Symbolism is a powerful aspect of the modern world. Everything from marketing to movies contains symbolism that Americans interpret on a daily basis. However, symbolism can also be a helpful tool for those who have survived past traumatic events. For example, the semi-colon tattoo and jewelry has become a popular method for people to express a past suicide attempt and AWE (Alive We're Empowered) jewelry has come to represent people who have survived a past trauma. These symbols can help survivors in several ways. Below are four ways that symbolism can help domestic abuse survivors.
Give a Way for Survivors to Voice Their Stories
Often, survivors of domestic abuse have difficulty telling others about what they have experienced. However, sometimes it is important for a survivor to share their experience. For example, when starting a new relationship with a new partner, it may be helpful to disclose the fact that you are a survivor of abuse. Other times, sharing the story of your abuse can be a way for you to heal or to help others who are in a similar situation. Symbols can help you start a conversation by explaining what the symbol means and then, when you are ready, relating the symbol to your personal experiences.
Allow Survivors to Concentrate On Their Own Survival Rather Than Their Abuse
When choosing a symbol as a talisman, such as a semi-colon tattoo or AWE pendant, you are choosing which aspect of your abuse you are focusing on. For many survivors, they want to concentrate on their own strength and resilience rather than reliving the abuse that they have experienced. Wearing a symbol that represents the fact that you are a survivor rather than a victim can help you concentrate on that aspect of your life and also help facilitate emotional healing. This can be especially helpful if you have a difficult time concentrating on your current life and you frequently have flashbacks or strong memories of your past abuse that contribute to current depression or anxiety.
Allow Others to Know About Their History
Although symbols often have an internal, personal significance, they also often have a social meaning. For example, awareness ribbons in various colors help raise awareness for various causes. Similarly, symbols of survival and abuse help raise general awareness of abuse while letting those you interact with know that you are the survivor of a past trauma. This can help remind your friends and loved ones to avoid certain topics that might trigger an adverse reaction in you or to address certain topics in a sensitive way. This can make it easier for you to interact with others, especially if you are dealing with recent abuse or are currently undergoing therapy for a past abuse and are feeling particularly sensitive about it.
Encourage Survivors to Explore Their Experiences
Symbolism is often used in therapy to help survivors of abuse explore their past experiences. Often, this involves using your natural metaphors for your feelings and experiences to build a model of your past abuse that allows you to thoroughly process it and move forward. However, sometimes it is difficult for survivors to share their natural metaphors for their past experiences. In these situations, taking an external symbolism of trauma survival can help begin building a vocabulary for survivors to discuss their trauma with their therapist. From an external symbol, personal metaphors may eventually develop.
Each survivor deals with past abuse in a different way. Symbolism can be one helpful way for you to embrace your current life while remembering the strength and resilience that got you through past situations.