Victim, Survivor, or….?

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by Annie Kaszina on April 18, 2017

By the time you even think seriously about walking away from an emotionally abusive relationship – it feels as if your life, your future, and your identity have all been taken away from you.

As an emotionally abused woman, you don’t know who you are, who you can be, or even if you have the strength to recover from the ordeal you’ve been through.


The starting line for your emotional abuse recovery journey

You’ve just reached the starting-line of your recovery journey.

You’re finally been obliged to admit to yourself the reality of the situation. You’ve come to accept that Mr So-Much-Potential is simply Mr Nasty.

Still, you have to come round to really believe that, even though an emotionally abusive husband painted you as The Villainess of the Piece – and himself as the Wronged Superhero – you were, actually, the victim.

You know you’re at the recovery starting-line when it comes as a relief – and a vindication – to realize that your partner was not the man you thought/hoped he was. That finally proves to you what was true all along, that you always were more sinned against than sinning.

That’s why acknowledging that you were a victim can feel like the first – BIG – step forward.  It is a big step forward from the morass of despair.

However, victim status has a fatal problem at its very heart.  The problem with being a victim is that victimhood offers you a limiting view of yourself, and the world.

Mr Nasty effectively stole your identity, and left you in pieces. Small wonder you feel like a victim. That can lead you to feel you have to present yourself to other people as the victim that you have been.

Beware sharing your victim status

As one lovely client said this week, you feel that you have to tell people about your victim status before you can appeal to them for help and support.

Sadly, that kind of appeal doesn’t work too well. A victim story makes most people feel hideously uncomfortable. And when people feel uncomfortable, what do they do?

They try to silence the person causing them the discomfort – that is to say, you.

Understanding that you’ve been a victim is a great starting point. But it’s a disempowered place to stay.  You certainly do NOT want to do what one lovely client thought she had to – when meeting new people – which was introduce herself together with her entire “can of worms”.

I guess she thought it was her duty to inform people – a bit like the Surgeon General’s warning on cigarette packets.  Obviously, the parallel does not hold because the only person whose health my lovely client ever damaged was her own.

If you want to take charge of your life, and rebuild your happiness, you simply can’t afford to stay in that victim mind-set.  Still less can you afford to share that view of yourself.

Next step – becoming a Survivor

The next stop along the journey from Victimhood is becoming a Survivor.

However, realizing that you are a Survivor is not the end of the journey.  It is simply a step forward – although possibly not quite such a big step as you may think.  Here’s why.

#1, You’ve always been a Survivor – you just hadn’t realized it. You survived the daily torture of living with Mr Nasty. You’ve kept going, even when you wished you could just fade away. That’s bottom-line surviving.

#2, The big problem with seeing yourself as a Survivor is that it means that your point of reference is always the thing that you survived. That thing is your emotionally abusive relationship. For that reason, your Survivor identity actually binds you to the thing you most need to move beyond.

Do you see what I’m saying?

Don’t confuse status with identity

You don’t want to let being a survivor define you.  You don’t want to confuse your survivor status with your identity. You are so much more than that.

You will, likely, be ‘in recovery’ for a while to come, as you learn to ‘do’ Life differently. That doesn’t mean you have to be a wounded soldier, for months and months, or even years and years. It does not mean that the world needs to know about your journey, and the road-blocks and feelings of discouragement along the way.

It simply means that you will need to focus on how best you can learn and grow. You’ll want to revise the way you do relationships. You’ll want, also, to revise the relationship you have with your own feelings.

One lovely client said, this week,  that she’s the happiest she ever has been, in her whole life.

The ‘externals’ of her life are not perfect. She still doesn’t have the financial stability she might like. She doesn’t have all the answers to her questions about the future. She still has ongoing contact with her Mr Nasty over the children, She still has practical problem to negotiate.

However, her life feels totally different. She isn’t experiencing the negativity and the fear any more.

When I started working with this lovely woman, she had hauled herself out of Victim mode, into Survival mode. And there she struggled. The support she was getting hinged on the assumption that Survival was as good as it got.  That is my pet bugbear.

It drives me CRAZY to hear that anyone has been told they have a broken life, which can’t be healed.  That is just NOT true.

Fire on all Happiness Cylinders

My goal is always to ensure that clients have a fuller, happier life than they ever had before. That is not because I am wildly idealistic and out of touch with reality. Rather, it is because I know full well that they were never firing on all Happiness Cylinders in the first place. Plus, I know that they – with just a bit of help and support – they can and will.

A few months down the line, my lovely client has shed her Survivor status, like a skin that she has outgrown.

She is discovering,

  • Who she is.
  • How to be herself.
  • How to truly enjoy her children, her life, and her relationships with the people around her – including the difficult ones with family members.

That’s what happens when you move past Victim mode, and Survivor mode, into being the person you truly are.

If that sounds like a stretch to you, right now, I quite understand. Once upon a time, it felt like a huge stretch to me. Even “Survivor” sounded like a stretch too far.  Still, I found a safe path through the ambushes and the impasses that I now share with other women.

If you are struggling, you could be missing a few vital steps in the process.  I can help you.

If I can do it, you can, too.



{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Settie August 20, 2013 at 2:23 pm



Tane August 21, 2013 at 11:41 am

Dear Annie, you were right on point when you said you feel you have to present yourself to other people as the victim that you have been. I find myself doing this almost in a way as to defend myself. This pass weekend Mr. Nasty bestfriend who has witness quite a few arguments between us decided to diagnose the problem as he see it and was so far from the truth but i found myself in “victim mode” explaining its not me he says this and he says that! And i feel like im always trying to get someone to see my side.To please just understand….Im the victim! Here’s my question for you Annie…is it possible that he has others believing that im the one who starts the arguments and about things we’ve never even discussed before to make himself look like the victim?


Annie August 22, 2013 at 2:57 am

It’s very likely, Tane. There may be moments when he is aware that he wasn’t exactly Love’s Young Dream. But, chances are, everything he did and said that could be perceived as ‘wrong’ was only because you drove him to it. Allegedly.

Inside an abuser’s head is somewhere I really wouldn’t fancy going. (I imagine it as being a little like the inside of a compost bin – full of all sorts of bits and pieces in a fairly unpleasant state.) There may well be a lot of toxic feelings fermenting in there. But one belief that he will hold onto is that he’s a great guy who has been treated unfairly by… you, of course. So, it’s only natural that he will go for the sympathy vote, and try to persuade everyone he can that he is suffering because of you.

That’s his stuff.

You simply can’t afford to worry about it.

Your life is more important than that.


Izzy August 22, 2013 at 4:04 am

I have spent 6 years being made to feel like I messed up a beautiful relationship with a wonderful man because of the tiniest things I did wrong, most of the time in a daze of confusion. The “wonderful” man turned out to be a sociopath with a whole trail of women in exactly the same position as me at exactly the same time. How he juggled all those lives still amazes me. I got out! And only 4 weeks on am now the happiest I’ve been in 6 years. He is still trying to contact me to be nasty and threatening but I now have the strength to absolutely ignore him, which I believe is the only way to deal with these characters.


Annie August 24, 2013 at 12:23 pm

Good for you!:-)

Chances are, at some point, he’ll turn into Mr Wounded Little Boy Who Has Finally Seen The Light and make all the right noises about “Finally understanding”< and "Wanting to start over", and "loving you" and... Just make sure you keep the sick bucket near you because that, too, will be empty words. Ignoring him, and having absolutely NO communication with him is the best thing you can do.


Linda August 27, 2013 at 8:30 pm

The ongoing smear campaign… my ex-abuser is still at it, and its been 2 years since I left him. Absolutely NO contact is the only way to go,

I hear the crazy stories he tells others about why I divorced him in his attempts to cover his guilt and shame. Of course it was all my fault according to his stories, he is so good at eliciting sympathy.

It use to bother me that gullible people believe him, but yet, I was gullible once too. I don’t care what others believe anymore, because I am safe and out of his life!

Ross September 15, 2013 at 5:28 pm

I have explained myself too.Not as much as I did in earlier days of my marriage.But when i do that, I feel like it is a big risk, but because I’ve been through so much and had to be strong for so long, for my kids, my self,etcc.It momentarily felt ok because then the secret was out .But I see it only needs to be with very close friends, counselor or a support group.I actually told one person and think they took his side over mine, as he is charming….It gives me a sick feeling to see him.Also, my neighbors next door,i was told by my husband who used to party with them when he relapsed, said they never did like me!Although I never did a thing to them.But I told him that if that were true, I didnt need to know them anyway if their such a poor judge of character because i am not out to treat anyone wrong.So I dont care.


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