3 Ways to Transition from Hyper-vigilant… to Hyper-resilient

Did the world used to be easier to live in? It depends on who you ask.

A Gen-xer remembering their childhood with glistening nostalgia, thinking about writing a flyer on looseleaf paper and peppering the neighborhood with ads for your lawn-mowing service, might argue that they came from a simpler time – when it was easier to just be a person.

Although if we extend the question to someone beyond the confines of living memory, we might find a world fraught with perils around every corner – diseases preventable by hand-washing, relatives you planned for years to be able to visit who only lived a few hours’ drive away today…

Or you could have lived during the invention of capitalism, and found self-sufficient peasantry no longer available as an option to you. 

Regardless of whether or not the internet has made everything mind-numbingly easy or unreasonably complex, most of the developed world lives in a high state of vigilance – stuck in our sympathetics.

Why?

We’ve got access – the human race, not every person – to more resources than we could ever use. In fact, so many resources that we’re literally at risk of draining them from existence. 

So how is it that our measurable stress levels have increased now that we can transfer funds with our phones instead of hoping for a ride to the bank, have exotic herbs delivered to our doors instead of waiting for the Wells Fargo wagon, or press a button on our thermostats instead of hiking out to the woods to chop and haul?

We’ve lost resilience. It’s not because our world has grown more secular – it’s because spirituality doesn’t pay, and modern doctrines regarding what makes a life substantive are ultra-specific and constantly contradictory. 

In other words, we can’t all agree on what it takes to be good and do good. 

But one truth will never change: Being and doing good must start inside you. And that will take resilience, not vigilance. Inner strength, not preparedness on steroids.

Where hyper-vigilance might look like…

Staying Defensive out of Fear a Flaw Might Make You Disposable

Hyper-resilience looks like…

An Innate Trust in the Strength of Your Bonds and Abilities

When you spend all day planning for every contingency, with your shoulders in your ears, future-tripping catastrophes, you are telling your nervous system to be ready for an attack.

That makes sense, right? Your mind can only imagine the worst for so long without your body rising to the challenge of facing “the worst”. 

Defensiveness seems, evolutionarily, like the right response. 

But hyper-vigilance – in this case, fearing criticism because of the absence of a sense of security – doesn’t protect you.

Only resilience will. Resilience here would be a belief in your own humanity – you are flawed, subject to failure, and capable of mistakes… and that sets you in squarely with the rest of your species. 

Listening and ingesting over defense and blame.

Where hyper-vigilance might look like…

Obsessively Planning by Thinking 10 Steps Ahead

Hyper-resilience looks like…

Taking Stock of Now and Fully Building Out Your Next 3 Steps

Those with the urge to be hyper-vigilant are operating in a fear-based reality. Thinking 10 steps ahead won’t save you from simple human folly, the uncontrollable externals, or finding yourself in a quandary in the future.

That impulse is borne out of a desire to protect, who can still fit into the reality of someone who is hyper-resilient.

A hyper-resilient person is able to sit with where they are now and take stock of their lives honestly – assets, both physical and emotional, skills, experiences, and personal shortcomings. 

Using that honest assessment, the kind which you can only do when you’re thinking clearly, they can build out a manageable set of up to three steps. Those steps should be able to connect to the present and keep your energy usage controlled and able to be scaled back, as opposed to flung in a lanky tangle out in front of your fuzzy future.

Where hyper-vigilance looks like…

Self-Isolating to Avoid Adding “Burden” to your List of Personal Failings

Hyper-resilience looks like…

Using Your Support Network with Honesty and Vulnerability

Hyper-vigilance can play lots of tricks on your mind – you’re alone, your suffering is unique, and what’s more, it’s annoying.

But what resilient people understand on a molecular level is that we all need each other, and your needs are not ridiculous for the simple fact of you having them. Simply put?

Resilient people have learned to channel self-compassion. 

Without a support network and an active feedback system, you reinforce the beliefs that throw you into hyper-vigilance. We’re all meant to use our emotionships to bolster and sustain us, just as we are compelled by our own humanity to bolster and sustain the ones we love. 

If hyper-vigilance can be considered a state of consistently engaged nervous system signals, then hyper-resilience is tapping into your parasympathetics…

Which, paradoxically, helps you recover from stressors much more quickly.

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Dr. Pedram Shojai

NY Times Best Selling author and film maker. Taoist Abbot and Qigong master. Husband and dad. I’m here to help you find your way and be healthy and happy. I don’t want to be your guru…just someone who’ll help point the way. If you’re looking for a real person who’s done the work, I’m your guy. I can light the path and walk along it with you but can’t walk for you.