Victim Vs. Survivor Vs. Thriver
Trauma is complicated. However, understanding the differences between victim, survivor, thriver can offer a gratifying perspective shift to measure individual progress.
After all, in terms of mental well-being, sometimes all we have is our perspectives. Fortunately, our perspectives provide tremendous insight on how we see ourselves, others, and the world around us.
All mental illness entails a sense of survival, but, even within this context, survival refers to three stages: victim, survivor, thriver.
Stances for Survival: Victim, Survivor, Thriver
Who is the Victim?
She still feels fresh from the wounds of the trauma or mental illness. It still, very much, entrenches her identity. Even though it happened in the past, she still feels trapped in whatever happened. This mentality happens both consciously and unconsciously. Whether comfortable or not, the victim remains stuck in a vicious cycle of low self-worth, pity, and inner turmoil. Change seems impossible; the belief that she cannot get better consistently runs through her mind, wrapped in its own coil of negativity and despair. She struggles to see the light at the end of the tunnel, struggles to believe an answer or solution exists for her issues, struggles to trust and/or accept the possibility for change.
The Victim lacks the ability to see the light at the end of the tunnel (even if she logically knows it exists, struggles to believe her problems come with resolutions, and struggles to trust and/or accept the possibility for change. Her self-esteem feels fragile and disconnected; she feels unsure about her own identity and about what others can provide. In victim, survivor, thriver mode, the victim carries the largest burden of pain, resentment, and suffering.
Who is the Survivor?
She can externalize and see herself as separate from the mental illness or trauma. Within some or all contexts, she can define the trauma, talk about it, and process it as needed. The pain and suffering no longer have quite the intense hold over her as it once did, and she can perform basic life functions without feeling debilitated and/or guilty. She exhibits a sense of resilience and strength, though she may also experience feelings of exhaustion and/or fear that the cycle of pain will return.
The Survivor believes that change can happen because she has lived it. Yet, she still may question her progress or find herself feeling trapped in the abyss of her past or the riddling anxiety of her future. She may feel preoccupied with flaws and setbacks. She balances optimism with realism, though the new changes may feel fragile and raw. Confidence, while higher than before, may still waver with shakiness at times.
Who is the Thriver?
The Thriver reconciled and redefined her past obstacles into current and future healing. She turned the “trash of the past” into “art of the present.” She feels grateful for her experiences, even though they induced pain and horror because she can now recontextualize them into her life.
The Thriver has beaten the proverbial odds and sits on top of the world because of that. Her life can and has gotten significantly better, and she puts in a continuous effort to challenge herself, set goals, and invest in her mental well-being. She has reached a calm and mellow place of acceptance for herself, her past, and the people in it. An undertone of peace and self-love exudes from within herself.
Moving Through the Stages
All healing and recovery work at its own pace. Nobody has a magic formula for transitioning through the victim, survivor, thriver stages.
But, at its core, Thrivers, move out from their comfort zones and take on new risks. Thrivers choose to ask and accept help, even when it feels uncomfortable or strange. They know their strengths and weaknesses and cultivate both. They identify themselves as both the problems and the solution.
And, yes, Thrivers seek gratitude, even when it feels cumbersome or forced.
Some move into thriving quickly. Others never get there. The choice for freedom and joy always exists- as long as one trusts the light at the end of the tunnel.
After all, only you really have that power to move from the hanging thread to take the right steps towards healing.