June 22

Victim or Survivor?

A few weeks ago I wrote about The Best Possible Outcome – What To Do When Worries Stack Up. I want to go into further detail about the how to keep focus on the best possible outcome, even when it’s really tempting to give in to the feelings of worries about ‘what if’ something doesn’t go as you hope it will?

Life sometimes feels like a beautiful scenic drive, where some days it’s overcast, and the colors and beauty are not always as clear and vibrant…

some days the skies are clear, the sun is warm, and everything is so beautiful…

and then, sometimes the road leads you to a patch of trees where the sun beats through and flickers, making it hard to see the road. The beat of the light can be so insistent, you are counting the seconds until you can find relief…

Life can sometimes disrupt the peace with flickering memories, and with those memories comes unwelcomed feelings; feelings of guilt, confusion, sadness, mental pain, or numbness…

If we allow our mind to go further in to the feelings that come over us, the stress of life can push us further into some dark thoughts. Thoughts and memories connected to events where we were a victim of our own behavior, victim of a trauma, or victim of a crime. All of which is very real, and produces very real feelings that are valid and important to process – preferably with the aid of a * professional licensed therapist.

Am I A Victim or Survivor?

Sometimes we can be a victim to circumstances that are out of our control that are very hard to understand, and difficult to manage. We feel forced into behaving a certain way, told what we can and cannot do, and we can sometimes feel like our freedom is being robbed of us and it all feels so overwhelming and scary!

What I propose is trying on a different set of lenses which replace the word ‘victim’ with ‘survivor’. In my experience this new and different perspective has given me a sense of control. It will sound like this:

I am a victim of childhood bullying…
I am a survivor of childhood bullying…

I am a victim of rape in college…
I am a survivor of rape in college…

I am a victim of addiction…
I am a survivor of addiction…

I am a victim of a chronic life-long mental illness that will never go away…
I am a survivor of a mental health condition that I live with, I actively look for ways to heal myself and share with others the things I learn.

I am a victim of the worldwide pandemic…
I am a survivor of this worldwide pandemic…

<enter an example that applies to you personally to practice>
<try adjusting the phrase, replacing ‘victim’ with ‘survivor’>

The way I see it, the term ‘victim’ implies that you’re stuck in that part of your past (or present). It was terrible what happened to you, it was not your fault – that much is true… but stepping out of the victim role > into a space that still validates your experience and feelings, the term ‘survivor’ gives you a new powerful role. As a survivor, that person who harmed you, those circumstances you didn’t want to be in, those restrictions you didn’t want to be under — they no longer have power over you. As a survivor you take the power back! As a survivor you are now capable of helping to lift others who are hurting in much the same way you had.

What Can I Do As A Survivor?

As a survivor you rewrite the script of what your future will look like. As a survivor, you become more aware of your emotions, your behavior, and how to respond to your needs, and even the needs of others.

The ‘best possible outcome’ is a phrase I use to direct my focus of what I want to create for my future. How do I want this current frustration in my life to transform into? A tragic ending? No. A success? YES!

As a survivor you make the conscious choice to have a positive mindset. Choosing to remain positive doesn’t mean that things will always turn out the way you had hoped or wanted, but it means that you will be OK regardless of how the future events play out.

This by no means is an easy thing to do, but it becomes easier to do over time and repetition.

Action Steps to Creating The Best Possible Outcome:

I am going to use for this example an event that I’m currently experiencing. Clark and I are working on moving to Utah and selling our home. Anyone who has sold a home can understand how it can, at times, be a frustration during different stages of the process.

1) DREAM – Think of your greatest desire, and then a frustration that has disrupted that desire or has put that hope at risk…

My greatest desire in this move is being out in Utah surrounded by family, but closest to my heart is being there with my parents and being able to spend extra time taking care of them while they’re in their older age.

The current frustration is the worry that something may go awry in this last stage of selling our home, and something comes up that would cause the sale to fall through and we don’t move this year.

2) PERSPECTIVE – Take a step back and focus on the NOW… what is good that happening now, related to the circumstances… what do you have now; what blessings or what are you grateful for that you have control over now?

I am reminded that happiness won’t be found in the next place to live, in the next move, in the next thing. Happiness can only be found in the now. The future is just imagination, and the past is no longer real. The present is the only tangible living real thing. I live in a beautiful home, in a beautiful place – surrounded by so much beautiful nature. We live in a safe home, surrounded by friends. I am so grateful for this sanctuary where Clark and I have been able to grow and heal in. I can choose to be happy, and grateful, with what I have already been given. I can choose to be happy, now.

3) USE YOUR IMAGINATION TO WRITE A NEW SCRIPT – The truth is you only have two options for looking forward to your future. You can choose to focus on what could go wrong, or choose to focus on what could go right. There is no inbetween, and no other alternatives. Imagination is not limited to children, each of us, regardless of our age, has imagination that we use knowingly, or unknowingly, to create a picture of our future and present circumstances.

Worst Possible Outcome – Our buyers choose to back out of purchasing our home and we’re unable to sell our home this year. 💔😭

Best Possible Outcome – Our buyers choose to carry forward and we’re able to all feel like we’re working as a team to make this sale a success. They are so happy in their new home and feel of the same love and healing spirit that we felt living here, and Clark and I adventure forward to Utah to start our new chapter of our life – surrounded by family, and enjoy precious time with our parents!

Which outcome feels better to read and focus on? If logic tells us that we cannot doubt and have faith at the same time; we can only focus on one or the other, why not choose the happier, more positive outcome to focus and hope for?

4) USE THE LAW OF ATTRACTION – There is a new age thought philosophy that ‘the Law of Attraction’ is the belief that the positive or negative thoughts bring positive or negative experiences into a person’s life.

Have you ever walked into a room and there was just one person who seemed very nervous, and out of place. They seemed uncontrollably worried and frantic and the vibe in the room immediately changed to where everyone began to worry too.

Flip the scenario, have you ever been in a room where someone was really happy, they were funny, and they just seemed to glow with happiness and love. Negative circumstances came up, but they were able to calmly acknowledge the negative, shed some light on how to address and resolve those issues and move forward. The vibe in that room felt good, didn’t it?

The Law of Attraction says that you will attract into your life whatever you focus on. Whatever you give your energy and attention to will come back to you. So, if you stay focused on the good and positive things in your life, you will automatically, according to the LOA, attract more good and positive things into your life.

There is more to focusing on the best possible outcome that I am learning, and will share more from my continued experience practicing it, in future articles that I post to this blog. I hope what I’ve shared above helps you begin to make use of this technique too, to help improve and bring more light and love, and hope into your life. If you found this article helpful, please feel free to share with your friends and family. 😊💚☮️


* Speaking about trauma and instances where people became a victim to a horrific event can be difficult. I had mentioned above that it is important to speak to a trained professional about those difficult experiences from the past. From personal experience, these people I’m listing below have helped me through various periods of my past that I needed assistance in healing from, they may be able to help you too:

Nadine Kennington Cooper, Sandy UT, specializes in NLP Therapy: (801) 205-0386

Laura Nielson Denke, Los Angeles CA, specializes in LMHC & LMFT Counseling: (206) 789-1011

Dr. Mark Chamberlain, Salt Lake City UT, specializes in addiction recovery: (801) 564-7566

There are countless other options available, one of which is Amen Clinics. Dr. Daniel Amen has several clinics worldwide. I’m currently taking a Mental Health course that he offers, and hope to be certified in the near future as a Mental Health Coach. He specializes in brain trauma, and focuses his practice on brain scans (physically looking at the part of the body that is in need of treatment, and thus getting a more accurate and proof of diagnosis). Visit his website to learn more about what services his clinic provides that might help you or your loved one: https://www.amenclinics.com/

If you or a loved one is feeling suicidal, or you may feel they, or you, might be a danger to yourself, please call 911 or reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255…


Mental Health Monday

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  1. Using the term “victim vs survivor” has been a debate for many years. I still haven’t decided which I like best.

    The common point for using “survivor” is usually because the term victim can be disempowering and shame-based,, and continue to hold people “hostage” in the past, as you pointed out.

    The flip side of that is that there is honour and respect in acknowledging the pain and suffering that happens when someone is victimized. That someone did something unwanted, hurtful and demeaning to them. Switching this to “survivor” can seem to take the responsibility off the perpetrator.

    Perhaps there is a place for an “and” instead of an “or.” It fits with a lot of what you are saying. It’s the difference between past and present, and how long we keep victimizing ourselves after the initial incident or experience.

    I was a victim of ________________ and now I’m a survivor, instead of I am a victim of _____________. What we want is the answer to “who am I now?”

    Survivor is more empowering in many ways. Maybe it comes as part of the healing journey. Trying to soften the fact that someone was a victim by calling them a survivor can be unhealthy in some ways.

    I wonder how much of how we want to change victim to survivor has to do with the experience? Or maybe it’s just been my experience.

    I’ve heard this debate mostly for abuse related victimization.

    I don’t hear people say “I’m a survivor of financial fraud” or “I’m a survivor of theft”. They might say they are a survivor of a robbery. I can’t say I’ve heard “I’m a robbery survivor” very often, if ever. Why are those victims looked at with understanding and compassion, without needing to call them survivors?

    Does this debate show up more for actions against our bodies and minds because there is shame, guilt, and sometimes perceived responsibility of the victim in what happened – that maybe they caused or contributed to the abuse? Is that why we want to not use the word victim – because we aren’t sure it fits? Or is it because we know that their self-esteem is so badly battered from the abuse that we want to have something more “empowering” to offer them.

    I’m not sure I’ve offered any concrete thoughts. Just some thoughts on using “survivor” vs “victim”. Even after 25 or more years since I was first in a debate about this, I still don’t know which is most helpful.

    1. Wow, you have some great thoughts here Lorna! Thank you so much for sharing. I agree, it’s a sensitive topic— under what circumstances makes someone a victim.

      I like the thought you ended with, in your comment, “we know that their self-esteem is so badly battered from the abuse that we want to have something more “empowering” to offer them.” That’s really what I had in mind when I’ve thought, over several years as well, how to heal myself and what I’ve found that has helped me – which may also help others. We’re all searching for ways to become stronger people. Both of these words can have powerful effects on the mind. Both validate the truth, and feelings, but I do feel that one offers more than the other in terms of progressive healing. However, like you said, it’s definitely worth a discussion, and a discussion that will probably always be left open for personal interpretation 🙂

      Thanks again for adding your thoughts!!! 🙂

      1. Thanks Becky! To clarify one point, the comparison of using the word victim in a circumstance such as a robbery vs using it for someone who is hurt in by domestic violence , rape, physical or sexual abuse, wasn’t about deciding which circumstances make someone a victim.

        It’s about why are these circumstances viewed differently when using the word victim. In one case, it seems to validate the experience, and in the other, it seems to be a more shameful experience. Perhaps the biggest difference is that in the majority of abuse cases, the abuse happens at home, often with a family member or close friend of the family. What happens in the home is not spoken about. And the consequences of speaking out can be horrendous. Is this why there is more shame? And why the word victim can seem disempowering?

        Some other thoughts for discussion. Thank you for allowing me, and being patient with me as I throw out some thoughts and questions this has brought up.

        I believe it is what we tell ourselves about the story behind the word that can make the biggest difference.

        Someone who grew up in an alcoholic home may tell themselves that they are a victim and that’s why they battle addictions and have controlling behaviour. They tell themselves they must have deserved the screaming, the belittling and if they’d only had kept their room clean their dad wouldn’t have taken all their favourite belongings to the burning barrel. If they continue for the rest of their life believing they deserved that kind of treatment that happened for years, then they stay a victim. And they risk perpetuating more of that behaviour of both themselves and someone like their dad in their life. It is disempowering to use that word.

        If they tell themselves that they don’t deserve to be treated that way and do their best to be a good person, knowing that at times it won’t be enough for their dad, then they become a survivor. When they learn about their dad’s pain, being abandoned by his parents when he was 10 and not knowing how to handle the grief after the death of his son, they can have understanding and empathy for him, and move more into survivorship.

        It doesn’t negate the fact that they was a victim of physical, emotional and psychological abuse. They had to be a victim before they could be a survivor.

        What are some other stories about survivorship? When does one become a survivor? In real time, I suppose, someone could be a survivor every minute they stay alive in their home. Is that when it happens? Or is it once they are out out of the situation? Does one have to be healed to be a survivor? Is someone a survivor if they go on to victimize others?

        Is someone a survivor if they repeatedly put themselves back in dangerous and abusive situations?

        Is there a place to say both – acknowledge the victimization and the survivorship?

        I don’t expect either of us to have these answers.

        And I may have gone off on a tangent not related to your post.

        Thank you for a place to go through this personal examination of an important subject.

        This has been quite an interesting topic for me to dive back into.

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