by Tamara Flaherty
I’m going to try to tackle a sticky semantics issue here so please bear with me as I try to explain it.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people being praised for “not being a victim.”
They’ve been profusely praised for being a “survivor” instead.
I’ve had people say that to me so many times over the years and I’ve never corrected them until now because I know that they mean well.
This is a common societal expectation. All you have to do is turn on Oprah or the news and soon you will hear about some courageous person who has been through some horrific event but who “refuses to be a victim”.
You CANNOT be a survivor without being a victim!!
Let me put it another way. There are many people who are victims, who are not survivors, but there are NO survivors who are NOT victims.
Read that again!
The following definitions are from oxforddictionaries.com=
“A person harmed, injured, or killed as a result of a crime, accident, or other event or action.”
A person who survives, especially a person remaining alive after an event in which others have died:
“A person who copes well with difficulties in their life”
While I do understand the well meant intentions of praising the survivor mentality over the victim mentality, (I mean really, no one wants to hear someone just whine about how hard they’ve had it), I do think that some important points need to be made.
Because so much praise seems to be given to those who are “survivors” and not “victims”, those individuals who are not “coping well with the difficulties in life” as a result of their injuries or trauma, tend to hide the problems they are having, so as not to be perceived as weak failures.
As if experiencing the normal effects of trauma such as
or a host of other responses is yet another reason for them to feel ashamed!
As a result of pressure to appear to be a survivor instead of a victim when in fact they are inseparable, victims may be discouraged from admitting they need help. This can delay or prevent them from ever reaching “survivor” status.
They just remain silent victims who become adept actors or actresses so others do not see and judge their “weakness”.
There isn’t a magic line that we can cross where the trauma has no more power to affect us. Some days we are more victim, other days more survivor.
or when someone in my life has hurt me or let me down in some way.
I then have to fight my way back toward the survivor end of the spectrum.
I am not a failure when this happens, it’s just par for the course for individuals who have suffered deep trauma or injury in their lives.
There is never a point in life where you have “moved on” or “gotten past” a major trauma or a series of traumas.
You can reach a point where you can stay on the survivor end of the spectrum most of the time. Reaching that point takes time, patience, healing, and a lot of work.
There is a sense of accomplishment when I am able to consistently stay on the survivor end without sliding back down, and the praise is nice when I accomplish that, don’t get me wrong.
We also need to speak up and praise and support those individuals however, who are still on the victim end of the spectrum. Those who are staying in the battle and fighting through their sadness and grief yet another day.
Sometimes just staying alive is a major accomplishment!!
There are many valuable lessons that can be learned along the journey, but the journey itself is necessary to that learning process.
All the steps in the journey count!!
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