the difference between people like that and people who claim extreme independence in the face of want is that the former can still foster meaningful relationships with people if they so choose, while the latter refuses to.
The Stark Differences
Being alone as a defense mechanism is not the same as being alone because it's one's true preferred way of living.
Also, as much as the struggles these people went through weren't of their own volition, those touting hyper-independent lives are doing so by choice, while those who naturally prefer solitude get there via the natural flow of life.
Why would someone choose to always want to be alone, though? Easy, they find the pain of loneliness easier to deal with than that of heartbreak.
The First Steps Forward
Hyper-independence isn't an unsolvable issue, no matter how long someone has remained committed to it. Anyone can defeat the fears and worries that plague them, opening their hearts back up and letting other people in once again.
If you're ready to break out of this cycle, like with anything, the first step is admitting there's a problem. Understand that you're struggling, understand that you were wrong about isolation being the best option to protect yourself, understand that everyone is wrong sometimes, and it doesn't make you bad or unworthy of help. Confess to yourself that you're done with being alone.
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Warmth And Trust
Approach yourself with kindness. The steps to rid yourself of these fears won't be easy, but remember how worthwhile it will be to connect with your friends again, let alone any other new relationships that may form thanks to your emergence.
Much of what breaking through hyper-independence will entail is self-talk and constant reminders that your anxieties do not equal reality. Being gentle with yourself will help. You are not a broken thing that needs repair; you've just been out of the sun for a while and need to readjust to the light.
Not All Sunshine
Some example thoughts that will need heavy pushback on your part are the anticipation of abandonment, the assumption that people you meet have ulterior motives, and the feeling that you deserve loneliness because of past failed relationships.
You also need to be careful. While allowing new people back into your world is a lovely thing, there are unfortunately some nasty people out there who will try to take advantage of someone in a vulnerable spot. Be open, but still be cautious. Learning to trust your gut when it previously only told you negative things will be hard, but your intuition is an invaluable skill that will only do you well the more you train it.
A Hopeful Future
Feel free to start small, too. Making casual conversation at a cafe is a great precursor to trying to strike up a friendship at work. You don't have to do everything all at once.
Making the decision to do this at all is tough, so start this journey by being proud of yourself for overcoming a massive psychological fear. Remember that you're only human. You'll make mistakes, your progress may not be linear, and things won't be perfect immediately. The stumbles and faults of healing are what help us continue to learn.
The right people will love you with all your faults attached. You don't need to scrub yourself sterile for anyone else, and if someone is demanding you do so, they're not worthy of your time.
In any relationship, always take stock of your feelings and ask yourself: does this person make you love yourself more? Do you want to grow old with them?
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