Sometimes it can be hard to discern if something comes to our awareness because God has chosen to enlighten us or if a lie is taking on new form.
I have wrestled for a while with certain aspects of how I react to others, particularly the opposite gender. As a survivor of childhood sexual assault, I have, by God’s grace and the blessing of an amazing support system, learned that I have a tendency towards hypervigilance when it comes to relationships with men and sometimes women I feel threatened by… But even more so, my relationship with God has lacked a certain level of intimacy on my side as I have tried to figure Him out and focus on the details of what makes Him God.
This evening, I decided to read into hypervigilance a bit as I seek God for direction in continual healing from past experiences and as He has been pursuing me. He has been teaching me that He is trustworthy and faithful.
So how does that translate into this area of my life? How do I take that trust into relationships with others? What does dating look like for me as someone who is battling a hyper awareness of every detail, every comment, every facial expression etc?
The answer that comes to me as I am even writing this (aka processing out loud) is:
A while ago I met with a counsellor at school, and rest is what she spent time trying to teach me through our discussions. It is a two-fold thing: one – you are resting in what you know to be true, two – you are taking the time to rest in order to live out of a place of peace rather than turmoil. I did not know the value of what she was teaching me but I have since learned that when I make time to rest, it strengthens the trust God is building.
That means, in dating, I am resting in the knowledge that God is looking after things and I don’t need to control and be aware of every detail in order to be or stay safe. He is protecting me. This weekend the speaker at a church I was visiting spoke on Psalm 23, and he said that God was the Good Shepherd, meaning He is our protector. The sheer idea of Him preparing a feast for me in the midst of my enemies, reminds me that He provides us with grace, mercy, love, acceptance, protection, care… all in the midst of our enemies: the lies that are fed to us through life experiences, media, society, sin etc. How faithful is that?!!!
The Lord, the Psalmist’s Shepherd.
A Psalm of David.
23 The Lord is my shepherd,
I [a]shall not want.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside [b]quiet waters.
3 He restores my soul;
He guides me in the [c]paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk through the [d]valley of the shadow of death,
I fear no [e]evil, for You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You [f]have anointed my head with oil;
My cup overflows.
6 [g]Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life,
And I will [h]dwell in the house of the Lord [i]forever.
Lastly, here is an article that was encouraging – especially the below excerpt that talks about the positive rippling effect that can occur for someone wrestling with hypervigilance. I can relate to it as I think of the many times when someone has thanked me for noticing them in a group of people or for asking a clarifying question for something that struck me about them or their situation. Lord willing I may be apart of therapy/counselling in some way and He will use the struggles I have had for His glory.
“Finally, could it be feasible that there any positive sides to being “Hypervigilant” person? Well, I actually think there could be.
Pauline Andrew rightly points out that a hypervigilant client “reads our faces to an astonishing degree” (Source: What I Have Learned through working with DID by Pauline Andrew Interact Volume 10 No 1 March 2010). Once some of the more extreme sides of hypervigilance have been explored – you are left with an extremely sensitive and insightful person. Someone who can easily pick up on other people’s feelings and emotions.
Of course there are the negative sides of that – but also what a perceptive and responsive person to have as your ally! In this world where there is so much individualism, loneliness and people suffering without being noticed – if you have a companion who has been hypervigilant in your life and you are going through a difficult time – the chances are you won’t be struggling alone for long. They will notice you when others may not.
What a fantastic friend or partner to have in your life! What a great person to have as a therapist or as part of a therapy or support group. There are huge downsides – and so much pain that we hypervigilant people have experienced; but I believe with support and encouragement there is also the possibility of being able to reach out to others in a very unique style. Consequently those around us have the opportunity of being touched and supported by us “hypervigilants” in a way that is both special and engaging.”