Hypervigilance

Hypervigilance

Now there’s a word!
When I think of how much I needed this in the first sixteen years of my life; it blows my mind. I am not alone, hypervigilence like dissociation are key symptoms Survivors experience.
For CSA Survivors especially, we can tell you all about it, how it looks, how it feels, where it shows up and who the audience is.
Hypervigilance is one of the hallmarks we carry with us alongside, being triggered, feeling dissociated, just to name a few.

The Oxford dictionary meaning of Hypervigilance is: The elevated state of constantly assessing potential threats around you…..usually as a result of trauma.
As survivors we can more than relate and as we have such a highly developed sense of this, it’s really challenging to lessen that. In other words, when we don’t need it anymore it’s still sitting in the passenger seat wanting a flat white, seeing as we’re getting one anyway.

To be fair, it has served us well, it kept us alert and aware at times when it was crucial we were. It kept us safe and free from harm, and was also our best friend when more could have happened to us. When I was struggling during those long and lonely years of CSA, I needed to be fully aware of what was happening around me, as much as I could. I became highly skilled at knowing who was present, how many were there at any one time, I even had the best escape route planned and somewhere I could hide. I was so adept at listening for sounds that in later years people would ask how on earth I heard something no one else had. Cos I had to my inner voice said, but only cos I had to.
No one else was going to keep me safe, that was all on me.

For some of us, we don’t need the hypervigilance anymore, we have healed enough that we feel safe as adults functioning in the world, so how come it’s still part of who we are? And how on earth can we let it go? How do we stop feeling  ‘on high alert with our back to the wall in social situations?

One of the things I have learned to do is to visualise my safety and to feel into that really strongly. I ask myself how I want to experience life and go from there.
Because I don’t need to be hypervigilant anymore, I see myself as protected, surrounded by people who care and only want what’s best for me. Hypervigilance isn’t needed.
I also tell myself I am safe and free often, a little like a mantra
I feel into the protected and happy place I inhabit, and it all seems to work a bit at a time.

What can help to free yourself from hypervigilance is to

  1. Thank it – it helped keep you safe when you most needed it
  2. Replace it with words like comfort, ease and peace
  3. Write out I am safe, I am free, I am healed
  4. Visualise what those words mean
  5. Acknowledge how far you have come on your journey
  6. Celebrate that fact

As with other hallmarks of CSA, I view hypervigilance as validation of what I went through, how challenging it actually was and that I not only lived through it, but made it through. I wonder if it’s possible to reframe this so we begin to see it as a vindication of sorts, and that we can love it for what it has given us, appreciate we have outgrown it and move on to other areas of our lives that need our attention.

Till next time fellow travellers

Gloria Masters
Gloria Masters
[email protected]
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