This new label was chosen in order to convey strength, to empower, and to embolden the person as one begins the journey of recovery. The intent was also to distinguish between the moment of the abuse (victimization) and that of the present existence and experience (survivor).
Moving from victim to survivor is an important stage of recovery. During this phase, you reflect upon the experience, actively engage in facing and owning what happened, and recognize the connections between the abuse and the way you feel, think or behave. However, this recognition and sense of empowerment is not enough. While "survivor" is a much better label than "victim," it does not go far enough in framing an identity that leads to a thriving and powerful life.
Imagine with me for a moment that the abuse you’ve experienced has left a scrape on your knee – just as one you might get by falling down on hard concrete (in fact, we often feel battered and bruised as a result of abuse). This scrape, for many people, remains unhealed for years and years. At times, they may bandage and tend to the wound a bit, but they never fully heal. Worse, they come to believe it can never be healed.
Now, in the case of an actual physical wound, the skin does eventually heal and leaves a scar. We look at our knee, see the scar, and remember that day when we were wounded. Yet, we don’t feel all of the pain or other emotions that occurred at the moment we were hurt. Nor do we continue to compensate for the wound by changing our behavior – such as not fully bending our knee for fear of reopening the wound.
I strongly believe that the wounds of abuse can be healed and looked backed upon in this same way. We can see the scar that was created, but do not feel the pain, need to compensate, or constantly re-bandage the wound. However, this requires another shift – namely, from survivor to beyond surviving.
I remember very distinctly the moment when I thought, “This is ridiculous! I don’t want to survive my life. I want to live it!” For that reason, I use the term “beyond surviving” to describe myself, my clients, and others who wish to overcome the effects of abuse. With this simple shift in language and labeling, the objectives and goals of recovery shift as well.
It is my goal to support others in reaching a place where they no longer feel it necessary to manage behaviors or cope with thoughts and feelings that have resulted from abuse. Rather, I want to help others gain insights and skills that make it possible for them to live an abundant, powerful life that is no longer mired in the past. They'll see the scar but are no longer wounded.