How does a caterpillar transform into a butterfly? It doesn’t just happen. There are many steps involved in this transformation, as there are in the journey from victim to survivor.
Going from victim to survivor has to be a conscious choice, because often times as we suffer through “victimhood” we rarely realize we’re doing it. We grow so accustomed to the misery of our victim mentality, we forget that we are making the conscious choice to live life this way.
As a former victim of victim mentality myself, it felt like unfortunate things were always happening to me; that I had the worst luck in the world while the people around me appeared to have it much easier. After being raped, I sulked in my depression, running from one addiction to the next trying to numb the memories and feelings of worthlessness and humiliation. They were hard to numb, and in the sobriety I experienced between substance abuse and eating disorders, I couldn’t handle it when my feelings of being violated came flooding back in.
To move on with your life, you must break away from identifying yourself as a victim and transcend this experience by becoming a survivor. After being sexually assaulted or experiencing any great trauma, consciously processing your thoughts and feelings is not always your first response. More often we are just trying to survive, to live day to day without our pain burdening us to the point of inactivity. I found that running away from my emotions through the use of substances inevitably complicated things. Not only did I have to deal with being raped, but now I had to battle addiction.
Many people prefer to remain a victim because working towards healing and living a proactive life is difficult. It is not any more difficult than remaining a victim; both present challenges, yet one choice has a much more favorable outcome. Choosing to remain a victim is like refusing to move off a beach when the tide comes in. You know it will come in and pummel you with waves. You know that you might even drown, but you just don’t feel like moving.
It is hard to move away from being a victim, especially when you’ve identified your traumatic experience as the cause of your misery for years. While we are typically aware of our suffering, we become complacent and don’t always realize that we can do something about it. In reality, those chains could’ve been removed all along and if you would like to move on from your victimhood, you still can.
Moving from victim to survivor simply takes a shift of consciousness. You did not choose to be a victim of a violent crime or trauma, but you were. Dwelling on the painful event is easy and even necessary to do for a time, but it is not something you should do forever. Rather than thinking of yourself as a victim of circumstance, think of your victimhood as something of the past because that’s what it is.
People living in victim mode tend to internalize unfortunate events and disappointments that are common place for everybody. To them, it seems that everyone else has it easier. This is not true. Victims of victim mentality have the illusion that they are constantly under attack from the universe, but only because of the way they choose to digest the things life throws them. They seem to sulk and even marinate in their misery, failing to realize that with a slight shift of thinking everything can change.
How to Move from Victim to Survivor
1. Being a survivor is a conscious decision. It is not something that just happens.
2. Make the decision to no longer sulk in self-pity and feel that the world is out to get you when you experience disappointments.
3. Instead of being miserable when things don’t go the way you wanted, ask yourself what can you do now?
4. Don’t immediately give up and start wallowing in grief. Keep working towards your desired outcome no matter how many times you get rejected or have doors slam in your face. This applies to life’s challenges as well as facing the long and emotional road to recovery after being the victim of a sexual assault or trauma.
5. Being a survivor is a state of mind. A survivor keeps going in the face of adversity. A survivor must cultivate the tenacity of a tired hiker on a steep hill with no peak in sight.
6. Although it will feel like an uphill battle at first, as you move consciously from victim to survivor you will begin to see small improvements and over time, it will change the entire quality of your life for the better.
It is easy to fall into all the trappings of victim mentality. I found myself in this position not long ago. Some people think life sucks, while other people love it. This is the same difference between living your life as a victim or a survivor. It’s all about attitude.
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