Survivor vs. Victim

I see a survivor as one that begins the process of healing themselves from a traumatic experience, and doesn’t pass on what was done to them. It is a state of mind that is different from the victim.

Once one has escaped the abusive environment, they can become a survivor – if they make the decision to acknowlege that damage has been done to them, and then make the effort to repair themselves.

A survivor is strong enough to overcome what happened and begin the process of removing those things that are not part of their true self. If they observe part of their mind following a path toward abusive behavior, they confront it and try to heal it.

A survivor understands that no-one is so tough that they cannot be traumatized and damaged – and that the damage can be healed.

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Survivor vs. Victim

Trauma and Recovery

When we suffer the trauma of abuse or other experiences that are overwhelmingly unpleasant, we dissociate. This is a natural mechanism that allows us to survive trauma.
But, dissociation is only the first half of surviving trauma.

Later, when the danger has passed, we must reassociate. We must return to the trauma in our mind and rejoin with the emotional effect of it. In this way we can bring together the parts of our mind that was split by the traumatic experience.

Once rejoined, that part of our mind can again function normally and contribute to our improved survival. We can get on with life.

This mechanism to deal with trauma is quite amazing. We naturally and unconsciously separate our response to trauma into 2 pieces in our mind. Its automatic. The physical experience cant be postponed, but the emotional effect in the mind can be separated and put safely aside. Later, the emotional effect, which was separated and postponed, can be dealt with at our convenience. Its so great we have this naturally inbuilt mechanism to protect our mind from the full effect of traumatic experiences.

When the trauma is too great, we simply can’t cope with both the physical and emotional trauma simultaneously. Splitting allows us to cope, and later we can return in physical safety to complete the process of survival.

Yet, if we dont return later and rejoin the separated parts of our mind that hold the trauma, we remain ‘damaged’ (uncompleted) and cannot return fully to our lives.
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I want to thank Athena and Bobbi from traumarecoveryuniversity.com for inspiring this realization in me. I was watching their 2 hour video special on accepting the reality of abuse. As always, their videos inspire light bulbs in my understanding.

Trauma and Recovery

How we live our lives

From birth we are taught, programmed with the ways of our family and our society. If we experience a loving environment, we will live out our lives mostly as directed, and enjoy a sense of satisfaction and achievement. We live in a way that we believe is good. We are likely to bring up our own children similarly.

Alternatively, the more that love is absent in our upbringing, the more unstable the foundation of out training and programming. As we live our lives, it is not so easy to feel at peace with living as we were brought up to live.

In the most abusive extremes, it is impossible to fit into society. The values we have learned are irreversibly associated with emotional pain. Those of us with a loving upbringing cant understand why others cant live in the accepted way, and those of us with emotional conflict cannot understand how most people can live a stable, ordinary life – even if we would like to be able to live that way, to try is to suffer.

A healthy society tolerates and accommodates those of us who cannot fit in – allowing us to find our own ways to survive,  heal and contribute as we wish.

A collapsing society punishes those of us who cant fit in, or forces us to live on the fringe of society  – or even in exile, out of sight. One form of exile is forced institutionalization and forced medication – criminalization of non-conformity by societies that have degraded into brutality.

When those of us that cannot fit in, we are forced to conceal our incompatibility. Through overt or covert persuasion, our ability to find a comfortable niche in society is diminished. Therefore, our opportunity to heal from those experiences that have traumatized us, is also interfered with by the distraction of constantly seeking safety.

In the most extreme societies, people are brainwashed so that those in control can use them as a weapon against that threaten their hold on power. This is a form of slavery, where a persons independence and freedom is taken from them. Even children are violated in this way, and used as weapons once they get older. Inevitably, these people are used to attack others in their own society. It is a sign that those in power are no longer of benefit to society, but have long been a great harm. Eventually, collapse of that society is guaranteed.

How we live our lives

Keeping silent about past trauma

We often dont speak out about our childhood traumatic experiences or war trauma.

Great fear is attached to speaking out, especially for child abuse survivors – fear taught at the time of abuse. In extreme circumstances, that extends to a fear of punishment, torture and death.War veterans are also made to feel their stories are unwelcome. Governments that wish to continue using war to retain power do not want veterans revealing the truth of war.

Also, tools such as money are used to maintain victim silence. It is sometimes called silence money – it is given to the victim in a trickle over time, it stimulates silence programming and helps keep them silent. The survivor will remain poor and silent as long as this money is accepted. Some people consider state welfare as a kind of silence money when applied to these situations. However, it is very important that we speak out and tell our story anyway. speaking out is an essential part of healing from the trauma.

We also notice that the general public doesnt really want to hear about our abuse or trauma. People become uncomfortable around us once they know about our traumatic experiences. Some may just avoid us after that. We may decide to just not tell anyone, but this is not a strategy that will lead to healing. A better strategy is to select those who we tell. We can publish our story online, see a therapist, tell our story in a support group. these are all great ways to stimulate healing. Then we can freely enjoy time with out friends and workmates.

Releasing our story is an extremely beneficial part of healing. We may not be able to release the traumatic emotion attached to our memories without first telling our story. We may find that we release an enormous burden of emotion while we tell our story.

If we still have such a great fear of speaking out, publishing our story anonymously online may be the perfect solution. There are some web services that allow us to create our own web pages and sites for free. Although it is anonymous, it is still very effective at releasing emotion and allowing us to progress in our healing. It shows that the important thing is to release the truth so that is is not kept within, so that it doesnt continue to damage our lives.

As long as we keep secrets, we cannot be our true selves. Secrets hold us back in life, and prevent us from expressing ourselves in the world. Releasing the secrets doesnt suddenly turn us into a person that has never suffered abuse. That is our truth and we retain that all our lives. But our truth empowers us to live life as we truly wish, whereas suppressed truth keeps us in a place of suffering and weakness.

Keeping silent about past trauma

Memories of fear

At times, we may feel fear, when it either doesn’t make any sense at all, or it is unnecessarily strong. In these situation we are experiencing a memory of fear. This is a memory of a past event where we experienced fear, yet we have suppressed the memory and are only aware of the fear.

In response to traumatic experiences, our minds can use the technique of separating consciousness. This allows us to forget the experience and survive until we are safe. We are able to put things out of our mind, so that we can focus on protecting ourselves or getting to safety.

The mind takes enough consciousness to contain the emotion of the experience, and places it inside the memory, and files it away. This is the mechanism of intentional forgetting. The consciousness in that memory remains there, stuck at that time, but it is still connected to us.Also it still has access to our 6 physical senses*, and if it notices a situation that reminds it of the initial trauma, it will trigger the feeling in the memory. We will feel fear, yet not understand why.

The stronger the emotion held by the memory, the stronger the emotion felt in the present. Triggering extreme trauma can result in a panic attack. This is possible because consciousness is not actually divisible. We are separate emotions in the same way waves in water are separate. The same is true for our mind. Those forgotten memories cannot be completely separated.

These forgotten memories retain their emotion, often affecting our lives in negative ways. They remain this way until we retrieve and heal them. We can do this once we have found safety, yet our culture teaches us to never allow this healing.

To heal these memories, we need to allow the emotion when it arises. It may be as simple as grieving the emotion away. In some cases we don’t even remember the memory. Other times we need to use healing tools to trace the feel I to its memory. Some therapists have these skills, but most do not. Once we acquire these tools, we can use them ourselves. Whatever way we heal, grieving is required to clear the trapped emotion. We must allow ourselves to cry.

Therapists that are trained to help with PTSD from childhood or war trauma are more likely to know the tools required to clear emotion from intentionally forgotten beliefs.

The mechanism of forgetting, and later healing, is quite simple and easy to understand. Not so easy to do. Its really worth the effort! Initially, emotion released can be overwhelming, but it passes each time, and decreases as healing progresses.

* as well as the 5 physical senses we learn about, there is a sixth. We are a receiver and transmitter of electromagnetic energy and possess a complex energy field. We can send and receive a lot of information with this tool. Also, there is our connection with universal consciousness, that can be interpreted as a non physical sense.

Memories of fear

Not Trusting the Universe

Many of us dont trust the universe. We see the world as separate from us and hostile. A place where we can get hurt. This is what we have learned from our traumatic experiences, especially in childhood. Its fair to say that an experience that causes us to believe the universe is not a safe place, that cant be trusted, is a traumatic experience.

If traumatic experiences are severe enough, we can develop a set of beliefs that place us in opposition to the world for the rest of our lives. We may think that:

  •  the world is against us,
  •  there is no hope,
  •  there is no point in trying,
  •  other people will only hurt us,
  •  we are unworthy,
  •  etc…

If we do nothing to correct these misunderstandings, we will live a life of poverty with regard to that part of the universe that we reject. We will exclude all things we believe will harm us. For the most extreme levels of trauma and child abuse, we may end up like a poor hermit, having learned to fear family, friends, money, community, even place – all the things associated with our trauma. There is no limit to our capacity to exclude, but we will only do so for a good reason.

The reality is that we are an inseparable part of the universe and our beliefs shape and manifest our experience in life. We are able to exclude things from our lives because we are part of the universe, OF the universe. If we were separate from the universe, we would have no power to influence or exclude any of it.

Without these false beliefs, we can trust the universe. We can be a part of the world and enjoy our time in it. We will see all the opportunities presented to us. We will get excited about things and pursue our dreams. We will understand:

  •  we are with the world,
  •  there is opportunity,
  •  our dreams are achievable,
  •  other people want us in their community,
  •  we are worthy,

In our wisdom we can exclude those parts of the world that dont serve us, and place ourselves according to our wishes. We can attract what we want around us.

However, for those of us who hold these negative beliefs about the universe, there is work to be done. It took time and suffering to take on these beliefs. It will take time and effort to correct them.

Our minds go through phases. When we are in the phase of sadness or depression, that is the time to choose to express those feelings. We can find a safe place for this and decide to not express onto other people, nor to make any life decisions based on sadness or depressed thinking. Its a time to creatively express those emotions and allow them to come out naturally. When we allow this we will also notice the beliefs that are associated with these feelings. We have the opportunity to question those beliefs and correct them.

Beliefs make use sad because they are in conflict with what we deeply know to be true. Some limits we know to be true and we can accept, and never feel sad about it. It is the sadness that tells us we believe things that are not true.

Not Trusting the Universe

Self-destructive behavior

It is increasingly understood that self-destructive behavior is an expression of past child abuse or trauma. Yet it seems illogical that survivors of abuse would harm themselves rather than the abuser.

But, on the level of energy, self-destructive behavior makes sense.

We store the essence of our life experiences in our bodies. We can also hide unpleasant past experiences by reducing our connection to that part of the body that stores the essence of that experience. That part of our body is also less connected to our physical immunity and is more susceptible to disease and illness.

After we have survived our traumatic experiences and find a relatively safe life situation, our body’s emotional tools begin to heal the effect of the trauma. We go through the stages of shock, anger, sadness, grief and finally re-empowerment. The essence of the traumatic experience is transformed into an even deeper essence on the spiritual level, that allows our spirit to understand cause and effect, and allows us to avoid actions that lead to harmful outcomes. Most simply, we learn from our experiences at the deepest level and our spirit retains this lesson. Our being returns to a peaceful state and the parts of our body that held that essence return to their normal wellness.

However, in order to survive the extended trauma of war, our culture teaches us to suppress emotional expression, especially negative emotions, and especially crying – we are taught to ‘harden our hearts’. Faced with these restrictions on our self-expression, we turn to deeper defense mechanisms such as self-destructive behavior. It simply stems from the unwavering desire to process the essence of the trauma. That essence must be moved, released, processed, one way or another. We turn to self-destructive behavior to give essential attention to the agitated body. It is like scratching an itch until it is an open wound. We may continue with self-destructive behavior until it becomes another traumatic phase in our life.

On a cultural level, a nation will eventually self-destruct if it cannot find a way out of this self-defeating trap. This final, worst-case outcome protects the human species from groups that follow a non-peaceful path – they will eventually destroy themselves, and the culture that preserves their self-destructive behavior weakens and collapses.

Without understanding why we engage in self-destructive behavior, we cannot easily break out of that strategy, that habit. We remain unaware of the consequence of the cultural restrictions on our emotional expression. We remain a victim of our trauma or abuse until we reject the guidance of our ignorant culture.

Once we encounter information about the cause of our self-destructive behavior, we can return to our emotional healing mechanisms and recover from the past trauma. Starting our recovery, we also end the journey of that trauma from generation to generation, because we become the one that stops the cycle of abuse and trauma. We are not only healing ourselves, but we open the door of healing for those around us and for our culture. More than becoming a recovering individual, we become a healing node in our culture.

Self-destructive behavior