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Survival Mode

If you experience emotional numbness, the knowing you must "walk on eggshells" and a constant state of awareness to the point of hyper-vigilance (an exaggerated awareness of your surroundings and possible threats of danger to your physical or emotional well-being) around someone, then you are experiencing "survival mode."

Survival mode commonly happens to people in abusive relationships.   For example, if you are married to someone who often experiences fits of rage or crying, you understand survival mode.  You spend your time trying to keep this person happy, and not angry or crying.   Or, if you have a parent who uses guilt as a tool to manipulate you, or is excessively critical and opinionated of you, you also understand survival mode.   Survival mode is what the name implies- a way of thinking that helps you survive when around an abusive person.  You stifle your own needs, feelings, etc. to focus on what will help you to survive around that person.

I have learned a little about survival mode in my own experiences that I have not read about anywhere.   Since I experience it, however, I would assume I am not the only one.

After about six years of no contact with my mother, we resumed contact.  I allowed it.   I believe my mother to have Narcissistic Personality Disorder, and dealing with her can be VERY challenging.   Anyway, our relationship continued for about four years when she suddenly stopped speaking to me.   Not entirely- we spoke maybe four or five times in about eighteen months.  But, there was very little contact.   After a few months, I finally was no longer functioning in the survivor mode that I was so accustomed to.  Once I was able to let that go, I started to experience flashbacks for the first time.  It was bizarre and terrifying.   I wondered if she was right and I was crazy like she so often told me I was.   Finally, it hit me what was happening- I was not crazy at all.   I had been functioning in survival mode.  Without her constantly around, I was able to drop that coping skill, and felt safe enough to face things that I had repressed for a long time.  I also realize I had developed Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

I cannot believe I am the only person who has had an experience like this, although I have not seen information on this topic as of the time of me writing this article.  My purpose for writing this information is in the hopes of explaining some aspects of survival mode to you.  No one should fear for their sanity when they have only done what it is normal to do in an abnormal situation!


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