Meet Bigg Burd – Strength and Courage

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Our Phoenix Foundation takes its name from and bases its mission on the ancient myth of the phoenix, a fantastic bird that seems to perish into a heap of ashes, but then rises again in a triumphant blaze of energy. Many cultures have told their own versions of the story and have used it to convey important messages. A recent take on the myth in Western culture is one many of you know well – that of the Harry Potter books. In the wizarding world of J.K. Rowling, the phoenix can bear enormous burdens and its tears can cure even the worst cases of poisoning. Its song strikes fear into the hearts of the corrupt, but encourages the pure in heart to find the courage they need to achieve great things.

Our colorful phoenix, designed by Chris Sims and named by Larry Conrad, is our reminder to all survivors not only that recovery is possible, but that it can change the course of your life. The sexual abuse of an innocent defenseless child is a terrible crime, and the harm it causes can be catastrophic. But it isn’t “soul murder.”

The term “soul murder” goes back centuries, with various meanings along the way (as in vampires, for example). In the 1970s the psychiatrists Morton Schatzman (1973) and then Leonard Shengold (1974 and after) used it in the titles of articles and books about child abuse to highlight the severe consequences of abuse, though not to claim that victims’ lives were reduced to irretrievable ruin. In fact, their work highlights cases of remarkable recovery.

Nevertheless, these days “soul murder” is often used to imply that recovery from sexual abuse is impossible. It suggests that no matter what a survivor does, he will never be more than a shadow – a caricature – of the boy or man he otherwise could have been. It discourages guys who are considering disclosure, and when a survivor faces new and unexpected challenges or feels it’s all too much, it tempts him to give up or wonder if recovery just isn’t possible for him. It can lead him to credit such discouraging ideas as “it was a long time ago,” “get over it,” or “it’s time to man up and move on.” It holds us back from acknowledging the possibility that even though there is still work to be done, there are ways in which we are already thriving.

The simple truth is that recovery isn’t an impossible task. It’s a path on which any guy can achieve results he once thought would be impossible, or would never have dreamed of at all. No matter how discouraged or ravaged you feel, no matter what was done to you, a way forward is there for you.

Others will appear who will assist, encourage, and support you: a therapist, for example, a spiritual advisor, a mentor, a solid friend, an understanding partner, a circle of brother survivors. But they are not the ones who will provide you with the strength and courage you need. You already have that strength and courage. Recovery is all about learning to acknowledge these resources, trust them, and believe in them, and then using your own unique gifts to move forward in ways and at a pace that work for you.

The heap of ashes is not where we’re doomed to remain. Strength and courage – let the color and power of the phoenix logo remind you that we’ve all got what it takes.