According to Webster’s Dictionary, “to survive” is defined as;
The way my brain works, as a survivor then, is a person who has endured or lived through something horrible. Seems reasonable, right? Given the option of surviving or giving in, surviving seems like a better option, right? When I look back at my own life, I’ve been described as a survivor. I started out that way. I survived bacterial pneumonia four times before I was a year old. But what if there’s another possibility, one that seems so simple we have all been overlooking it?
In 2007, I was brutally raped and beaten. All that I knew about trauma did not help me recover or escape the lingering effects. As much as I didn’t want it to begin to control or define me, that’s exactly what began to happen. I read all of the “post” rape books, I did therapy, and I explored every possible solution toward healing. Then I met an amazing therapist introduced to me the beginning of something that my brain absolutely exploded over. All he said to me was, “What if there’s something beyond being a survivor?” That was a huge catalyst for me.
When we look at the definition of "survivor", it implies enduring the trauma or negative event. I want more than that. I don’t want to simply endure…I want to thrive. Webster’s dictionary defines thrive as: to grow vigorously. THAT’S what I want. I want to live with peace, joy, comfort, and ease. I’m assuming that, because you are reading this, you have the same goal.
All of this is made more complicated when we bring Shame into it. People who have experienced trauma carry a sense of not being good enough and being inherently flawed and damaged. The reality is that society (however unintentionally) places so much Shame on survivors of trauma. We expect people to “get over it”, we put stress on them about needing to “move on with their lives” and create more pain for them in the long run.
Below is my list of ways to move from a survivor to a thriver:
1. Affirmations: All of my affirmations start with the words “I am”. Each of them is followed by what I want to accomplish, in the present tense. The key is to write them as if they have already happened. An example of this is: I am safe, healthy, and happy right here right now.
2. Gratitude for everything: This is no exaggeration: I express gratitude for everything that occurs in my life today. Not just the good stuff, but the painful stuff, as well as the negative stuff. My conclusion is that when I’m grateful for happy things, it magnifies the pleasant emotions I have. When I’m grateful for less than happy things, it automatically halves the pain or discomfort.
3. Find reasons to laugh: When you are laughing at things it changes your vibrational frequency as well as your focus. Find something that makes you laugh (no matter how silly) and watch it or experience it. In the past, I have even experimented with ‘faking’ laughing to stimulate laughing. Maybe call someone up and just see how much you can laugh.
4. Replace the tapes: If we were all honest for a moment, most of us have tapes of conversations, interactions, experiences we have had with other people. For those of us who have described ourselves as survivors some of the tapes are not all that positive. I encourage clients to create a lengthy list of affirmations and then record themselves reading these affirmations. Some of my clients listen to these recordings as they sleep, others listen to them while they are awake. Whatever works for you is what is relevant.
5. Create rituals: I don’t mean the creepy or abusive kind, I mean the type that creates within you a centering or focusing feeling or sensation. For me, this includes spraying on my favorite smell, or placing a piece of jewelry on myself, or even getting my favorite iced tea. One of the important rituals in my life currently is that every night as we are lying in bed, my husband and I each communicate five things we are grateful for to each other. There’s a lot of current research that says rituals are helpful from a neuroplasticity standpoint.
6. Self-hypnosis: This therapy technique created perhaps the biggest change in my life. I continue to use it in my life and the lives of my clients to this day. My favorite thing about it is that I now understand that all hypnosis is self-hypnosis. And I am in control of it the entire time. How much more empowering can we get than that?
7. Language: Every word has meaning, right? We don’t exactly have words that don’t mean anything at all. So, what if it all starts with our language? What if, when we stop defining ourselves by our traumas or negative experiences, we lose the shame of them as well? That possibility excited me beyond all descriptors.
8. Take back your power: For me, this started when I no longer allowed the way the police treated me to influence the amount of guilt and shame I carried. I have actively taken back my power in numerous ways, from not keeping it a secret to letting go of the guilt and shame. Once I took back my power, I began to realize exactly how powerful I was.
9. Choose your circle carefully: One of the best things I have learned about Shame is that it’s crucial to be deliberate and specific about the people you trust to hear your Shame story. If they are unable to meet your experience and story with Compassion and Empathy, then please choose other people. We need to be cognizant of surrounding ourselves with empathic people. The reality is not everyone is worthy of our authentic selves.
I would love to hear back from you on where you are at on your journey to become a Thriver! Hit reply or email me.
Jenn Bovee is a Shame Busting Coach. She works with people all over the world to understand that Shame has no place in their lives today. Learn more about working with Jenn here: https://www.jennbovee.com/take-action/