When I was swept off course and thrown into a hole, it took every ounce of effort to simply survive. I refused to call myself a victim and instead I became a survivor.
A victim sees something has been done to them beyond their control. Someone else is to blame. The situation is unfair. A victim’s reactions are that of flight, fight or freeze (running away, retaliating, or doing nothing). Although these reactions are normal in the heat of a crisis, there is the danger of the mistreatment becoming part of you and seeing yourself identified with bad treatment, brokenness and weakness. This is victim identity.
As these flight, fight, freeze reactions are accompanied by intensely painful feelings of guilt, anger and fear that I wanted to avoid at all costs; an alternative response that worked for me was survival. In other words I focussed on self-protection. I did not want to see myself as a victim and so I channelled my energies into making sure that I never became one again. I created my survival identity of building up courage, stability and comfort.
Some time ago I read that the term ‘survivor’ is simply another label for ‘victim’. If you identify yourself as a survivor, you are still focussing on the event that happened rather than focussing on how to get out of the hole, heal and recover. Despite my brave stance at seeing myself as a survivor, not a victim, I was still seeing everything through the hurt inflicted upon me and trying to avoid more pain.
Over the past six months, I have been working through a process in a book (see below) which describes breaking away from victim or survivor thinking by creating a healing identity. To create a healing identity, you focus on your strengths, your values, your modes of resilience and a desire to improve your life. By creating a healing identity you overcome victim reactions of blame, retaliation and resentment. Many of the techniques suggested in the book have truly worked for me and especially looking beneath my pain to my unmet needs and striving to find new ways of fulfilling them.
One of the lingering aspects hard to overcome has been my survival comforts that I have used to ground me and protect me from further hurt. When I try to break out of my comfort zone I often go into panic zone and retreat.
Recently I read a blog-post by Ian from Leading Essentially that described how the two zones of comfort and panic can lock you out of expanding your horizons. He described one technique to break free from this mentality is to develop an understanding of your unique capabilities that you may draw on when you get out of your comfort zone. I took that to mean strengths and attributes that have aided me in past achievements, or resilience factors in weathering past adversities. In other words I could venture out from my comfort zone knowing that I had those attributes to fall back on, if needed. I decided to work on this by really thinking about my strengths and my resilience attitudes.
I see this as creating my revival identity as a bridge between surviving and thriving, whilst still in the process of some healing. Here are some attributes of my revival identity –
My education and life experiences provide a stable base for future achievements.
My thirst for knowledge and learning will give me the courage to improve and grow.
I am creative and inventive.
I can draw on my analytical and problem solving skills to get me through any challenge.
I will live by my core values of courage, fairness and kindness.
I will act only for protection, connection, contribution, and appreciation.
I have a new purpose to find my voice and promote human welfare.
While focussing on creating my revival identity, getting ready for my new life, some remarkable things happened.
I stopped thinking about the hole I was supposedly in.
I stopped thinking about being wronged.
I stopped thinking about the pain I was suffering.
The pain stopped.
You may want to read ‘Living & Loving after Betrayal: How to Heal from Emotional Abuse, Deceit, Infidelity and Chronic Resentment’ by Steven Stosny
It’s a process, but it’s nice to see you embracing the new mindset. Now, the trick is to quickly engage the new thinking the next time you falter. There will be a next time (at least I have found this to be so from my own experiences) but a gentle brainwashing into a new way of thinking can minimize–if not eliminate altogether–future stumbling. Safe travels, my friend. 🙂
Yes, it is a process. And different approaches work best at different times and at different stages.
I hate reading books that advise on a method that “really works” because it worked for them and the other methods tried for the first two years did not. I always think, wait a minute. Maybe one needs those first two years just to get to a point of wanting to make things work.
Hmmmm… sounds like an ‘ah ha’ moment. 🙂
The pain stopped!!! I am so happy for you Elizabeth. I remember Ian’s post, it’s awesome that you connected with it. I should probably get some revival identity pointers from you. ❤
It was certainly a great feeling to realise that it had.
I’ve seen many people who have experienced hurt to never let anyone in again. They go from venerable to impenetrable. I think this is just another form of letting their situation beat them. A friend of mine in particular finds fault in everyone because she is too afraid to be hurt again. This is survival but at what cost? Is surviving all that matters? I think you are very insightful to know what you require to survive. I think we need to remember to just live and let go sometimes.
Thanks for your encouragement. I have fought all along of not staying in that dark place and it is only when I stopped fighting that I was able to see the light to get me out of there. Thanks for your encouraging words.
Thank you for the reference Elizabeth. I love the way you are working with this idea!
That ‘green-for-go’ circle did hit home to me. Thanks.
Great post Elizabeth – you are well on your way.
Thanks. I have appreciated your support, every step of my way.
My heart is happy for you! ❤
Thanks for your support.
Awesome! I hope your confidence continues to grow as you realize your potential.
Thanks. When I learn how to peddle the bike, I will be ‘A for away’.
I like the idea of striving to reach beyond surviving to thriving! This is a good way of putting this all into thought and words. I am hoping that we all can thrive better. It is challenging when you have made great strives, when you have something set you back, trying new settings and getting out of your comfort zone. This is excellent for us all to utilize ‘revival’ identities! Elizabeth, these words gave me comfort today, since I have been retreating in my personal life. Thank you!
I am glad these words gave you comfort. When we live alone, it is natural that sometimes we retreat. I think if we recognise that is what is happening, we can begin to ‘revive’ again. Best wishes
No pain! I love that you have things reframed because that is key to personal success. Bravo, Elizabeth, I’m so happy for you. x
Yes, no pain. When I woke last week without it, it was a truly magnificent feeling. thanks for your continued support.
I like your revival identity. I get to that place when I take the energy that used to go to trying to “work through” “or” “come to terms with” and use it to fuel something that is new.
I did not realise how much energy that ‘working through’ and ‘coming to terms with’ was taking until I had some brief interludes of time without them. Instead of thinking of my losses, I am now thinking of what I will be able to achieve, not bogged down with those two processes.
thanks for your support
I know the fight and flight choices, Elizabeth, but your post gave me the third–freeze–which identifies some of my responses that I didn’t wasn’t able to name! Thank you.
Just that one new self-awareness was an immense help.
That is my normal response. I do not run away. I do not confront. But I freeze.
I am glad that this raised your awareness, as it did me.
It is only when we are aware of something can we amend it for the better.
thanks for your comment.
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You are making huge strides!!
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