Hypervigilance and the drive to "fight"

Take for example someone who’s in the army at war, or in a gang fighting against rival gangs potentially facing serious injury or death.. all the people in that environment will be in a hyper vigilant state, it’s a matter of life and death.
Speaking as a combat vet? It’s NOT useful to be hyper vigilant whilst armed, or at any kind of war (or any other life or death situation). State sanctioned, gangland, whatever. Those people DO exist, although they’re the extreme minority, and they get people killed. Shooting at shadows in camp, screaming and running away (at/from nothing) on patrol, flattening themselves behind cover instead of helping someone who is bleeding out (when there’s no fire to take cover from), etc.

Until relatively recently, hypervigilance & flight/freeze, were usually labeled as “cowardice in the face of the enemy” or “cowardice under fire”, which was an executable offence, in most countries, and still is today, in some countries.

- In WWI the UK executed 306 soldiers for cowardice. (Technically, cowardice & desertion, BUT, over 100,000 troops straight up deserted. The only ones who were executed -officially-were those who went crazy. Unofficially, it’s estimated thousands were killed; same as in modern times, when the actions of one are endangering the lives of all, people take things into their own hands). In 1930, execution for cowardice was outlawed, as we came to understand “shell shock” was present in nearly all cases.

- Technically, cowardice is still a capital crime in the UCMJ (USA - Unified Code of Military Justice), but we stopped executing people -offically, following court martial- in 1945. But it was still drummed into us from bootcamp onwards that we can & will be fragged in the field by anyone with common sense, and only if we’re lucky be court-martialled and imprisoned. In PRACTICE? I’ve only ever personally seen people covered for (everyone loses their mind briefly, from time to time) -or- (if you don’t know them, and owe them nothing) hit upside the head (or drugged) and dumped at sickbay, never to be seen, again. Although I’ve been on ship a couple/few times with so-called suicides (man overboard, it’s pretty impossible to go UA/AWOL in the middle of the ocean) of problem sailors; I wasn’t stationed on those vessels, I was just catching a ride.

The assumption was their shipmates had tossed them, as most real suicides onboard are hangings (it’s inconsiderate to slit your wrists, or throat, as a deck slick with blood is a hazard. If you want your family to get your life insurance benefits, and your command to label your death as an accident? Hang yourself with your belt, preferably in the showers, mid watch, so when your sphincters cut loose it’s easy to clean up, and the head is available for use again by change of watch. It’s a particular FU shipmate, to slit your wrists the slow way in your berth, walk to the most distant head, and do it at end of watch (wh
en people are headed to shit/shower/shave after work, and before work).

Most of the combatPTSD peeps I know? (As well as most former-criminals?) Are NOT part of that extreme minority, who crack up under pressure. Instead it’s the other way around. Vigilant during life-or-death situations, turns into hypervigilance (& other forms of cracking up) at “home” where it’s “safe”. Sane in the field, crazy on base.
 
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If it helps, at all?

Most combat trauma is complex trauma, by nature.

So, like a child who learns to expertly interpret moods/thoughts/facial & body expressions in abuse, but once grown up and “safe” is constantly misreading, misinterpreting, overreacting, & underreacting? Exquisitely aware of everything and everyone …whilst being abused, but once no longer in a life or death situation… cannot accurately interpret what they used to not even think about?

It’s like that.

It’s not like the child can “only” read abusers, they were also reading classmates, teachers, friends, family, neighbors, strangers, all with almost perfect accuracy. Even with massive trust issues, etc., they could still nearly always tell how people were feeling, and largely what they were thinking. Because it was a survival skill.

And it’s not like the adult has lost the ability to read people, but mixing up past & present means they’re not actually reading people anymore, but superimposing/ transferance/ seeing what they’re afraid of instead of what’s actually there, panicking over normal things, etc..

Fantastic instincts, and application, in danger (vigilant); turning to shit, and seeing things that aren’t there, once safe (hypervigilant).
 
Speaking as a combat vet? It’s NOT useful to be hyper vigilant whilst armed, or at any kind of war (or any other life or death situation). State sanctioned, gangland, whatever. Those people DO exist, although they’re the extreme minority, and they get people killed. Shooting at shadows in camp, screaming and running away (at/from nothing) on patrol, flattening themselves behind cover instead of helping someone who is bleeding out (when there’s no fire to take cover from), etc.

Until relatively recently, hypervigilance & flight/freeze, were usually labeled as “cowardice in the face of the enemy” or “cowardice under fire”, which was an executable offence, in most countries, and still is today, in some countries.

- In WWI the UK executed 306 soldiers for cowardice. (Technically, cowardice & desertion, BUT, over 100,000 troops straight up deserted. The only ones who were executed -officially-were those who went crazy. Unofficially, it’s estimated thousands were killed; same as in modern times, when the actions of one are endangering the lives of all, people take things into their own hands). In 1930, execution for cowardice was outlawed, as we came to understand “shell shock” was present in nearly all cases.

- Technically, cowardice is still a capital crime in the UCMJ (USA - Unified Code of Military Justice), but we stopped executing people -offically, following court martial- in 1945. But it was still drummed into us from bootcamp onwards that we can & will be fragged in the field by anyone with common sense, and only if we’re lucky be court-martialled and imprisoned. In PRACTICE? I’ve only ever personally seen people covered for (everyone loses their mind briefly, from time to time) -or- (if you don’t know them, and owe them nothing) hit upside the head (or drugged) and dumped at sickbay, never to be seen, again. Although I’ve been on ship a couple/few times with so-called suicides (man overboard, it’s pretty impossible to go UA/AWOL in the middle of the ocean) of problem sailors; I wasn’t stationed on those vessels, I was just catching a ride.

The assumption was their shipmates had tossed them, as most real suicides onboard are hangings (it’s inconsiderate to slit your wrists, or throat, as a deck slick with blood is a hazard. If you want your family to get your life insurance benefits, and your command to label your death as an accident? Hang yourself with your belt, preferably in the showers, mid watch, so when your sphincters cut loose it’s easy to clean up, and the head is available for use again by change of watch. It’s a particular FU shipmate, to slit your wrists the slow way in your berth, walk to the most distant head, and do it at end of watch (wh
en people are headed to shit/shower/shave after work, and before work).

Most of the combatPTSD peeps I know? (As well as most former-criminals?) Are NOT part of that extreme minority, who crack up under pressure. Instead it’s the other way around. Vigilant during life-or-death situations, turns into hypervigilance (& other forms of cracking up) at “home” where it’s “safe”. Sane in the field, crazy on base.
Yea flight/freeze is like the ultimate cowardice in all cultures around the world.
 
If it helps, at all?

Most combat trauma is complex trauma, by nature.

So, like a child who learns to expertly interpret moods/thoughts/facial & body expressions in abuse, but once grown up and “safe” is constantly misreading, misinterpreting, overreacting, & underreacting? Exquisitely aware of everything and everyone …whilst being abused, but once no longer in a life or death situation… cannot accurately interpret what they used to not even think about?

It’s like that.

It’s not like the child can “only” read abusers, they were also reading classmates, teachers, friends, family, neighbors, strangers, all with almost perfect accuracy. Even with massive trust issues, etc., they could still nearly always tell how people were feeling, and largely what they were thinking. Because it was a survival skill.

And it’s not like the adult has lost the ability to read people, but mixing up past & present means they’re not actually reading people anymore, but superimposing/ transferance/ seeing what they’re afraid of instead of what’s actually there, panicking over normal things, etc..

Fantastic instincts, and application, in danger (vigilant); turning to shit, and seeing things that aren’t there, once safe (hypervigilant).
This makes sense,
If it helps, at all?

Most combat trauma is complex trauma, by nature.

So, like a child who learns to expertly interpret moods/thoughts/facial & body expressions in abuse, but once grown up and “safe” is constantly misreading, misinterpreting, overreacting, & underreacting? Exquisitely aware of everything and everyone …whilst being abused, but once no longer in a life or death situation… cannot accurately interpret what they used to not even think about?

It’s like that.

It’s not like the child can “only” read abusers, they were also reading classmates, teachers, friends, family, neighbors, strangers, all with almost perfect accuracy. Even with massive trust issues, etc., they could still nearly always tell how people were feeling, and largely what they were thinking. Because it was a survival skill.

And it’s not like the adult has lost the ability to read people, but mixing up past & present means they’re not actually reading people anymore, but superimposing/ transferance/ seeing what they’re afraid of instead of what’s actually there, panicking over normal things, etc..

Fantastic instincts, and application, in danger (vigilant); turning to shit, and seeing things that aren’t there, once safe (hypervigilant).
this definitely helps. Some of it I can relate to and other bits I need to analyse further to see if and how they fit with me

I don’t feel I see things that aren’t there, it’s more that I don’t see a small threat as small at all.

Big threats start off with small intentions. So I treat every threat with the same ferocity, and to those looking in, the complaint is always that’s the reaction is too much.

Way I see those who let their guard down and allow small threats to come and go and become a norm, those people make themselves a target. I’m not saying this is based on any scientific thinking, it’s simply what I’ve adapted for my life.
 
Reality is - fight or flight is a response to drowning in your stress cup.

You need to learn what feeds it and how to manage it to get stress levels down. That fixes a lot of things.

 
Reality is - fight or flight is a response to drowning in your stress cup.

You need to learn what feeds it and how to manage it to get stress levels down. That fixes a lot of things.

I’m not an expert in this, id appreciate your opinion.

I feel the ptsd stress cup maybe doesnt apply in my case, because my circumstances are slightly different.

From what I’ve understood the stress cup works on the basis that we all have the same daily good and bad stress, and that the ptsd group has that past trauma on top.

Circumstances and responsibilities have dictated that I’m still living the abuse, this ride has been a lifetime experience to date, so there is past trauma and ongoing new trauma at regular intervals.

quite often I think to myself is this really real, can life really be just chaos from start to finish like something we see in a movie. Maybe it’s just in my imagination, maybe I’m the problem. I regularly have to remind myself that other individuals are also baring these burdens with me so we cant all be imagining it.

Been going on so long it’s like I’m hypnotised, years and years just focussed on a chaotic way of life. There’s never been any room in life for anything else.

It takes me to breaking point on a regular basis, I refuse to break. Sometimes I’m greatful I face these challenges instead of someone else who perhaps wouldn’t be able to handle it.
 
From what I’ve understood the stress cup works on the basis that we all have the same daily good and bad stress, and that the ptsd group has that past trauma on top.
Not quite. Stress can vary greatly day to day. Learning that with PTSD all stress goes in the same cup and if its not managed, you end up in a place where you have great difficulty functioning was a huge part of getting a handle on things for me.

Not to say you can eliminate it but there are things you can do to reduce it - or to manage it by saying "no - not doing that today".

Then you start to get a feel for when it's "enough" for today. Or to be able to do things that are stressful but have some slack time planned the day after to get things settled back down.

What it does do is open the window of tolerance - and reduce all the other symptoms too. That's the key. Because no matter what else happens - surprises happen. And when you don't have room and tolerance they throw you into a bad place every time.
 
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