The young woman walked straight to me and introduced herself. “Hi. I’m a survivor,” she said. “Hi,” I said.
It wasn’t a meeting for survivors of any kind. It was just a shamanistic drumming circle gathering. I was in a process of healing journey and was trying out many modalities. At that time, I was highly sensitive to other people’s emotional state and somehow my attention was habitually drawn to traumatized people’s energy. Even before she talked to me, I sensed a tightly wound vortex with thousands of black birds swarming against the dark sky and the vortex was walking toward me.
No, I don’t want to be sucked in that, I thought.
I was taken aback that the woman introduced herself to a total stranger as a survivor. I don’t remember if she said what kind of survivor she was. However, my mind interpreted as a child sexual abuse survivor. The fact she identified herself as a survivor made me think hard. She had chosen that word to define her state of being.
During the drumming, my attention was relentlessly drawn to the woman. No, I don’t want to be sucked in that, I thought again. I could sense that she was looking for a “hook” in people around her. She was looking for a survivor to share the vortex with.
After the gathering, I told my friend about the woman and asked, “Did I look like that?”
Do I look like that? Is a survivor my identity? Does that word represents my entire state of being? I had to think hard because I saw myself in her. Trauma walking, vulnerable and dangerous at the same time.
When there are predators outside of the room, we need to survive. Our sympathetic nervous system needs to be on high alert, like a tightly wound vortex. Once the predators outside of the room leave, we can unwind (deactivate) the sympathetic nervous system. For some of us, the predator is inside the room. We carry the predator with us.
After decades of therapy and numerous healing works, I don’t carry the predator with me anymore. I survived but I don’t define myself as a survivor. The trauma doesn’t define me.