Hypervigilence and the Present moment

For many of my clients with significant childhood trauma, hypervigilance dominates their everyday experience. This is a state of constant arousal, as all senses are trained on potential threat and in a very real sense, defined by it. As they scan their environment, they often fail to see that which is pleasant or neutral, for example the number of people who smiled at them or who passed by without expression, but will break into a sweat if they encounter an angry or unhappy face…eventually, coming to believe that the world is made up of hostile people. Frequent contributor Nancy Weaver has written an article on clarifying the difference between hypervigilance and the development of attentiveness, a Buddhist concept that has great import not only for emotional trauma, but for those suffering from chronic physical trauma.

Here is an excerpt, for the full article, click here:

“Attentiveness is one of the virtues.  Being fully present in the moment, alert to what life is offering, right here, right now.

The far enemy is distraction or numbing, busy in  mental fantasies of future or past, slugging down that alcohol/tv/cigarette/__________fill in your own blank.  Literally.

The near enemy is again, trickier.  Pondering the conversation with my friend, it occurs to me that  hyper-vigilance is the near enemy.  It is dressed up like attentiveness, yet look at how different the body sensations are.

Hyper-vigilance is narrow, focused, worried, constricted like a flashlight beam nervously and constantly flickering around the darkness, alert for danger, for what is wrong, incessantly scanning for what needs to be done, to be fixed.  Exhausting.

Attentiveness is open, expansive, relaxed, receptive and allowing.  Shining like the sun wherever it looks and wherever it looks seeing the beauty, the miracle that is always available in the present moment.  Renewing, rejuvenating.

Now for those of us that developed hyper-vigilance as a tool for dealing with trauma, that may sound discouraging, yet another way to beat ourselves up for not being the ‘right person’.   I invite you to lay down the beatings for ever if you can, for right now at any rate.”