Survivors and Transcenders

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Kizzie

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Survivors and Transcenders
« on: September 14, 2019, 12:52:43 AM »
By Andrew Vachss - http://vachss.com/transcender.html

I believe that many people who were abused as children do themselves—and the entire struggle—a disservice when they refer to themselves as "survivors." A long time ago, I found myself in the middle of a war zone. I was not killed. Hence, I "survived." That was happenstance ... just plain luck, not due to any greatness of character or heroism on my part. But what about those raised in a POW camp called "childhood?" Some of those children not only lived through it, not only refused to imitate the oppressor (evil is a decision, not a destiny), but actually maintained sufficient empathy to care about the protection of other children once they themselves became adults and were "out of danger."

To me, such people are our greatest heroes. They represent the hope of our species, living proof that there is nothing bio–genetic about child abuse. I call them transcenders, because "surviving" (i.e., not dying from) child abuse is not the significant thing. It is when chance becomes choice that people distinguish themselves. Two little children are abused. Neither dies. One grows up and becomes a child abuser. The other becomes a child protector. One "passes it on." One "breaks the cycle." Should we call them both by the same name? Not in my book.

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woodsgnome

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Re: Survivors and Transcenders
« Reply #1 on: September 14, 2019, 02:54:33 AM »
Words can only hint or point at progress in recovery, but sometimes how and when they're used can certainly influence one's feelings as he/she moves towards recovery.

I generally agree with the assertion that 'transcendence' speaks more to the point beyond mere survival. But then I'd boost it up a notch, and consider the role of 'transformation'.

I think the essence and goal of recovery involves both levels, hard as it is to really achieve either of them. So while transcendence is one step, the ideal (at least for me) would be to take that as a turning point. Then, having gone that far, there is another level that can be attained -- the transformational part, or as I think of it -- the giant stretch beyond the original injury, when one finally feels free enough to accept the past as being truly passed; without getting caught up in it again.

Tall order, and just words. And just a thought, not a truism. But I've liked the concept of survivor to transcender and finally transformer, where one can finally see some light flickering after the hard slog of climbing up and out of the darkness.
« Last Edit: September 14, 2019, 02:58:41 AM by woodsgnome »

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Blueberry

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Re: Survivors and Transcenders
« Reply #2 on: September 14, 2019, 11:56:20 AM »
But I've liked the concept of survivor to transcender and finally transformer, where one can finally see some light flickering after the hard slog of climbing up and out of the darkness.

So in other words a continuum rather than survivor or transformer? I like that idea too. "Survivor" was originally coined to distinguish from "victim" I thought. During and after the POW of childhood, I was a mix rather than all transcender or all abusive. I'd say that almost 'of course' to some degree abusive  - verbally abusive, emotionally abusive e.g. in FOO. I'd never learnt anything else, but I also protected others in FOO, e.g. younger brother. With continued healing I've learnt to act otherwise.

Maybe transcendence and the transformational point happen repeatedly? I think in my case that might be true because I heal bit by bit, one injury after another. There are injuries which I no longer get so caught up in - so triggered - and then there are other injuries which aren't even half-healed.

I haven't read the article yet, maybe after that I'll have further thoughts.

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Kizzie

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Re: Survivors and Transcenders
« Reply #3 on: September 14, 2019, 03:29:50 PM »
I like the continuum idea: victim of trauma - survivor - transcendence of trauma - transformation.

I do think it can be both positive and negative which fits with what Vacchs suggested; on the negative side you can 'transcend' trauma by losing your humanity (disconnect from your capacity to empathize, self-reflect, etc), thereby transforming into the traumatizer.

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woodsgnome

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Re: Survivors and Transcenders
« Reply #4 on: September 14, 2019, 03:30:14 PM »
I concur with Blueberry's feeling that healing can progress at different rates for certain injuries. When I think of transformation I'm considering a couple of reactions/symptoms that seem to have gone through altered perspectives. While some of the most painful memories kind of stick, in some instances I've noticed a gradual lifting of the more debilitating symptoms that I thought I might never overcome.

Some of these turns I've found surprising yet pleasantly transformative in lessening the painful residue of certain wounds. Others are harder to dislodge, but having transformed a couple of things leads me to hope there can be ways to transcend/transform other aspects even at the risk of not making it all the way (perfectionism). Sometimes there's a partial healing, but keeping up one's work can perhaps build a path to eventual partial or full transformation.

I find this fascinating, but mainly it gives hope to have  transcended and then transformed at least some of the old mess via playing (the best form of 'work') with options. In my own case, this has been greatly enhanced via therapy, integrated with staying open to those surprises I mentioned before (though it's natural to resist them).