Ben Sherwood didn’t include child abuse or domestic violence survivors in his best-selling book, The Survivors Club: The Secrets and Science that Could Save Your Life. But, the Avon Foundation is featured in his list of survivor causes. And, he has a web page devoted to the stories of survivors of child abuse.
The Survivors Club: The Place for Surviving and Thriving is his website. I’ll add it to my blog roll for your convenience.
The Survivors Club is one we all want to join. You can get your own survivor profile:
- Click on SurvivorProfiler. Then, click on “new user.” It will ask for your name and e-mail address and e-mail you an access code. If you don’t see it immediately in your in-box, check your spam.
- Go to back to SurvivorProfiler.org and sign in as a registered user. The questionnaire takes about 15 minutes to complete.
You’ll get your profile immediately. I wasn’t surprised by mine: faith. My top three strengths were intriguing to me: faith, going with the flow, and instinct.
The best parts of the book are summarized in the next two sections.
Edie Eger, Holocaust Survivor: Danced the Day The Nazis Murdered Her Parents
Dr. Josef Mengele, the Nazi doctor of death, sent Ms. Eger’s parents immediately to the gas chamber upon their arrival at Auschwitz. Ms. Eger and her sister Magda survived. Ms. Eger was a gifted ballerina who survived her first day by dancing for Mengele:
Her life depended on her artistry. . .Edie closed her eyes and pretended that she was dancing to Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet. . .she escaped to a place of perfect beauty.
Ms. Enger became a psychologist in La Jolla, CA. She explained to Mr. Sherwood how she survived seven months at Auschwitz:
“I’m not a strong woman. I’m a woman of strength.” With no chance of rescue from the outside, she realized she would have to find help within herself. . . “the lonely [ugly duckling] child got her inner resources developed.” She was tough enough ~ resilient enough ~ adaptable enough ~ to keep going. . .there was no way to defeat the SS guards. Nor was there any hope of escape. . . “When you can’t fight or flee, you flow.” Survival. . .meant adapting to each new day and its unimaginable horrors.
. . .some have called Edie “the Anne Frank who lived.” . . .Edie says she spent each day focusing on making choices, no matter how small, about her future. . .Each decision ~ no matter how insignificant ~ felt like it reaffirmed the possibility of the future. If I can survive today. . .tomorrow I’ll be free. Her greatest strength, she believes, was her unshakable conviction that “everything is temporary and I can survive.”
. . .Whether you’re in chronic pain or a survivor of domestic abuse, she believes, you can still make choices to live each day, squeeze the most from limited options, and imagine the future. . . “No one can take from you what you put in your mind.” . . .What we need to survive ~ breathing, sleeping, eating, eliminating ~ is very different from what we think we need. . .People think they need approval. . .need to be right. . .need to be perfect. But none of that is essential to survival. It’s just dessert.
Survival Tips and Quips
- Carbohydrates trigger the release of serotonin ~ load up on carbs after a grueling day to rebound faster.
- Stockdale Paradox: unguarded optimism can make your problems worse; the key is to stay positive and hopeful while confronting reality.
- Resilience Prescription:
- Practice optimism.
- Identify a resilient role model.
- Develop a moral compass and unbreakable beliefs. Resilient people find strength in God, and in ideals and principles greather than themselves.
- Practice altruism ~ by helping others, you can help yourself feel better in tough times.
- Develop acceptance and cognitive flexibility ~ the ability to learn and adapt.
- Face your fears and learn to control negative emotions.
- Build active coping skills.
- Establish a supportive social network.
- Stay physically fit.
- Laugh as much as you can.
- Survivor Club Rules:
- Everyone is a survivor. Survivors keep going. They may want to quit but they still persevere. Survivors are super livers.
- It doesn’t make any difference where your adversity ranks on an imaginary Richter scale of survival. Adversity comes in many sizes and shapes, but if it’s happening in your life ~ if it’s got your undivided attention ~ if the stakes matter to you ~ then contrasts are irrelevant.
- You’re stronger than you know.
- Japanese proverb: adversity makes a jewel of you.
- The flip side of PTSD is posttraumatic growth: people are transformed for the better from their battles with life’s toughest stuff. Good things emerge from the worst experiences.
- Peanut butter is the best survival food in terms of cost per calorie.
- Ordinary people overcome extraordinary adversity.