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How to Heal From Betrayal and Trust Yourself (and Others) Again

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Ask anyone who’s been betrayed, and they’ll tell you that the “knife in the back” is not only a metaphor but an actual physical sensation. It’s been over ten years since I felt double-crossed by a business partner and walked away empty-handed from what I had believed was my purpose in life. The experience broke something inside me, but that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, especially when I realize that what broke was my naive and innocent belief that a good, honest conversation and mutual compromise could overcome any conflict. Sometimes, nothing can.

Mistrustful of everyone

In the immediate months following my betrayal, I felt suspicious of everyone. I wondered: if someone could encourage me to open up to them only to use that information against me later on, couldn’t anyone? I started to wonder if promises and agreements were nothing more than ruses to hide ulterior motives. Was I a fool? Was everyone out to get me? These dangerous questions threatened to put all my relationships under a dark cloud of mistrust.

Incessant suspicion was an uncomfortable mental place to be in. I had always prided myself on my trusting nature. But this meant I had often shared intimacies with people before they had earned the right to hear them. I had believed that a strong, reciprocal relationship could always outweigh personal ambition. I hadn’t considered that often, blind ambition is precisely the energy that destroys personal relationships.

With time and deliberate inner work, I uncovered the hidden gem inside the pain of my betrayal: a richer connection to my intuition, which then helped me establish confidence as I stepped out to build better relationships, and trust, once again. 

Here are the steps I went through to heal from betrayal and trust myself and others again.

1. Understand that it’s not about you

Betrayal feels very personal, but it’s important to remember that other people’s actions have more to do with their inner landscape than with you. They might be trying to prove something to themselves or others. Or, perhaps your energy reminds them of a previous relationship, and they are acting out of habit, insecurity, fear, or protection. Really, none of this is your business. When someone betrays your trust, understand that they would do that to anyone in your shoes. No amount of wondering why they did it helps with the healing, so if you can, let those thoughts and ideas go.

2. Understand that it’s completely about you

Wait, didn’t I just say that it wasn’t about you? Yes. But also: it’s entirely about you. Meaning this: betrayal of your trust by someone else reflects a betrayal of yourself by yourself. For example, in my situation, my body had tried to warn me in a hundred different ways that something wasn’t right. But, I dismissed the headaches, insomnia, and nightmares. So—where was the real betrayal? 

None of this is to transfer blame from the other person to yourself. It’s more practical than that: becoming aware of where or how we have wronged ourselves is how we ensure we don’t do it again. As author Byron Katie says, “As long as you think that the cause of you problem is “out there”—as long as you think that anyone or anything is responsible for your suffering—the situation is hopeless.”

“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” – Socrates

3. Forgive…or not

Many people believe that forgiveness is an important part of healing from betrayal. I agree that it can be, but forgiveness is a complicated thing, one that we often misunderstand. Often, we offer it too soon, trying to pretend that we’re “above it all” before we’ve fully processed the hurt. 

For forgiveness to be freeing, it needs to be an act that is all about what it does for you, not the other person, not a bystander, not even a well-meaning advisor. And forgiveness doesn’t mean allowing that person back into your life again at any level. When forgiveness works best, it resets your boundaries—the same boundaries that were violated in the relationship. And, it helps you reclaim space in your heart and mind that was transgressed. 

4. Cut ties

To effectively heal from a betrayal, you have to put yourself in a protective bubble. The best way to do this is to cut all ties, whether this is on social media or leaving in-person friend groups or social circles. For the time being, you need to put your well-being ahead of everyone else. While this can feel like extra punishment, wrapping yourself in a protective bubble means that you won’t suddenly see a picture come across your phone that reopens wounds that were just about to heal. Yes, you’re strong, but being around people who remind you of the offender will only slow your healing.

Don’t forget the energetic ties, too, and cut the “chords” that were created between you. This can be done via journaling or meditation, where you visualize these connections and imagine taking scissors to them. You will be amazed at how quickly this simple practice frees up space in your mind and heart.

5. Renegotiate your relationships

This is the step where you get to renegotiate your relationships—starting with the one with yourself. Can you see the signs you missed? Can you make peace with your emotions and body for their efforts in the situation? And, will you commit to listening more closely to the still, small voice within you that might point out something you don’t want to see? While we can’t always heal the damage betrayal does in a relationship, we can develop a deeper reliance on our body’s signs and signals from now on. 

You know you’re healing when…

You know you’re healing when you can look back on a person or an event and not feel your heart race or your palms sweat. You’re healing when that person doesn’t take up so much space or time in your life, or when hours or days go by without thinking of them. And, after enough time goes by, you know you are healed when you can look back with compassion for yourself while also recognizing how much wiser you’ve become. One day, you might even thank that person for making you who you are today. I know that sounds crazy, especially if you’re fresh off a betrayal. Ten years ago, I would have agreed that the idea of thanking my ex-partner was bonkers. But here I am, and I have nothing in my heart left around this situation except gratitude and understanding.

No one ever wants to experience a betrayal. But, if you do find yourself with the proverbial knife in your back, you can use these steps to melt that knife into wisdom, discernment, and a more intimate, trusting relationship with yourself, which will translate into healthier relationships with others going forward.

Keri Mangis is an author and freelance writer/speaker. Her work has appeared in Elephant Journal, Addicted2Success, The Good Men Project, Mindful Word, Thought Catalog, The Edge Magazine, Essential Wellness, and others. She writes about culture/society, spirituality, personal growth, transformation, and empowerment. She is the award-winning author of Embodying Soul: A Return to Wholeness. Learn more about Keri’s journey here.

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The Imbalanced Problem with Work/Life Balance

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5 Indicators of Unresolved Attachment Trauma

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Emotional Attachment Trauma

Trauma caused during specific stages of a child’s development, known as attachment trauma, can have lasting effects on a person’s sense of safety, security, predictability, and trust. This type of trauma is often the result of abuse, neglect, or inconsistent care from a primary caregiver.

Individuals who have not fully processed attachment trauma may display similar patterns of behavior and physical or psychological symptoms that negatively impact their adult lives, including the choices they make in relationships and business.

Unfortunately, many people may not even be aware that they are struggling with trauma. Research estimates that 6% of the population will experience PTSD in their lifetime, with a majority of males and females having experienced significant trauma.

Unresolved attachment trauma can significantly impair the overall quality of a person’s life, including their ability to form healthy relationships and make positive choices for themselves. One well-known effect of unhealed attachment trauma is the compulsion to repeat past wounds by unconsciously selecting romantic partners who trigger their developmental trauma.

However, there are other less recognized but equally detrimental signs of unprocessed developmental trauma.

 

Five possible indications of unresolved attachment trauma are:

 

1.  Unconscious Sabotage

Self-sabotage is a common pattern among individuals with unprocessed attachment trauma. This cycle often begins with hurting others, which is then followed by hurting oneself. It is also common for those with attachment trauma to have heightened emotional sensitivity, which can trigger this cycle.

This pattern can manifest in lashing out, shutting down, or impulsive behavior that leads to feelings of guilt, shame, and self-loathing.

Many people with attachment trauma are not aware of their wounds and operate on survival mode, unconsciously testing or challenging the emotional investment of those around them, and pushing them away out of self-preservation and fear of abandonment.

This can lead to a pattern of making poor choices for themselves based on impulsivity.

 

2. Persistent Pain

 
Chronic pain is a common symptom that can stem from early trauma. Studies have shown a connection between physical conditions such as fibromyalgia, headaches, gastrointestinal issues, insomnia, muscle aches, back pain, chest pain, and chronic fatigue with the aftermath of chronic developmental trauma, particularly physical abuse.
 
Research has found that individuals with insecure attachment styles, such as anxious, avoidant, or disorganized, have a higher incidence of somatic symptoms and a history of physical and emotional abuse in childhood compared to those with a secure attachment style.
 
 

3. Behaviors That Block Out Trauma

 
Trauma blocking practises are used to avoid the pain and memories connected with traumatic events.
 
Emotional numbing, avoidance, and escape via briefly pleasurable activities that distract from terrible memories or suffering are common examples. Unfortunately, this escape habit stops people from successfully processing and recovering from their trauma.
 
Furthermore, when the pain resurfaces, more and more diversions are necessary to continue ignoring it. This can be seen in compulsive behaviours such as drug or alcohol addiction, emotional eating, numbing oneself through relationships, workaholism, excessive or dangerous exercise routines, compulsive internet or technology use, or any other compulsive behaviour used to distract yoursef from intrusive thoughts and emotions.
 
These actions have the potential to prolong a cycle of avoidance and repression, preventing persons from healing and progressing.
 

4. A strong need for control

 
It’s understandable that some people may struggle with control issues in their adult lives, especially if they felt helpless or vulnerable during their childhood.
 
This can happen if someone had an overbearing caregiver who didn’t let them make their own choices, expected too much from them, or didn’t take care of them properly. As adults, they might try to control everything in their life to feel more in control and less anxious or scared. This might be because they didn’t feel like they had control over their life when they were a child.
 
It’s important to remember that everyone’s experiences are different and it’s okay to seek help if you’re struggling with control issues.
 
 

5. Psychological Symptoms That Are Not Explained

 
Individuals with a history of developmental trauma may experience a range of psychological symptoms, including obsessive-compulsive behavior, intense mood swings, irritability, anger, depression, emotional numbing, or severe anxiety.
 
These symptoms can vary in intensity and may occur intermittently throughout the day. People with this type of trauma may attempt to “distract” themselves from these symptoms by denying or rationalizing them, or may resort to substance abuse or behavioral addictions as coping mechanisms. This can be a maladaptive way of trying to numb their symptoms.
 
 

What to do next if you’re suffering from emotional attachment trauma?

 
Everyone’s experience of healing from trauma is unique. It’s important to be aware of whether you have experienced childhood developmental trauma and how it may be affecting your relationships as an adult. Sometimes, the effects of trauma can be overwhelming and we may try to push them away or avoid them.
 
If you notice that you’re engaging in these behaviors, it’s important to seek help from a trauma therapist who can support you on your healing journey. Remember, you’re not alone and it’s never too late to start healing.
 

There are several ways that people can work to overcome emotional attachment trauma:

  1. Therapy: One of the most effective ways to overcome emotional attachment trauma is through therapy. A therapist can help you process your experiences, understand the impact of your trauma on your life, and develop coping strategies to manage symptoms.
  2. Support groups: Joining a support group of people who have had similar experiences can be a great way to find validation, empathy, and a sense of community.
  3. Mindfulness practices: Mindfulness practices such as meditation, pilates, prayer time with God or journaling can help you become more aware of your thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations, and develop a sense of spiritual connection and self-regulation.
  4. Trauma-focused cognitive-behavioral therapy (TF-CBT): This is a type of therapy that is specifically designed to help individuals process and recover from traumatic events.
  5. Building a safety net: Building a support system of people you trust, who are there for you when you need them, can help you feel more secure and safe in your life.

It’s important to remember that healing from emotional attachment trauma is a process and it may take time. It’s also important to find a therapist who is experienced in treating trauma, who you feel comfortable talking with, and who can help you develop a personalized treatment plan.

 
 
If you desire to work with me on healing your wounds and unlocking the aspects of you that were never realized so you can achieve more success in your life then head over to awebliss.com and join my weekly LIVE online mentorship calls.
 
 
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