According to this book, our natural state in mammals is to be somewhat on guard. While this is good if you're walking through the tall grass or the jungles, it makes for difficult intimate relationships. It keeps us shut down or immobilized. It keeps us distant and not as connected with other humans. As Dr Van Der Kolk says, "in order to play, mate, and nurture our young, the brain needs to turn off its natural vigilance."
While this all sounds fine and dandy, many traumatized people are so hypervigilant that they cannot enjoy the ordinary pleasures in the day. Yes, they are in relationships, but without overstimulation, it becomes a mundane and routine relationship with only part of the feelings and emotions that one could potentially experience.
I have seen this happen in my own life as well as that of many others. Often we don't realize just how "on guard" we are, but we are. Many, if not most people never come out of hypervigilance because they are still reliving the trauma over and over in the cells of their body. It isn't the mind that accounts for such activity. It is the locked up energy within the body and transmitted to the mind.
There have been many times that I've walked into a therapy session for Unified Therapy treatment and I'm on guard. In these sessions I can see it more than just my regular daily life. I hear sounds and footsteps. I am on the lookout for anyone that might harm me even if it is not true. I am ready to take up my weapons and protect myself at all threats that possibly lie in the shadows. It is like the alarm center in my brain and body going off continuously as if a smoke alarm will not end.
It isn't until I let myself go into the hypervigilance, realizing that I'm in a safe place with a person that truly understands how to walk through the fires of life. It is in that moment that I turn the dials of being "on guard" back down.
Learning to stop being "On Guard" is not just a mental exercise. The alarm fragments are getting triggered within the body. It is within the cells that you must go in and turn the alarm off. Anything short of that and you're only shorting out the circuit for a few moments.
Being "On Guard" is exhausting and sooner or later, it will have a devastating impact upon your physical body. It might be headaches, tense muscles, eating disturbances, digestive troubles or much more difficult health conditions. The more the alarm continues to go off, the more we alter our physical mind and body.
On the other hand, if we can learn how to modulate and turn off the natural vigilance of our brain, we can enjoy so much more in life than we most likely realize is possible. There is a greater sense of peace, calmness and joy. There is a heightened sense of taste, touch, and smell. Life becomes many times more than what it currently is, when we allow the hypervigilance to dissipate and turn off.
Blog Post And Images (c) 3/29/15 by Don Shetterly
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