At COR we talk about having three Selves within all of us: The Wounded Self, the Healthy Self, and the Survivor Self. Looking at the Survivor Self is the most challenging and empowering part of the process, because it’s a way of freeing up ourselves to step into who we truly are. This is something that is dynamic for everybody I’ve ever met. Every single person on planet earth has a Survivor Self. It’s a collection of strategies for meeting and coping with life that we learned as children. It’s helped us survive, which is why we call it the Survivor Self.

The problem is, as an adult, this Self doesn’t work as well  as it did when we were younger. It helps us survive, but it doesn’t help us thrive. 

What creates the Survivor Self?

It’s the difficulty of life itself that causes the emergence of the Survivor Self. We all, as children, went through challenges—some of them very acute. All of us go through some version of a traumatic experience. That’s part of the human condition. Nobody gets unscathed—and it’s more severe for some people than others. Wherever it is that we went through, we had to learn how to cope with it.

Sometimes our parents just weren’t there for us as much as we needed them to be. Sometimes we suffered severe neglect or abuse, and sometimes we just went through something as simple as divorce. Many of us grew up in broken homes, so we didn’t get the benefit of being raised by two parents who loved each other and created that safe space for us. Even though it’s very common, it has a grand impact. Maybe the love that we experienced in the home was conditional. We were loved, but we were only really loved when we did well.

These are some of the ways that we as children experience wounds. All of us get some version of this, and because we’re too young to cope with this as children, we interpret everything as if we’re the subject. Because we go through this, the Survivor Self comes online to help us cope.

We need to be thankful for our Survivor strategies 

Our survivor strategies helped us learn to cope. We want to look back at any of these wounds and survival strategies that we gained with compassion. The problem is that what helped us survive as a child does not help us continue to thrive as adults, because those survivor strategies are all centered around the theme of that wound. 

When we find ourselves struggling in relationships, repeating patterns, and becoming complacent, these are indications that the Survivor Self is driving the bus. So, how does this form?

The wounding that we receive as children causes us to speak the language of that wound. That particular wounding brings awareness to us, and it becomes a theme of our life. For example, some of us are seeking unconditional love—and it doesn’t seem like there’s ever enough. Maybe we’ve removed ourselves all together. Under this feeling is a wound, and our Survivor Self is responding to that wound. That theme of love becomes something that drives us.

That’s the main problem—the wound was long ago, and now we’re not dealing with life in the present moment because the Survivor Self is running it and focusing on the past. The impact is huge when the Survivor Self runs the show. We become profoundly ineffective and get stuck in ruts that cause us to waste time and energy. In some deep way, we never really get to own who we are—because who we truly are is deeper than this collection of strategies. We have to actually look at these strategies.

The first courageous step is to understand how and why our Survivor Self is running the show. It’s challenging—but empowering. 

If you’re ready to dive deeper into discovering how the Wounded, Self, Survivor Self and Healthy Self are impacting your life, check out our free self assessment tool here: