STAGE 2: SURVIVOR
Stage two involves moving from victim to survivor.
I often call this the “fed up” stage. You are fed up with feeling out of control, tired, sad, lonely or angry. You are fed up with having unhealthy relationships. You are fed up with having low self-esteem and feelings of inadequacy. And finally, you get so fed up that you can no longer deny that the abuse is affecting you and that you need support.
How will you know when you are ready to take this next step?
When you acknowledge the abuse you experienced, but feel acknowledgement is no longer enough. Instead, you are ready to reflect upon and actively engage in facing and owning what happened. As a result, you will take yet another important step on the road to recovery as you actively seek out opportunities to talk about the abuse and understand the connections between the past and the present.
One of the most important things to occur during this stage is your newfound ability to integrate the experience as a part of who you are instead of remaining disengaged and talking about it “from a distance.”
This is why identifying as a “survivor” is so powerful. It gives you strength. It empowers you. It emboldens you to face the past straight on.
Yet, we survivors of abuse often struggle with this idea that we don’t want to be “one of those people who’ve been abused” or we don’t want to be “defined” by the abuse, and so resist this step of identification and integration.
However, what I know from personal experience and from working with my clients is that this only happens when we settle at the survivor stage and do not move into the final stage. But, if we allow ourselves to really step in, begin exploring how we are showing up in the world, how we are feeling, what we are struggling with because of the abuse, we are actually preparing ourselves to step out of the past and into a future self that is no longer burdened and hindered by the pain of abuse.
What are the goals of recovery now?
Able to share thoughts and feelings about the abuse with others and choose when to do so.
Have an increased awareness of your value and worth.
Recognize relationship tendencies that avoid and lack honesty and intimacy.
Draw connections between the abuse and the way you feel, think, and behave.
And what are the best types of support to seek out?
Books such as Be Your Own Hero Workbook, by Angela Shelton (there is a link on your handout that will take you to a complete list of Resources)
At this stage, it is most important that you understand you will have good days and bad days. Of the three stages, this stage often feels the most like a roller coaster—going from the highs of new insights and a sense of breaking free, to the lows of noticing additional life issues to be worked on.
It is important to be gentle with yourself during this period. To utilize and lean on your support system. To appreciate and celebrate each forward step.
To learn more about the 3 Stages of Recovery, you can download this MP3.
As a special gift, I would also like to share with you Part 1 of my guidebook, Beyond Surviving: The Final Stage in Recover from Sexual Abuse. GET IT HERE!