In my last post, I talked about the importance of acknowledging victimization in order to move on. If you’d like to learn more about Level 1 or the Victim–>Survivor–>Warrior paradigm, please check out the original blog. In this post, I’m going to talk about becoming Survivor and what makes that different from Surviving.
The Survivor (Level 2) is characterized by having worked with our trauma of being victimized. It’s the deep exhale where we begin to look around at the world again. We beat it! The reality is we are smack dab in the middle of the healing. We have more good days than bad but even the victories are tainted because they are in contrast to the trauma, not yet a stand alone event. This is good. It’s part of the process.
From the outside, many people will assume we are still in Victim (Level 1). This is because we still talk about the event. People might act bored or want us to get over it already. Survival is a fragile time because it’s easy to get triggered back into Victim. In the early stages of healing, you’ll go back and forth between these levels. As friends and supporters of someone who has be traumatized, it’s important that we watch our responses. It may be hard to hear about it, again and again. It helps to be in inquiry–how has your experience changed? What are you learning from your healing process? How can I support you in healing? These questions empower the Survivor. Telling the Survivor you wish ‘she’d forget it’ or that ‘talking about it doesn’t help’ disenfranchises the Survivor. The more opportunities she has to tell her story from a place of power, the more healing space you give her.
On the other hand, many people will think we are done. WE’ve done it–we’ve survived. But staying in this stage means merely surviving. We are constantly triggered (ironically Victims often aren’t triggered because they are already in that state). It’s hard to commit to this new life because we never know when to expect the next panic attack.
A note on triggers: Triggers have gotten a bad rep and they are often a source for ridicule. I’ve seen people post “this probably needs a trigger warning but my friends aren’t wimps” implying that to be triggered is to be weak. This is so not the case. A trigger is merely the cause of an event or situation. For many Survivors a trigger is a panic/anxiety attack. It may be a flashback. Avoidance is not the solution. Part of the Survival Stage is to be triggered and recover–again and again. It sucks big mooseballs most of the time.
As you progress through this stage, you’ll begin to have days where the trauma won’t occur to you. When in Victim, we are ruled by and live primarily in the Past. As a Survivor, we live primarily in the Present without clear dreams or goals for the future. As we move into Warrior, we begin to see a potential Future.
Though meditation teaches us to be in the moment, it’s critical for our well being that we have hope and optimism for a Future. If we get stuck in this stage, we are merely surviving. We wake up looking forward only to the moment we can go back to bed. We are scared to leave the house. We hope nothing will disrupt us or ask too much of us today. We may be here for years–it’s a process. By constantly demanding a Future and a vision for ourselves, we are helping to keep the healing progressing and not getting stuck in a state of ‘good enough’. We are worth more.
PS: In the last 24 hours, millions of people have been sharing their Me Too stories. This movement encourages people who have been sexually harassed or assaulted to post Me Too as their status. This series of posts is dedicated to all of them, no matter where they are on their path of healing. I am in multiple stages depending on which time we are talking about. Please know, I stand with you in love and solidarity.