When we think of trauma, we often think of tragic accidents, natural disasters, the death of a loved one or a frightening diagnosis. These situations rock us to our core, shatter us as well as everything we’ve counted on. Yet, there’s another type of trauma that can rock us as well and it happens when those we’ve trusted and/or were dependent upon betray us. It’s called “betrayal trauma.” For example, a child experiences sexual abuse from a relative, your partner steals the company funds, your spouse has an affair, your best friend lied to you. These traumas may range in severity but regardless, they all hurt because these betrayals destroy our trust. They shift our perspective, change how we view others and the world and leave us questioning our relationships and ourselves. How can you cope with betrayal? Here are a few strategies:
- It’s Not About You: These betrayals aren’t about you. Anyone who was “awake and aware”, connected, had even a moderate level of self-esteem, integrity and self-love couldn’t hurt a fly. As the saying goes: “hurt people, hurt people.” By no means does this make their actions excusable, but it does help you understand that you were the unfortunate recipient, not the cause.
- Stages of Grief: We know that when someone passes, there are predictable stages of grief as we slowly learn to adjust to our loss. Betrayal involves the grieving process too as you grieve the loss of trust, a friendship, or what you originally hoped and planned. It takes time so be gentle with yourself as you grieve the loss of what was.
- Healing Happens in Layers and Stages: When you’re betrayed, you don’t have a few hard days and wake up one morning feeling great. It’s a process and often one that moves you two steps forward and one step back. Keep moving forward.
- Support: Betrayal hurts so reach out and get the support you need. Whether that’s a trusted friend or family member, therapist, coach or healer, having supportive, unbiased people around you who see things from a different perspective can help.
- Be Watchful yet Hopeful: Don’t let a betrayal turn you into someone who is negative, bitter and resentful. Sure you have every right to be and if you told your story to anyone they’d agree. But, when you stay rooted in the past, it’s as if that person who hurt you now has power over your future. Take your power back and while you’re sure to be watchful, stay hopeful.
- Watch that Wall-When we’re betrayed, it’s common to put a wall up around our heart so no one can ever hurt us that way again. Sure we’re keeping out “the bad guys” but we’re keeping out “the good guys” too. It may be instinctual to keep everyone at a distance to prevent that pain from happening again but don’t deny yourself the love, companionship, and affection you deserve.
- Don’t Bring your Past into your Future: When we’re betrayed, it’s so common to look at every new situation from the viewpoint of the past…and then often recreate it. I call it “rear view mirror thinking” where there’s a huge front windshield in front of you, yet we’re staring at the small rear view mirror only to create more of the same. Break that habit and create a future you love.
- Mindset: It’s easy to replay the trauma or event over and over in our minds as we try to make sense of it. Be careful because when you’re doing this so often, you’re making that thinking a belief, then a habit, then a personality trait and eventually, a way of being. Once it’s firmly rooted, it’s now playing over and over at a subconscious level, impacting every thought, action, and decision you make.
- Take Control of What You Can: A betrayal can have us feel like our lives are completely out of control so controlling what you can, whether that’s what you eat, how you move, how you dress or the words you speak can all help you feel like you’re being proactive, versus reactive. This gives us a sense of power and helps us heal.
- Forgive and Set Yourself Free: Forgiveness is just a word until you actually have to do it. It speaks a language the logical and rational mind doesn’t understand and that’s why it’s so hard to do. Forgiveness doesn’t make it right, okay or that you’ve forgotten. Forgiveness is about you. It’s about letting go of the pain the betrayal caused so you can heal physically, mentally, emotionally, psychologically and spiritually.
Betrayal doesn’t have to become your whole story. It can become a part of your story of transformation as you learn how to take that pain and use it to become your most empowered and unshakable self.