Once upon a time, I thought the world revolved around me.
What a thing to say, right? Such arrogance.
A lot of times when people say that someone thinks the world revolves around them, they mean that the person expects special favors or extra good treatment from the universe.
I’ve never really experienced that kind of feeling when it came to the world revolving around me. Instead, I was in the throes of its dark cousin: I thought I had to protect everyone else. I thought I had to remain on guard in order to defend against any possible incoming attack.
That’s basically how I saw the world — as a series of threats I needed to defend against. Not a series of potential favors I could get.
Breaking Up With Hypervigilance
Hypervigiliance, a state of being hyperaware and excessively vigilant, basically being on high alert at all times for threats, is a hallmark of post-traumatic stress disorder. And I can tell you that when I was the sickest with PTSD, in its throes, I was hypervigilant.
And I remained hypervigilant for a very long time, even as recovery wound on and on. And on. (As recovery is anything but a speedy, linear process.)
There were many tasks I had to tackle in recovery. But here are a few things I had to learn:
- Not everything is a threat, even when my (overly reactive) fear centers in my brain say it is. (Sometimes I would like to return my amygdala for a refund/replacement, thank you very much.)
- And not only is everything not a threat — but not everything is even directed towards or meant for me. Tons of things happening around me at any moment have little or nothing to do with me. They can be — and should be — ignored.
Not Every Message Is Meant For You… And That’s Okay
While most people don’t struggle with PTSD (thank goodness), I see a tendency for people to fall prey to the trap of personalization.
Personalization is a very common cognitive distortion whereby a person will believe that everything others say or do is some kind of direct, personal reaction to them.
In lay terms, when someone personalizes, they take everything really personally, even when it has little or nothing to do with them.
And when this happens (as it does constantly), I find myself wanting to tell them what I had to learn the hard way: That not every message is meant for you.. and that’s okay.
Because after all, wouldn’t it be exhausting if the universe actually revolved around us?