Tag Archives: hyper vigilant

You don’t have to be battle ready: A conversation

LittleGirlSkippingI’m a huge proponent of counseling.  I’ve been in therapy most of my life and wished that my family had been too.  But I was the lone ranger who left the fold, got college educated and beyond and who dove into therapy, resurfacing periodically but always diving back for more.

I’ve had many therapists through the years, as my needs have changed, moving on when the time was right when I had learned as much as I could with a particular practitioner.  I’ve had some rotten ones too. Except now, they only get a session or two before I know its a bad fit. I’m sufficiently couch broken.

Right now, I’m in that sweet spot of a great fit.  A woman who is intuitive, approachable, caring and funny.  I have a great time in our sessions, laughing as much as I cry through my profound revelations.  She understands my extreme sensitivity to the world and has taught me skills to survive and thrive in that world based fully on who I am.  DBT, Dialectical Behavior Therapy, is what I’m learning, with amazing results I might add.  

During this weeks session, we discuss mindfulness and the state of being present to which I tell her I’m doing just okay with the concept.  Not great but OK.  I’m not unique in possessing a brain that goes at warp speed.  My mind is whirring constantly; topics I want to write on, chores that need completion, causes that need my attention, a world that needs me to save it. And worst of all, I’m a ruminator.  I have to chew and chew on something, regurgitate it back up, poke at it and begin chewing on it some more.  And let me tell you, that is exhausting.  The tugging tendencies are so strong and constant even though my therapist has been teaching me to cultivate mindfulness and stillness for over a year now.  Understanding these concepts, I’m slowly gaining some control over my mind which is a really good thing.  I continue to practice it day by day, hour by hour.  

I’m explaining to Cathy that I need to make a plan for the rest of my summer.  I feel better with an agenda having given time and thought to my future needs.  I tell her how much more in control of my life I feel when I’ve explored my options, weighed them out and know what lies ahead.  She listens but quickly replies,  “You don’t have to be battle ready”.  

I pause for a moment, thinking I know what she’s said and go back to my diatribe of explaining my need for a plan.  She repeats herself, “You don’t have to be battle ready”.  Ok, now I need to stop and see what this “battle ready” thing is that she’s repeated to me twice.  I tell her to please explain that to me because I don’t see that an absence of a plan is good for me.  How could I function without it?

I tear up immediately and she gently explains that traumatized children learned survival by knowing their surroundings at all times.  Attempting to detect threats to their safety, they take their cues from the moods of others, the time of day, seasons of the year (fill in the blank here with your own).  These children don’t get to relax and trust how a safe world evolves, they must be hyper vigilant constantly to survive.

We have visited this topic often, its a big one for me.  My tendencies are still so strong to be alert to my surroundings and feel the need to exert that compulsion toward creating a predictably safe future agenda.  I’m a contantly-looking-over-your-shoulder ,waiting-for-the-other-shoe-to-drop kind of person.  

I love that she is helping me deprogram.  She notices my behavior even when I’m arguing that I’m not exhibiting the behavior.  She is helping me notice and understand the neurological wiring that was changed long ago when I experienced long-term trauma.  The survival reflex learned in childhood is still alive and operating.  But as she continues, I don’t need it now.  I don’t have to be battle ready all the time.  I can relax and let my body relax.  

I love these words and this concept.  They feel soft and fuzzy.  It isn’t new to me but bears repeating often.  A new pattern must be developed in my thinking that relieves me of the knee jerk reaction to grab my sword from my sheath and be prepared for battle.  I’m so ready for a reprieve.  I think its why I started crying when she explained it again.  It’s like music to my ears to hear that I actually, finally, once and for all can put down my weapon and still feel safe.  

Suggested Reading: An Emotional Hair Trigger, Often Misread

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