Why are victims of abuse called survivors?
The very word survivor indicates that they cope well with difficulties in life. Who wants to invite more difficulty into their lives?
Survivor attaches victim energy to anyone and everyone who wears it. So a victim has to put up with a bunch of shit as a child and then, if she’s lucky, gets to live as a survivor for the rest of her life.
This doesn’t seem quite fair. Does it?
When I think of surviving, I get a vision of me white knuckling it, holding onto the top of a skyscraper for dear life. Images run through my brain of me falling to my death over and over again, kind of like in the opening credits of Mad Men. In my reality, it looks like playing small or self-sabotaging to stay safe. Like when I was too scared to ask for a well-earned raise or to speak my truth.
How is it that someone who was molested or beaten or abused or raped or objectified or mistreated in a myriad of ways, maybe as a small child, has little hope but to live the life of a victim/survivor?
How can they turn survivor into thriver?
After years of survival mode, this can feel impossible.
Over the last 20 years, I have screamed and wept and threw up all of the wrongdoings that I experienced. I did not go above it or below it or around it. I walked through the fire that was my life, allowing it to sear and scorch and tarnish my soul. I lived it every year, every month, every day, every hour, every minute, every breathe and on the other side I was renewed like a phoenix rising from its ashes. Renewed by the integration of the truth to my core. No longer able to be in denial and forgotten memories. It is in this, I experienced reconciliation and forgiveness. Not just for those who violated me but for myself.
The truth is that for many years, I was just surviving. I didn’t know that I had a choice in the matter. But once I realized that my life – the good, the bad, the ugly was up to me, I went after it and then I rose out of the ashes. Renewed. Reenergized. Revitalized. And, thriving as an empowered woman.
Because we live in a polarity continuum and I’ve seen the dark night of my soul, I have access to pure light and unharnessed joy. My darkness gave me the gift of light. Though I wouldn’t wish my abuse on anyone, it is one of my greatest assets. Challenges arise when abusees get stuck in the role of victim/survivor and play it out in all areas of their lives. They lose over and over again because they’re stuck in a rut, a role that was defined for them by their abusers and then again by themselves.
Richard Rohr, internationally known mystic, speaker, author and Franciscan priest once said, “The journey to happiness involves finding the courage to go down into ourselves and take responsibility for what’s there: all of it.”
Living out the balance of my life as a survivor was not an option. My soul has a purpose and with this I have way too much thriving to do.
When I review my life as a victim/survivor, I see clips of so many moments where I was disempowered and playing small, where I had no voice or if I did it was crying out for help. I remember that feeling of desperately wanting someone to save me, give me all the answers, tell me how to do it, promise that everything was going to be ok. I have flashbacks of holding onto one of my teacher’s every word in hopes that she might give me the answers I so desperately needed to hear, only to learn much later that those answers were always within me. It just took years of excavation to find them.
None of us are born as victim/survivors. This is a role that is assigned to us based on our life experiences. We have a choice to take it or leave it.
The biggest test to my victim/survivor was in becoming pregnant. My pregnancy and the birth of my son gave me confidence like I never had before. This confidence was ingrained in my mama bear instincts. In places where I was challenged to fight for myself, I am fierce when it comes to my son. While standing up for me was often optional, standing up for him is mandatory. Nothing and nobody can get in the way of the love and dedication and respect I have for my child. When it comes to him, I refuse to play small.
His arrival was a turning point. It forced me to shake off those last vestiges of victim/survivor, a role I had been so comfortable with for so long. It defined me. If I were not a victim/survivor, who was I? What would it look like if I stopped giving my power away – for good?
Well, it looks like this:
I love my life and live in daily gratitude for the gifts that God has bestowed upon me. I’m excited by the possibilities the world and all of its people offer. I see miracles happen every day. As a coach and consultant, I get to look into my client’s eyes and listen to their voices, holding a space for non-judgement, love and empowerment so that they can manifest their dreams. With each session, I learn to love more deeply and fully as I am invited into my client’s souls. And, nothing scares me because I’ve slayed my dragons. I am present to their realities and stories and ready to engage in a collaborative, heart filled, thought provoking process.
I get to be the mother I have always dreamed to be. Connected. Loving. Fun. Available. Sparkling. Open. Fair. Kind.THRIVING. It took the sum total of all of my experiences to arrive here and I’m thrilled I stayed on course.
What can someone stuck in victim/survivor do?
Get help now. There is so much support in this world, but you have to be willing to take the first step and walk through the fire. No one can do it for you.
Make the call. Send the email. Have the conversation. You are not alone. Take the step to allow yourself to thrive. It’s worth it.
About Kristen Kosinski
As a coach and consultant, Kristen partners with women empowering them to manifest their dreams. The sum total of all of her experience has brought Kristen to this important work. Women’s empowerment does not only benefit women, it betters all of society. Her daily practice is to make a positive impact in whatever way she can and not to beat herself up when she falls short. Kristen and her 8-year-old son live in Santa Monica, California.