So much of recovering from abuse and trauma is re-learning how to live everyday life. Abuse leaves lasting effects on our minds and bodies, because of how intensely terrifying abuse is. Our brains will literally re-wire themselves, to give us skills that might prevent abuse in the future.
However, often the very skills that can keep us safe from or more prepared for abuse can be debilitating to us when we are recovering. Hypervigilance
- a near constant state of alert - is a symptom of PTSD that can help us to stay safe, but that can often exhaust us in our everyday situations. Many survival skills we learn when in an abusive situation are often out-of-place in an everyday setting, especially once we are away from our abusers.
Oftentimes, our brains overcompensate - putting us on high alert *all the time* - in an effort to keep ourselves safe. However, since that also means a high stress level, such survival skills can drain us enough that we have chronic aches and pains, nightmares and flashbacks, and oftentimes we are more susceptible to illnesses like a cold or flu.
Since our brain registers those survival skills as necessary for safety, they are often the hardest to unlearn. It can take quite a bit of focused work to re-train our brains when it's appropriate to use such skills, and when it's not appropriate, in order to feel a relief from our PTSD symptoms. Often, we need to be able to find a middle ground between our using all of our survival skills all the time and using no survival skills beyond the basics (the basics being to eat, drink, sleep, breathe, etc)
So this week we'll talk about identifying some of your survival skills, acknowledging why they're there, and forming ideas on how to re-train them to be advantageous to you instead of a hindrance.
This week's questions are:
- Did you develop any skills which helped protect you? Common skills survivors learn are: reading body language and vocal tone, constant awareness of surroundings, even things such as obsessively checking the locks on doors, cars, and windows.
- How did they help you avoid or prepare for abuse?
- How do they bother you or make everyday life harder?
- What would be a good middle ground for you with your survival skill? Is there a compromise between the full-on instinct and the minimum of protection?