Darden Bynum is a guest blogger and colleague of mine. Please enjoy his insights.
VICTIM TO SURVIVOR TO THRIVER
First off, congratulations. As therapists, we applaud you. We see that you have come this far. You see it too. You are well on your way. Just in reading to here means you have begun your own healing. You have started your own journey to thriving.
At this point in your personal development, it likely means you recognize your history of being victimized. It’s hard to address a problem until you recognize it’s a problem. Now you know.
In her revelatory book* on covert narcissists, author Debbie Mirza helps people recognize and heal their abuse victimization. She lays out what can be a path from victim to survivor.
An Open Letter to Survivors
You have been through a lot, but your story is not over yet. In many ways, it is just beginning. You have a chance now. No one is controlling you anymore. You are in good hands, your hands are full of love, authenticity, wisdom, empathy and strength. Let your idealism, that wonderful characteristic you have, guide and create a life that is all yours. You get to live with you. You’re very lucky.
“Lucky?” To be abused by a narcissist? She points out that abuse and hardship lead to developing an inner power that comes from knowledge and awareness. So how can that be so lucky? I’m lucky to be a victim?
Just the shift from a victim to a survivor can be fortunate, according to Mirza. Out of such a shift, positive change begins. If you think about it, our own experience and practices support this idea. We grow by overcoming challenges. It’s just that when you’re going through a personal growth experience, you don’t feel so lucky at all. It’s pretty easy to feel awful and unlucky.
The author concludes her letter to survivors by writing:
I hope you take time to nurture yourself, to place your hand in a stream and feel the beauty that surrounds you. The quieter you get inside through whatever helps you get there, the more you will see the richness that lies within you.
May you feel held through this tender time of healing and coming home to yourself. May you feel safe inside of you. May you come to know the truth about how valuable you are…
Creating a Shift
In our therapy work we know there’s a shift when a person moves from victim to survivor. Surviving is just that. Getting by. Coping. That in itself is accomplishing a great deal. What we know from our work with survivors is that out of any breakdown can come a breakthrough.
The breakthrough is transforming from survivor to thriver.
Beyond Merriam-Webster’s thriveˆ definition, “to flourish, prosper and grow vigorously” the dictionary adds: “to progress toward or realize a goal despite or because of circumstances.”
To thrive means progress toward a goal? Realize it? How do we overcome our narcissistic abuse circumstances? How do we progress toward a goal of a life beyond abuse? How do we accept this call to action?
On your way
Yes, you’re already taking action in researching to this point. Just by reading to here. You’ve taken steps to help yourself. Learning a new direction is realizing the scope of the challenge. It’s close to impossible to begin working on a problem without recognizing it’s a problem.
So first problem analysis then decision analysis. Next time: decision analysis, now that I know, what do I do?
So back to the problem analysis, the most important realization may be to take in that you are not the source problem. Though it’s now your problem to depersonalize problem. It’s not you. It’s him. Her. Them. Whoever it is. Now you get to thrive in spite of the problem. Be bigger than the problem.
Thriving despite the abuse, to transcend the abuse, means to blossom and grow even beyond victimization and survivorship. That’s how to begin a new phase of realization. That’s how to begin to heal within.
*The Covert Passive Aggressive Narcissist by Debbie Mirza, (Ashland, OR, Safe Place Publishing, 2017).
Psychotherapist Darden Bynum, M.A., M.S.W. is a licensed clinical social worker in Vancouver, Washington. His telehealth work with survivors of narcissistic abuse and domestic violence spans many years in public and private practice settings. He can be reached at [email protected].