Have you ever felt like you’re carrying not just your own burdens but everyone else’s as well? This tendency to take on too much, to bear the weight of others’ problems, is often rooted in trauma, particularly childhood trauma. When we experience chaos or instability early in life, we may develop coping mechanisms that once served us but now lead to overwhelming responsibility in adulthood. Today, let’s delve into seven reasons why trauma can lead to over-responsibility and explore ways to release these burdens.

1. Survivor’s Guilt

Survivor’s guilt often begins in childhood, especially in chaotic or unsafe environments. If a sibling didn’t thrive or survive, you might feel a misplaced sense of responsibility to make up for this. This can create a lifelong driver to take on more responsibility than necessary. This misplaced guilt can become a central part of your identity, pushing you to overextend yourself to compensate for perceived past failures or losses.

Healing Tip: Acknowledge that you were a child and not responsible for the outcomes. Engage in inner child work through therapy to reassure your younger self that it wasn’t your job to fix everything. Practice self-compassion exercises to remind yourself that you did the best you could with the resources you had at the time. Regularly remind yourself that you deserve care and support just as much as anyone else.

2. Hypervigilance

Hypervigilance is a common trauma response where your nervous system is always on high alert to ensure safety. This heightened state of awareness is the body’s way of preparing to react to potential threats, a necessary survival mechanism in the past. This can lead to trying to control everything and everyone around you. However, this constant state of hyper-alertness can be exhausting and unsustainable in the long term. It prevents your body from fully relaxing, keeping you in a state of perpetual tension and anxiety. Constant hypervigilance can also prevent you from fully relaxing and enjoying the present moment, as your body is always preparing for the next potential danger.

Healing Tip: Practice mindfulness and grounding exercises to calm your nervous system. Mindfulness can help you recognize when you’re in a hypervigilant state and bring you back to the present moment. Incorporate relaxation techniques such as deep breathing or progressive muscle relaxation to help reduce anxiety. Engaging in activities that bring you joy and peace can also help shift your focus away from constant vigilance. To learn more about mindfulness practices, read my blog post or watch my mindfulness videos.

3. The Need to Be in Control

The need to be in control is closely related to hypervigilance but is more about an active attempt to predict and shape outcomes, especially if your childhood was unpredictable. This can lead to an over-responsibility mindset, where you feel the need to manage every aspect of your life and the lives of those around you. This constant need for control can prevent you from delegating tasks and trusting others.

Healing Tip: Work on accepting uncertainty. Journaling about your fears and practicing letting go of small things can help you gradually build tolerance for unpredictability. Consider using mantras or affirmations that reinforce the idea that it’s okay not to have control over everything. Engage in trust-building exercises with close friends or family to help you feel more comfortable relying on others.

4. Low Self-Esteem

Low self-esteem can drive you to take on excessive responsibilities in an attempt to feel worthy. This often stems from childhood experiences of being neglected or made to feel unworthy. When you believe that your value is tied to what you do for others, it’s easy to fall into the trap of over-responsibility. This can lead to a cycle of constantly seeking validation through your actions rather than recognizing your inherent worth.

Healing Tip: Affirm your worthiness daily. Therapy and self-compassion exercises can help you understand that you were always deserving of love and respect, irrespective of your achievements. Surround yourself with supportive people who appreciate you for who you are, not just what you can do for them. Create a daily practice of self-affirmation and gratitude to help reinforce a positive self-image.

Happy African American father enjoying in camping at trailer park and looking at camera. His family is in the background.

5. Avoidance

Staying busy with responsibilities can help you avoid difficult emotions like sadness or anxiety. This constant busyness prevents self-reflection and healing. By avoiding these emotions, you may feel temporary relief, but it ultimately hinders your ability to process and heal from past traumas. Avoidance can also prevent you from developing deeper, more meaningful relationships with others and yourself.

Healing Tip: Create space in your schedule for self-reflection. Journaling or engaging in expressive arts can help you process and understand your emotions. Consider setting aside time each day for activities that allow you to connect with your inner self, such as meditation or quiet walks in nature. Seek out support groups or therapy to help you navigate and process these emotions in a safe and supportive environment.

6. External Expectations

External expectations can reinforce the pattern of over-responsibility. If people around you expect you to handle everything, it can be hard to break free from this role. These expectations can come from family, work, or societal norms, making it challenging to prioritize your own needs. The pressure to meet these expectations can lead to chronic stress and burnout.

Healing Tip: Learn to delegate and set boundaries. Communicating your limits and asking for help can lighten your load and allow others to step up. Practice saying ‘no’ and remember that taking care of yourself is essential to being able to care for others effectively. Engage in assertiveness training to help you feel more confident in setting and maintaining boundaries.

7. Pattern Repetition

Responsibility patterns from childhood often continue into adulthood. If you were expected to take care of others as a child, this becomes your “normal.” Later in life, you might repeat these patterns unconsciously, perpetuating a cycle of over-responsibility. This can make it difficult to recognize and break free from these ingrained habits.

Healing Tip: Recognize and break old patterns. Therapy can help you understand these patterns and empower you to create new, healthier ones. Engage in activities that reinforce your sense of autonomy and personal growth, such as learning new skills or pursuing hobbies that bring you joy. Reflect on your past experiences and identify moments where you took on too much responsibility, then consciously choose different actions moving forward.

Psychologist shaking hand of her client in a trauma therapy session

Moving Forward

Understanding these drivers is the first step toward change. Here are some approaches to support you:

  • Therapy: Inner child work and parts work can help you address scared parts of yourself and give your younger self what they yearned for. In therapy, you’ll explore the different parts of your psyche, particularly those formed in childhood, and offer them the love, safety, and reassurance they needed but didn’t receive. This process helps heal old wounds and integrates these parts into your adult self, allowing you to move forward with a more cohesive sense of identity.


  • Mindfulness: Ground your body and mind to sense your emotions and decide if your actions come from obligation or true desire. Mindfulness practices, such as meditation, yoga, or mindful breathing, can help you become more aware of your present experience. By regularly tuning into your body and emotions, you can discern whether your actions are motivated by genuine desire or a sense of duty. This awareness allows you to make more conscious choices that align with your true self. To learn more about mindfulness practices, read my blog post or watch my mindfulness videos.


  • Communication Skills: Learning to set boundaries and negotiate responsibilities empowers you to say ‘no’ when necessary. Effective communication skills include assertiveness training, active listening, and clear, respectful expression of your needs and limits. By developing these skills, you can navigate relationships more effectively, ensuring that your own needs are met while maintaining healthy connections with others.


  • Expressive Arts: Explore and express your emotions through arts, adding another layer of healing to your journey. Engaging in creative activities such as painting, drawing, dancing, or writing allows you to process and release emotions in a non-verbal way. This can be particularly healing for trauma survivors, as it provides a safe outlet for expressing feelings that may be difficult to articulate. Expressive arts therapy can help you reconnect with your inner self, foster self-discovery, and enhance emotional well-being. To learn more about expressive arts therapy, read my blog post or see my expressive arts videos.

Concluding Thoughts

You are inherently worthy and good enough just as you are. Shedding the weight of over-responsibility is not a life sentence; it can change and get better. Recognize your worth and give yourself a break. You deserve a life where you aren’t burdened with more than your share.nBy shedding light on these elements and taking conscious steps toward healing, you can start to release burdens and live a life true to yourself.

If this resonates with you, I invite you to sign up for a free consultation call. Let’s explore how we can work together to bring more harmony and love into your life. Take beautiful care of yourself from my heart to yours.