“Any transition serious enough to alter your definition of self will require not just small adjustments in your way of living and thinking but a full-on metamorphosis.”—Martha Beck
An effective way to begin breaking away from any restrictive bonds which still connect a previous child abuse victim to their abuser, is a name change. This is normally not done to physically cut ties with the biological family, it is an emotional severing.
When a person changes their name, it doesn’t mean that they don’t love their family or won’t be a part of their life, or that they won’t help them in times of need. A name change for the purpose of growth means slashing the ropes that tie a person to any psychological hold the biological family members have, and from the emotional grip the abuser can retain over a survivor.
For victims of parental incest, the name on their birth certificate was given to them by those who inflicted the trauma, sexual assaults, and betrayal.
Even for people who who were abused by someone other than their parents, their birth name can be associated with the victim they once were. When a survivor begins to let go of the part of them that had been abused, and makes serious changes in their life, then they might want to shed the name that was linked to the victim they previously identified with. A name change can lay ground on the outside for what a healing survivor has accomplished inside themselves.
A name change can mean that a person is taking control of their life and shaping their destiny. We are all persons of free will. The change isn’t to offend anyone; it’s done for personal development. It can be liberating to cast off the name we had when we were once a victim.
It is nothing unusual or foreign for a person to change their name. Many people do it, and this includes survivors as well as people who were not abused. However, this is a personal choice; many people like their birth name and don’t feel any need to change it.
The decision to change my name came surprisingly and inspirationally. In the moments following a particularly emotional and difficult therapy session connected to the pain of my mother not protecting me, my mind was flooded with a deep intuitive knowing. I became overwhelmed with the feeling that it was time to take a giant step in my growth process. My spirit felt driven to flourish from a victim into a powerful healed woman. Previous to that moment in my life, I had never thought about such a major change.
I wanted a complete break and to be entirely true to myself. In addition, I didn’t want any confusion or to see my prior name on any paperwork or identification cards, so I changed it legally.
The psychological benefits far outweigh the cost and inconvenience.
I spent two weeks on Internet websites looking for the perfect name. I wanted a name with a meaning that corresponded with my new strength. Alethea is Greek for “truth.” Not only did the truth of my childhood set me free, but being true to myself has allowed me to remain free.
I found that those who are comfortable with themselves, and who have an open-mind, react to a name change with encouraging words like, “That’s great!” “Good for you!” or “That’s awesome, congratulations!”
However, there will always be people who become uncomfortable by a person who makes such a radical change, and occasionally a person’s rejection of a name change is due to insidious reasons. Some people like to control others or make them feel inferior and they will purposely call the survivor by the name they are trying to lay in the past. If the survivor allows others to use the former name, without correcting them, it diminishes the newly found strength.
A few weeks after I changed my name, I went to dine at our local Mexican restaurant. I had been experiencing abuse-related physical symptoms and felt generally low in spirit. The waitress kept trying to call me by my birth name. I corrected her, but she continued.
I persisted, “No, my name is now Alethea.”
The waitress kept at it. She wanted me to use my prior name just because she happened to like it –as if my wishes were not important. I was firm, but politely let her know that Alethea was indeed my new name. She finally understood how important this was to me and she complied. In that moment my physical symptoms completely disappeared. My depression lifted and I felt on top of the world because I had stood up for myself. It was empowering to speak up about what I wanted, instead of conforming to what was being forced on me by the waitress.
A name change can award a previous victim with tremendous power over their past. We are all free persons with free will. It’s okay if we want to change our birth name to a name to a ‘re-birth’ name.
Have a beautiful day.