Thank You for The Soul Survivor

The term Survivor Guilt was established in the 60’s to describe a reaction by those who witnessed terrible events where others were traumatized or killed.

Sole survivors of disasters, mass suffering, and terrible events, can be so effected by the suffering and loss of others that they find their own survival unbearable and develop anxiety and depression symptoms.

Survivor Guilt lost recognition as a bona fide mental disorder when the DSM IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) was published.

The term was usurped by Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

As human beings, we are effected by the suffering of others—unless we are one of the unfortunate broken people who experience no empathy.

It is in our nature as a species.

But unlike the myth of the Lemmings, who are believed to commit mass suicide when their territories become over populated, we do not follow our fellow humans into death or suffering.

That is not in our nature.

We are wired to survive by whatever means is required.

By the way, so are Lemmings.

They are actually trying to swim to survival when they reach cliffs and jump into the water.

They are compelled to do this for survival, not mass suicide.

The myths, folk lore, and metaphors have omitted some of the details of Lemming behavior.


Like Lemmings, humans are compelled to survive.

The only exception is when our wiring gets tangled up, either by external stimuli, mythological heroics, or distorted internal dialogue.

So what can we do with all those complex feelings we experience when we see so many people around us suffering?

You know, that feeling when your coworkers are getting laid off and you get to keep your job?

That discomfort when someone loses a loved one and your family is in tact and healthy?

That awful feeling in your stomach when you read about genocides, famines, disasters, and tragedies that happen to other human beings?

What do we do about the shame of having so much when so many have so little?

We are constantly confronted with the suffering of others these days.  From the homeless pan handler on our way to work, to the tear jerking photos on the television imploring us to Save the Children, the suffering of others permeates our lives.

I think that feeling powerless contributes to survivor guilt.

I think if we look deep into ourselves, to the Soul of who we are and realize that we are lemmings, (in the true sense) compelled to survive, that we are not powerless, just wired by nature to avoid suffering, we can also recognize the opportunities to alleviate some of the suffering of our fellow humans.

One of the ways that people with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or Survival Guilt cope with their circumstance is to assist others in getting through their own traumas.

That is one way to put a soul into survivor.

~ by leakelley on March 11, 2014.

3 Responses to “Thank You for The Soul Survivor”

  1. We most definitely need to learn to be more compassionate as a society.

  2. The Lemmings are an interesting symbolism. From Post truamatic sentenceing,, “the one who went before that i just saw jump effected me just like the first time..” by John Lemming; We see that the process must be stopped in that our animals must create a way to deal without the replication of the trauma.
    Escaping into others problems rarely settle ones own. Cure the earth you cure the children. find true love for self and your words are enough to help others. thanks lea.

  3. As you and I know, Lea, we frequently ask ourselves, “how is this serving me?” And, as you often ask me, “is it growing you corn?” So, I now ask you, “how is survivor guilt and/or PTSD serving you?” How is it serving me? It’s just not. The voices of our pasts are not where we live NOW. Everything before NOW, is the past and the future, and therefore, living in our memories and our imaginations. Our memories are vibrant and unimaginable; and our imaginations…well, vibrant and unimaginable…for most observers. Our mission is to keep telling our stories. They are not only OUR stories. They are everyone’s. Thank you for this post, LJK.

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