As I think of this phrase from 13 going on 30, I think about the realizations I’ve had over the years and wonder… is there a way to help younger people get to this point sooner in their lives? I’ve thought a lot about this picture:
Maybe that’s an accurate progression? Let’s try it out. Those early years are often spent as a victim of some sort. Whether that’s child abuse or awful relationships as we get older… we’ve probably all been a victim of some sort at some point in our lives. That status begins a journey. My heart breaks for those who never leave the victim camp. Those are the people who always have someone else to blame for their misfortunes. They take no ownership of their lives and remain as victims to their circumstances. Recognizing you are a victim can hurt. Sometimes it’s easier to remain in denial because admitting to yourself that you were a victim, opens you up to a lot of pain that is too scary to face.
The next stage is being a survivor. A survivor is that person who may or may not still be trapped in their situation, but they have also developed coping skills to ensure their survival. Sometimes that is staying in the abusive relationship because a known evil is easier to bear than an unknown situation that could potentially be worse. To those of you in that situation- I feel you & understand why you made or are making that choice. One of the most dangerous times in abusive relationships is immediately after leaving. We’re here to support you if you need us! This is where we learn skills to survive. Walk on egg shells to avoid the outburst. Numb out your emotions because it’s too much to feel them. Hide who you are because you aren’t accepted. They serve a very useful purpose: survival.
Once you are no longer in the situation that created the survival skills, there is an issue. These skills outlive their usefulness. For y’all in the back, let me say it again. Your survival skills outlive their usefulness. They persist past the point that created their existence. States (temporary functioning) can become traits (personality pieces) if you allow them to. This is the heart of my work. It is why I am a therapist. What does this look like? This is the person who thinks their current partner is cheating (with no basis) just because their previous partner did. This is the person who still shuts off emotions because that’s how they coped with their screaming parents as a child. This is the person who uses their words as daggers to the heart because that’s how they take the attention off of their wrongdoings. That was intense. Let’s take a breath and move forward. *breathe in 4 seconds through your nose, breathe out 8 seconds through your mouth. Repeat.*
At this point you can choose to remain in survival mode (maybe because it feels safer?) OR begin the journey to becoming a thriver!
Therapy can be a great tool in shifting to thriver mode. Of course, you can do it on your own, which might take more time (been there, got the t-shirt). Each person has to choose what’s right for them. Becoming a thriver looks very different from surviving. Check out my previous post HERE. See my lovely graphic below:
Thriving is when you’ve shed that old you. You’ve done the hard work assessing yourself and deciding what you want to carry forward and what is better left behind. Let go of those old skills knowing you are wiser from your experiences and knowing you can survive if needed, but now, it is time to thrive. Those people who hurt you are not hurt by your anger. Your anger poisons your heart and keeps you trapped. Holding onto resentment is like taking the knife you were stabbed with, leaving it in the wound, and slowly twisting the knife. That’s gross, but it’s what we’re doing to ourselves emotionally. Emotional wounds can hurt much longer if we allow them to. Take the knife out. It’s time to heal the wound. Yes, healing hurts, but to quote Henry Rollins, “Scar tissue is stronger than regular tissue. Realize the strength and move on…” Because once you have learned to thrive, that’s where exponential growth can begin.
Becoming an inspirer takes a lot of work. It’s that phase where you’ve shed the trauma and now you have emotional headspace to create beauty within the world, however that looks for you! It’s an amazing place focused on your present and future, your hopes and plans. It is a place of action and forward motion. It’s a glimpse in the rearview mirror, a thank you for the lessons learned, and a smile to the road ahead. I don’t know what your “inspire”will be, but my hope is that you get there & spread goodness in the world. I consider it an honor to walk with people for a bit of that journey, where ever they are on that road.
If you are still in the victim stage, please don’t feel trapped or that you will never “arrive”. Life is about the journey, not the destination. Even in the inspirer phase, if you do this process expecting to arrive at a destination to find happiness there, you will be upset (trust me). Finding peace and happiness isn’t at the end of the road, it’s within the chaos… but hey, that’s a whole other blog. 😉
As always, if you want someone to walk with you, don’t hesitate to reach out to us at Anchoring Hope Counseling. We have a graduate student, Karli Minnick, doing her practicum with us this summer offering free telehealth counseling to clients who are an appropriate fit across Virginia! She will be available until mid-August, 2021 for this opportunity. Of course, I (Stephanie) am also available. Our number is +12762985034 and our email is email@example.com .
Interested in learning more about trauma? Check out our upcoming four-part webinar! Learn more at our Facebook event HERE or email us & we can send you the joining information!
Side note: we may not be able to protect our kids from everything in the world, but we can give them some helpful tools along the way. check out this free program for middle schoolers and parents HERE!