Colorado Life Coach: Victim, Survivor, or Thriver

Life is hard.

Most of us don’t make it through life without trauma of some kind.

Were you raised by alcoholic or drug addicted parents? Did you experience loss through the death of a family member or pet, divorce, a move, or illness? Were you involved in a horrible car accident or violent crime? Was your innocence taken by force? Were you betrayed by someone who should have loved you?

These and many other circumstances cause trauma in our lives.

The path back to wholeness often goes through 3 phases:

Victim, Survivor and Thriver.

Sometimes it takes time to fully understand the impact of an event that has happened. There is usually a period of denial and bargaining with God to make this awful truth, not be true. Anger and deep sadness follow. Forgiveness is the path out of hopelessness and despair. Joy will return if you work through the previous emotions and stages.

Problems develop when you get stuck.


Most people pass through this stage. Helplessness, anger, self-pity, inability to see choices, hoping to be rescued.

The victim feels:




Controlled by memories, depression, anxiety, hatred, bitterness, revenge

Physical symptoms






Sense of no future, preoccupied with the past

Out of control

There is a payoff to identify as a victim. People feel sorry for you and you can avoid responsibility for your life. If you don’t learn from the experience, you are likely to repeat the trauma or victimization. Victims often turn to food, alcohol or other substances to numb the pain.


Time does not heal wounds. Time plus an intentional period of grief, heals wounds. Grief is the only emotion you must enter into willingly. If you avoid it, you will not heal.

Survivors enter a time of grief and start to feel a sense of satisfaction of having gotten through mostly intact. They begin to feel strong. They start to understand they have choices and resources.

The survivor:

Recognizes potential to change and grow

Lives one day at a time

Begins to take control

Starts to heal

Lives moderately well

Is neutral about life; not depressed, but not happy

Realizes that they are outside the trauma, they have gotten through it

Realizes the suffering has lessened

Confronts the trauma

Begins to integrate it into their life

Begins to resolve their guilt

Is committed to healing, trusting, and restoring boundaries

Is influenced by, but not controlled by the past

Feels mostly back to normal

Many people stop here. The work is hard. They are tired of working on stuff. It’s fine to take a break here and there, but this is not the end game.


This is where it feels like whatever you experienced was almost worth it. You are active in life and committed to move forward. You plan for the future and are self-determined.

The thriver:

Feels joy daily

Masters goals

Sees themselves as a valuable person, not a victim

Reaches out to others

Finds meaning and purpose

Has grown from the trauma

Lives well

Experiences resolution of guilt

Is generally satisfied with life

Perceives they have moved beyond trauma

Feels peace, happiness, renewal, commitment to life, optimism—despite scars

Is committed to physical health

Is committed to loving again

Feels strong, compassionate-able to connect with others who are suffering

Has learned coping skills

Has a sense of humor

Is resilient, renewed

Finds ordinary life interesting, does not need “adrenaline fix”

Is open to possibilities

Where are you in this process? If your trauma occurred recently, you may identify as a victim. That’s OK. If it’s been years and you still identify yourself as a victim, it’s time to work your way into being a survivor, and then a thriver.

If you’d like me to coach you through this process, click here.

For a licensed professional counselor, call 1-800-NEW-LIFE.

From: The Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Sourcebook
A Guide to Healing, Recovery, and Growth

Written by Glenn R. Schiraldi, Ph.D

This post written by Colorado Life Coach, Carrie O’Toole.

Colorado Life Coach: How to Fight

Do you ever disagree with someone you love?

How do you go about resolving the issue?

Some people ignore it and hope it will go away. It won’t.

Some people scream, intimidate, and demand their own way. Others might back down out of fear, but this is not resolution.

How did the family you grew up in fight? Chances are, you do the same thing. Isn’t that always how it is? Even though we don’t like the way things were, if we don’t consciously do something different, we end up doing it the same way.

Like many things in my life, I never gave much thought to how I fought, until life fell apart and I had to deliberately learn new ways of relating. Through my own counseling, and then in grad school, I learned some communication techniques that helped me:

*Make intentional choices in difficult situations

*Stay in control

*Think through what I was really trying to say

*Really listen

*Take turns

C.S. Lewis said, “Don’t wait until you love people to act on their behalf. Act on their behalf, and you will come to love them.”

Make intentional choices in difficult situations

Stop. Slow down. Think. Engage your brain. Breathe. Pray. Stay calm. Go for a walk. These are not easy things when you feel irritated or angry, but they can help you act instead of react. Make a choice to think before you speak. Make a choice to remember you love the other person and they are not your enemy. Make a choice to only speak calmly. Make a choice to listen without getting defensive. I’m not a victim. You’re not a victim. Make a choice to take responsibility for your thoughts, words, actions. If you blow it, apologize.

Stay in control

You don’t have to engage when you’re out of control. Tell the other person you don’t feel you can stay in control, so you need to leave for a short time. Call a friend, take a run, pray and ask God to help you calm down, write about it, find a way. Only engage in disagreements when you can stay calm. Arguing when one or both people are out of control is dangerous and can have lasting effects physically and emotionally. Don’t do it! If you can’t figure out how to do this on your own, ask a pastor, coach, or counselor to mediate so things don’t get out of hand.

Think through what I was really trying to say

Keep it about feelings. Most people blame, then the other person gets defensive. “You did this!” “Well, if you wouldn’t have…then I wouldn’t have…” On and on it goes-no where! What if you got beneath the anger and found your hurt? What if you expressed yourself in a vulnerable way? It’s scary. You’ll feel exposed. Sometimes this is the very thing needed to break through the disagreement.

“I felt like a little kid getting in trouble by the principal and I wanted to hide and cry.”

“I was horribly embarrassed and it reminded me of the time…”

“I felt so misunderstood and didn’t know how to respond.”

“I just really miss you and I’m scared.”

“My feelings overwhelm me.”

Our loved ones will respond to our vulnerability much better than accusations, attacks, labeling or judging. Without taking the time to think through what is really going on, we’ll stay on the level of accusing. There’s usually something deeper going on, and we’re not totally honest if we don’t take the time to look a little deeper.

Really listen

True listening can only take place when the listener remains calm. You don’t have to take on the other person’s problem. Just listen. Hear them. What are they trying to say? Can you get under their anger to hear their hurt or fear?

This is our chance to provide a safe place for those we love to land. We can be the one who tries to understand where they are coming from. We can provide clarity in their confusion. We don’t need to agree, disagree, advise or defend. We can just listen and see if we can understand.

This is huge!

We don’t have to fix it all! Most of the time, the people we disagree with are very intelligent people! They can figure it out. They may just need someone to talk to. They may just need to be heard. They may just need to know we care.

Take turns

When each person knows they will get a chance to speak and each will do their best to listen for understanding, most issues can be resolved.

Red flags: If you fear for your safety, one or the other cannot calm down, or things escalate, please seek help. If you never learned how to fight fair, it just means you weren’t taught. This is a skill that any willing person can learn.

Change your families future now. Learn how to fight!

This post written by Colorado Life Coach, Carrie O’Toole

Colorado Life Coach: The Message We Send

“You talk too much!”

“You’re really shy.”

“What were you thinking?”

“You think you’re perfect?”

We have lots of experience with people telling us who they think we are, and whether they approve. How much of that stays with us through our lives?

I’m a serious extravert! That means I get energy from being with people. It also means I can hardly think without words coming out of my mouth. For my introverted friends who think things through in a thoughtful manner and then say something profound, this is baffling. It can seem like I’m rambling, and maybe I am. The thing is, what they do internally, I do externally. Sometimes it feels like I’m going to explode if I have something I need to process and can’t find someone to talk to.

“You never have to wonder what SHE’S thinking!”

I heard that often growing up, and not necessarily in a positive way. As an adult, someone close to me said, “Just because you learned it, doesn’t mean we all have to learn it!” Because of these and other statements, I’ve tried to send the message that I don’t need to speak up. I used to be super outgoing and could make friends anytime, anywhere. Through the years, I noticed myself holding back. I didn’t want people to tell me to shut up because I talked too much. It hurt.

So I held back.

Several years ago, my husband and I attended The Ultimate Leadership Workshop, by Henry Cloud and John Townsend. We spent a week in California learning about leading from your character, what our character weaknesses were, and processing this in groups. My group told me late in the week that I needed to speak up sooner They noticed I usually let everyone else go before I would make a comment.


I had tried so hard to stop what I thought was annoying to people, and now they were asking me to speak sooner and more often. They valued what I had to say.

Like many people, I’ve experience some tough things in life, and I’ve learned much from it. One of my gifts is sharing what I’ve learned with others. I love researching, processing the information, and figuring out how to share it with those I love. I’m good at it, and it’s been helpful to others.

And I still struggle with feeling I have nothing to offer.

I’m currently running a relationship group that I developed. It’s really great information and I believe it can help change people’s lives. Yet, I struggle figuring out how to talk about it. I don’t want to sound egotistical, or that I’m trying to force my information down people’s throats.

Yesterday I got an email from a current member of my group. She told me she thought I had undersold the group with my promotional flyer. From her email:

“You didn’t undersell it in your intro with us last week (ie: you can change your legacy), but I’m not sure if your pdf. encompasses the breadth of it. I really am crazy excited about this class. I left feeling privileged too, like you’re probably one of the few people that have ever done so much research on attachment, that I was privy to something life-changing. I have high hopes after last week, ‘cuz it was just that good!”

Wow! Sometimes I forget that what I have learned really is important and others could benefit. The messages I received have been holding me back. I don’t want my fear of being told it’s not important and no one wants to hear what I have to say to stop me from getting this message to those who truly want it.

It may not be for everyone! But it is for many! I’ve been given a message of hope and healing and I’m going to share it with anyone who wants it.

How about you? What have the messages you received told you, and how do they effect the messages you send about yourself?

This post written by Colorado Life Coach, Carrie O’Toole.


Colorado Life Coach: Misunderstood

That’s not what I meant…

You don’t understand…


Have you ever felt this way? Have you ever felt totally misunderstood, misrepresented, unheard, slandered, or betrayed. I have. Many times. And then again last week.

It hurts. I hear myself protesting inside my head. The defensiveness starts. I want to explain. It’s not fair. It’s not even reality. And yet…there’s nothing I can do.

I reached out to someone I haven’t had a relationship with for several years. They needed help and I had a resource, so I offered it. They didn’t even notice that I tried to help.

The message screamed at me on facebook.

My character was assaulted. Wow! I have struggled with anxiety in the last decade and have made a lot of progress in this area over the last few years. The shakes in my stomach and chest returned with a vengeance. This felt so familiar! In fact, I was amazed at how quickly the feelings returned, as if I hadn’t made any progress in this area at all.

I wrestled with how to respond, if I should respond. What could I possibly say? I talked to my husband and my coach. I prayed. God answers prayer in the most interesting ways. Here’s what I saw posted on Facebook several times that day:

“When a gentleman is confronted by arguments that he considers foolish, he does not attempt to refute them with reason. Instead, he keeps silent knowing that logic is useless in the war against irrationality.” (From the book, As a Gentleman Would Say)

I pulled out one of my favorite books, Safe People, by Henry Cloud and John Townsend (I know, I’m weird). Here are the personal traits they list for people who are unsafe:

1. Unsafe people think they “have it all together” instead of admitting their weaknesses.

2. Unsafe people are religious instead of spiritual.

3. Unsafe people are defensive instead of open to feedback.

4. Unsafe people are self-righteous instead of humble.

5. Unsafe people only apologize instead of changing their behavior.

6. Unsafe people avoid working on their problems instead of dealing with them.

7. Unsafe people demand trust instead of earning it.

8. Unsafe people believe they are perfect instead of admitting their faults.

9. Unsafe people blame others instead of taking responsibility.

10. Unsafe people lie instead of telling the truth.

11. Unsafe people are stagnant instead of growing.

I have been an unsafe person. I still can be when I feel defensive or want to prove I’m right. I have been in relationship with many unsafe people, and it’s not a good place to be.

And, I’m getting healthier. I can recognize unsafe people more quickly than before. The “red flags” are brighter and I have learned to trust my discernment in this area.

I still have to take the hurt to God. Last week, I told him how much it hurt, how unfair it was, how I know I can be proud, but in this case I wasn’t. In that way that he does, God comforted me. He loved me.

He understood.

And that’s the whole point. No matter how many people misunderstand me, misinterpret my intentions, hate me, blame me, betray me, slander me, or spit in my face, God understands.

He’s the one that matters.

Can you relate? Please share your thoughts below.

The post written by Colorado Life Coach, Carrie O’Toole

Colorado Life Coach: Created For Connection

We were created for connection with God and with each other. God existed before he created humans in a perfect relationship within the Trinity (Father, Son, and Spirit). There was no need for others, because this was a perfect relationship. No one felt left out, all needs were met, no jealousy or competition, just perfect love. We were created, not to fill a need in God, but to share this perfect intimacy with him and with others.

How was this designed to happen? In a perfect world, there would be one emotionally, spiritually healthy man, and one emotionally, spiritually healthy woman. These two have a biological baby. I know this is not the way many of us began, or how many families look today. Please don’t read any shame into this-we don’t live in a perfect world. My family doesn’t look like this, and I’ll bet yours doesn’t either. Wouldn’t it be nice, though?

Baby has a need. She cries. Mom or Dad meet the need. Baby feels comforted and secure. As this cycle repeats, she begins to trust that Mom and Dad will meet her needs in the future. She connects to them. She feels safe in voicing her needs, and feels worthy of them being met. She learns to trust that others will meet her needs, so she continues to ask.

As she grows up, this trust is extended to teachers, friends and relatives. If others respond to her needs in the same way, she grows to be a loving, compassionate, person who can extend empathy and trust to other people.

Most people did not grow up having two healthy parents, getting the majority of their needs met in this way. Ask yourself these questions to see if you grew up with a safe sense of connection:

Is it easy for you to trust?

Did you respect others?

Did your parents understand your behavior?

Were your feelings allowed?

Did your parents teach you to feel your feelings and how to deal with them appropriately?

Were you allowed to be a kid?

Did you learn how to fill your emotional tank?

Did you learn independence and dependence?

Did you learn to take turns?

Can you accept good and bad?

Do you know how to wait?

Can you say no?

Can you take risks?

Can you ask for help?

Can you work toward compromise?

Can you say you’re sorry?

Not many of us came from homes with emotionally, spiritually healthy parents.  That’s because they didn’t either! Nor did their parents! This isn’t about blame. We all do the best we can.

What if we could learn to heal this wound, get healthier, connect more deeply with others and change the course of our families? Guess what? We CAN! Stay tuned!

For coaching help with your relationships, or to understand yourself better, please go to:

This blog written by Carrie O’Toole, Colorado Life Coach




Contact Carrie O’Toole to schedule a confidential telephone call or appointment for coaching.