April 27, 2011

Stop Being a Victim

In the world of recovery, there has been a shift from using the word “victim” to “survivor” when describing those who have been abused or suffered a trauma. This shift shows up in all areas of abuse/trauma: cancer, divorce, child abuse. It's even shown up in the workplace, as in "merger survivor!"

This new label was chosen in order to convey strength, to empower, and to embolden the person as one begins the journey of recovery. The intent was also to distinguish between the moment of the trauma/abuse (victimization) and that of the present existence and experience (survivor).

Moving from victim to survivor is an important stage of recovery. During this phase, the person reflects upon the experience, actively engages in facing and owning what happened, and recognizes the connections between the abuse and the way they feel, think or behave. However, this recognition and sense of empowerment is not enough. While "survivor" is a much better label than "victim," it does not go far enough in framing an identity that leads to a thriving and powerful life.

Imagine with me for a moment that the abuse or trauma you’ve experienced has left a scrape on your knee – just as one you might get by falling down on hard concrete (in fact, we often feel battered and bruised as a result of abuse or trauma). This scrape, for many people, remains unhealed for years and years. At times, they may bandage and tend to the wound a bit, but they never fully heal. Worse, they come to believe it can never be healed.

Now, in the case of an actual physical wound, the skin does eventually heal and leaves a scar. We look at our knee, see the scar, and remember that day when we were wounded. Yet, we don’t feel all of the pain or other emotions that occurred at the moment we were hurt. Nor do we continue to compensate for the wound by changing our behavior – such as not fully bending our knee for fear of reopening the wound.

I strongly believe that the wounds of trauma and abuse can be healed and looked backed upon in this same way. We can see the scar that was created, but do not feel the pain, need to compensate, or constantly re-bandage the wound. However, this requires another shift – namely, from survivor to beyond surviving.

I remember very distinctly the moment when I thought, “This is ridiculous! I don’t want to survive my life. I want to live it!” For that reason, I use the term “beyond surviving” to describe myself and my clients. With this simple shift in language and labeling, the objectives and goals of recovery shift as well.

It is my goal to support clients in reaching a place where they no longer feel it necessary to manage behaviors or cope with thoughts and feelings that have resulted from abuse or trauma. Rather, clients gain insights and skills that make it possible for them to live abundant, powerful lives that are no longer mired in the past. They see the scar but are no longer wounded.

If you’d like to learn more about how to live beyond surviving, I encourage you to schedule a free 30 minute discovery session so you can learn more about how coaching can support you.

P.S. I'm still running my "4 Free Sessions" deal for all new clients. If we decide to work together, your first four sessions are free - no strings attached!

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