Your hypervigilant brain is not your friend
As thinking beings, we display a natural tendency to believe in our thoughts. We are also eager to confirm our biases and feel reassured when our theories about the world, ourselves and others seem to be true. However, reality – as well as human beings – is extremely complex. In our urge to soothe ourselves with the help of our intellect, we fail to take into consideration several variables that would influence our understanding of reality. We limit our perception to what we already know to feel safe, even when that knowledge does not favour our wellbeing.
That bias is even more pronounced in the traumatised brain. For victims of relational trauma, for instance, approaching relationships with neutrality, without taking things personally is often a challenge. Because their brains are hypervigilant, they are on constant lookout for danger. It is important for individuals on that state of fight or flight to protect themselves against hurt, something they know so well. To feel safe, their brains rush to give them explanations to their anxiety and insecurity. Are you put off by the idea of meeting new people? That is probably because they will reject you and leave you. Such negative and irrational thinking, even when prejudicial to mental and relational health, helps the socially fearful regulate themselves. Once the threat is out of the way (meeting new people), there is nothing to worry about.
Your brain is not, necessarily, your friend. It is at times, but, at others, it might not be. It is not always right – especially when traumatised and hypervigilant – no matter how strongly you feel about your thoughts. When you become mindful of that, your life changes. If you have suffered trauma in the context of a relationship, be very suspicious about what your brain has to say about people. Remind yourself that is trying to protect you, in a very imperfect and rigid way. Approach your thoughts with an open mind and force yourself to consider new perspectives. Resist the urge to be soothed by negative theories to why you should never trust others and tolerate the discomfort that arises from throwing yourself into the unknow, with a blind faith in your competence and the kindness of others. Challenge your brain’s resistance to allow you to learn from experience. You can tolerate the hurt, if it arises, and get over it as with emotional strength and maturity.