A Survivor’s Manual

Wounds that drip blood are colorful. Their bloodless counterparts, though more painful, are boring. They have no drama value.

I am talking of the wounds we suffer inside. The bruises of the mind, the lacerations of the heart and the battering of the soul. The wounds on our non-physical persona are invisible. They throb with crippling pain, but they are ignored.

These invisible wounds are the result of events to which adjectives such as adverse and critical are usually applied. These events have varying potential to damage and disempower.

For each one of us, crisis means different things. To me crisis might mean an altercation with a colleague at work, to you crisis might mean your doctor telling you that you have barely three months to live. What defines a crisis as one is not really the devastation- in objective terms- that it can wreak. Our assessment of the impact a crisis will have one some aspect of our well-being is purely personal, and utterly subjective. I might look at what you define as crisis and curl up my lip in derision, but that doesn’t mean it is any less painful to you.

A human being’s capacity to bear adversity is also a function of his conditioning. By conditioning I mean the exposure he has had to adverse circumstances. We build up our ability on the basis of past experience. Once we have successfully dealt with one adversity, we are able to deal with a bigger one. This brings the  adversity bearing threshold up another notch. While an altercation with a colleague might absolutely disempower one person, another might take it in his stride and just brush it off.

The interpretation of an adversity as devastating event and our capacity to deal with that interpretation, are interwoven. The first precedes the second. If at all there is some way we can exercise our freedom to choose, it is only at stage one. If we don’t choose to interpret an event as debilitating, then the whole process of recovery need not be gone through. Since prevention is better than cure, it is surely desirable that we kill the monster when it is little.

To learn how NOT to identify an event as disempowering is not very easy. It takes practice or it needs a major shift in paradigm. Once however, you have interpreted an event as an adversity and are feeling helpless and disempowered, there are other tools to employ.Survivors Manual

There are some patent pick-me ups… the kind of quick-fixes that today’s motivational literature is made up of. You could search the net and bring out more happy- making tricks than you would know what to do with. I will not be elaborating on them. There are two reasons for not elaborating. Apart from the sheer waste of time duplicating a service already available elsewhere, I have never really found the strategies effective.  As a matter of fact, I have found them shallow, manipulative and condescending.

I want to talk instead of the times when the pick-me-ups fail to pick you up from where you have been flattened out by the wheels of adversity as they rolled over you. Flattened you out so bad that you feel you need a spoon and a container to scrape you off the tar and put you pack together again.

That is what I will talk about. And trust me, I know what I am talking about- for obvious reasons.

Let me first talk about the mechanics behind the process. You see, what we are trying to do here is to heal a wound. If you had a physical wound, you’d know exactly what to do. You’d isolate yourself from potential contaminants, you’d give yourself lots of rest so that your body’s natural defense mechanism can kick in and heal, you’d dress your wound in sterile bandages and make sure you only allow the best food to pass your lips. And above all, you’d take care of you.

The healing of emotional wounds is not much different. You need to shut yourself in and isolate yourself until you heal a bit. At least until a scab forms over the wound. This might take anywhere to a few hours to a few days, depending on your resilience and past experience at handling similar pain. Whatever is the duration of time you need, you must give yourself that time.

When healing from a non-physical wound, the first thing I do is to change my reading diet. I read things that take my focus off the short-range and into the long range. I become silent so that I can give my non-physical persona (mind, heart and soul) a rest. I remain in the world, but I lower my being to a very basic mundane, physical level. I function as I always do, and most people cannot make out anything amiss. Meanwhile, I keep my non-physical (mind, heart and soul) sealed. I try being in the world but to not become OF the world. I keep interactions to a minimum. When I must interact, I keep my pain aside and not burden other people with it. As they say, when you smile even when you are unhappy… just a fake physical gesture… before long you stop feeling as if there is no hope. And that is so very necessary; because when hope dies, everything dies- inside.

Once the event has tided over and my consciousness has stopped panicking over the hurt, then I open all the bottled, sealed up issues and their associated pain, and I deal with it. I never, but NEVER forget to do this. There was a time I  would promptly forget the whole issue once it stopped hurting. I almost felt foolish bringing up a ‘dead’ issue again. It seemed revengeful and mean to me.

But I learned that sealed bottles containing ‘dead’ matters, cause issues to fester and rot. This decomposing matters generate terrible acids… they scald your mind, set your heart on fire and finally kill your soul. I make sure I have no issues lying around. It makes for easier nights. 🙂

If you are able to remain partially in the world, keep functioning normally while some part of you remains sealed up, it is very good. But there are times when this doesn’t work and you need additional ammunition.

There might come a time when partial isolation will fail. It is then that you must draw your energies inward and turn into yourself. To do this, you must climb the pinnacles of your consciousness, kick away the ladder, shut the door and bolt it fast. Once you are with yourself, sit down and make friends with YOU.

I spent years at war with myself. I look back on the war years and I wonder why I did it. Of all the battles I have fought with the world without, none has been as bloody (or pointless) as the one I have fought with myself.

I never became my own friend. I didn’t watch out for me. I didn’t protect me from anything. I didn’t encourage me, didn’t console, didn’t offer me a shoulder to cry on. I didn’t find excuses for me as I should have- knowing how very judgmental I am towards me. I didn’t give me a break. I never validated me.

Instead I did everything I could to throw me to the wolves. I talked to myself in a manner that would put the worst slave-owner to shame. I sat in judgment upon myself at the slightest pretext- I even blamed myself for the mistakes other people made. I poured the oil of ridicule upon my own head and took pride in setting myself aflame.

Not anymore.

Today will be the day I will start being my friend. Today, and for the rest of my time on this earth- and beyond. I will watch out for my best interest, I will encourage, I will give myself a break and get me off the hook. I will not beat myself up for other people’s faulty perceptions and assessments. I will not tolerate other people laying blames at my door for sins I have not committed. I will stand my ground firmly, look at the world in the eye and become a shield for me. I will clearly and loudly pronounce one word- NO…!

I will say no to injustice meted out to me. I will become my own champion. I will accept, validate and celebrate myself.

This is a promise I make to myself today… and I am a woman of my word.

A Survivor’s Manual

12 thoughts on “A Survivor’s Manual”

  1. yes baby! you are a woman of your word! i don’t find anything adequate to say here; for you’ve said it all; and you and i, we don’t disagree all that much, do we? maybe very occassionally, but this is certainly not one of them! 🙂

    1. CJ…

      No we don’t disagree much. And never on issues of this kind. 😀
      I wrote this for us. And I know you know it.

      Love ya,


  2. Whoa! U spin magic with ur words lady! This is the 2nd time in as many visits my thoughts resonates with ur topic… Being your own friend is the most difficult… U go back to being a slave without even realising it. (i guess..habits of a lifetime does that to u) Its a constant battle to remind yourself that you are your best friend and not his! Thank you for sharing, it helps reinforce my belief in myself. 🙂

    1. Peace…

      Pleasure to see you here again. I am so glad my words have found resonance in you.

      Here’s hoping for more visits. 🙂


  3. Well dear, that certainly spoke to me. I am going through some things right now, and almost all of them are related to other people in my life and not from within me. Very timely for me, as I have been on the verge of throwing in the towel and giving up.
    My opinion is that part of the problem for we women is that it is natural for a woman to be nurturing and to try to smooth over the problems for our children, our friends, our families. I think the male ego is much stronger in many cases because he is busy gathering the food and providing for us.. traditionally coming home for a nourishing meal and some of the love and unburdening he can leave on his wife’s shoulders.
    I have been a single parent for many years, having no one to rely on except me. Hard times have come and gone and I have given up and picked again. When friends are suffering I try to tell them that it will pass. But for our own selves sometimes we can’t see through to believe our own words for ourselves.
    Something about your blog made me feel that I can get through this. Nice reading you again!!

    1. Suchi Butter…

      Your words have filled me with quiet satisfaction. I wrote this primarily for myself. I wish I could adequately describe the gratitude and humility that fills my heart to know that while I was trying to help myself, I have also been of assistance to another soul on a similar journey as I am on.

      Being a friend to myself is probably the biggest insight that has hit me in my life. It was my pleasure to share it with you.

      I hope to see you more often on these pages. Share with me… tell me what is happening in your life. Share your thoughts, experiences and insights with me. Who knows how many people are listening..? 😀



  4. Just simply loved it Dagny .. admire your spirits.. the intense feeling of a woman who wants to be her own friend… so much relevant to the events that we have gone through and the bolder we become with each event, all that reflects truly in your words. Loved reading it. Thanks to you.


    1. Amudha…

      Such a pleasure to see you here..! I am so happy you liked this piece. I wrote it after a time of intense personal turmoil. This is the thought that helped me come out of a disempowered state. And so I thought of recording it on my blog. 🙂

      Pleasure to see you here… hope you will keep coming…

      Love and hugs,


  5. Dagny,
    Thanks for this great post. I wish you should have posted this in a public forum to a wider readership for I am sure many will be/would have benefited from reading this.
    The last para is like a booster tonic. ..and for me, a dose of anabolic steroid 😀 to boost my confidence, self esteem, self reliance, resilience to bounce back and above all the power/gut to say to those trying to bug/walk all over me “ listen buddy, you wouldn’t want to see me when I am angry, so keep away and don’t force me change into a “hulk” and tear you to pieces!” 😀 😀
    The bible says love thy neighbor as thyself. First we have to learn to love and take care of ourselves before we love and take care of others. And I believe we will never learn to love another until we love ourselves, learn to self respect and live a life worth respecting.
    All that you say in the last para is about loving, caring, protecting ourselves first and living a life with self confidence and not letting others use us.
    well,it is too early for me to say how good I will be in coping with adversity in future. And at present, all seems hunky dory in my life. but it is not going to be so. I, like everybody else, will have to face problems and hardships. And believe me, an article like this will certainly help me to pick myself up, heal my emotional wounds and get on with life when all other pick-me-ups fails. 🙂
    Wonderful stuff and thanks again Dagny for posting this “food for thought” piece of work.
    Love, hugs and regards………always.

    1. Bharathi,

      If you really think reading this will help anyone and that it ought to be posted on a public forum, you are welcome to share it with whoever you like. I would be more than thrilled. 🙂

      I am very, very pleased the last para has given you the feeling I wanted the reader to have. To succeed in what you meant to do is most satisfying. I am sure you will deal with the adversities life throws at you… though I wish there aren’t many. But then, that’s me being the mother again. 😛

      You were sorely missed. Did you know that..? Don’t disappear like this… I feel abandoned. 😀

      Love and hugs…

  6. Dagny,
    Thank you. with permission granted now, I will share it with those close to me. I took the print out of that last para and have stapled it to the front page of my yearbook. sure I need it there! 🙂
    I missed you too! No. I won’t disappear like that again! 😀
    I felt abandoned once! ..Remember? When you disappeared for a few days soon after I posted my comment on cindered dreams final part!!? 🙁
    Well, what happened was a close relative in Seattle died so unexpectedly of heart failure and we had to leave at once. ..came back last Wednesday and then I was busy catching up on missed notes …copying them from friends. phewfff!!
    Shall see you soon at your other blogs.
    Loads of love/ hugs till then

    1. Bharathi,

      I am so pleased you found the last para worth taking a print of..! You justified my writing it..!

      I know you too must have felt abandoned that time. That’s the straw that broke the camel’s back. I was so disgusted with Sulekha because of their too often techie goofs.

      I don’t know what you mean by ‘other blogs’. I am not going back to Sulekha… they make you waste too much time with their all to frequent breakdowns. Its annoying..!

      I am so sorry for the sudden passing away of your relative… may he RIP.

      Lots of love and hugs,

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