How To Heal From The Pain Of Betrayal
We've all been betrayed by someone at sometime or other, and we've usually had little understanding of the real reasons for it. All we knew was that it really hurt, and brought with it shock, confusion, deep sadness and disappointment.
Being betrayed can really knock us off balance and cause us to question our judgement and choice of friends, business associates and romantic partners. How could they be so disloyal to us?
The spectrum of betrayal includes the agony of infidelity; the business rip-off; and the anger, disappointment, and perhaps shame, when someone we've trusted with a private and sensitive part of our life story then passes this on to others in the currency of two-faced gossip - a juicy tid-bit they can offer out, to get the attention and interest they crave.
Paradoxically, finding out about our betrayal brings us both relief and distress. It's better to know even though it hurts like hell.
We invest energy into our relationships and we expect this to be valued and reciprocated. We're brought up to think that this is the 'deal' – and a fair exchange. And it is, until someone devalues our bond and breaks it for their own selfish reasons (although we have to be sure we didn't bring this about ourselves by re-enacting our old dramas).
When we've trusted someone, only to later find out that how we thought things were with them wasn't the case after all, then we need to move beyond that shock and disappointment, and to start sorting through the emotional jigsaw pieces which lie scattered on the ground.
We need to find a way to fill in the newly formed gaps in the overall picture, or we may chose to change the picture because of the acute pain of betrayal.
Any of our previously unhealed emotional wounds associated with betrayal can quickly become reactivated too. Buried memories of previous betrayals resurface to remind us of how bad it all feels. These may not fit the present day situation but are more of a replaying of our earlier pain and confusion - which only makes us feel worse.
However we've been betrayed we can choose to see beyond the emotional pain, and then even become grateful for the other person having shown us how unsuitable, unreliable, disloyal and incompatible to us they really are.
They know themselves better than you can know them. They know that you're not right for each other – whether as a partner, friend or colleague, and so they've done you a favour by making this obvious and not wasting any more of your time.
It's hard to dissolve an emotional attachment with someone you've trusted, and it may need to be released one small bit at at time. It's like trying to avoid the pain of ripping off a plaster by doing it very slowly and cautiously. It still hurts. You get to choose the intensity and duration of the pain.
Pain and suffering are not the same thing.
The brain's area for processing emotional pain is located very close to physical pain processing area, and so emotional pain can feel like the agony of a searing and wrenching physical pain.
If you can focus on simply noticing the pain and drawing your breath into it, you can soothe the pain and calm it down. It will then pass...when you are willing to let it go.
Suffering is a state of mind...a choice whether or not to pick at the scab and delaying the healing process.
If we gain some benefit from our state of suffering – such as the empathic care and support from others – this might extend our need for suffering and to keep reliving the circumstances of our betrayal.
To be able to heal from betrayal it's important that we
- Become aware of what we are feeling and why.
- To realise what was missing for us that has resulted in our emotional pain.
- To learn how we can soothe and comfort ourselves and build up a resilient point of view that helps to shift the betrayer into the background of our life's memories.
- Acceptance of 'what is' allows us to place the events into the bigger picture of our unfolding life. It will one day become just another feature of our overall journey.
- Shift perspective - and remember that a flat featureless road is boring and predictably safe. Wouldn't you rather have a few interesting twists and turns along the way to challenge your navigational skills?
- Feel grateful for the new knowledge and awareness this experience brings, and the opportunity to learn how to overcome it.
- Focus upon moving on ahead – with new rituals, structure and wisdom. You will be attracting new people, challenges and opportunities ahead so you might as well be open to them and not be stuck or blocked in the place of feeling betrayed. Others may betray you in future, or they may not. That, as they say, is life.
- Keep trusting in yourself to make new and more reliable connections in future.
- Be open to loyalty - both as a giver and a receiver. Don't betray yourself in your thoughts and actions and give yourself the loving loyalty you, and your inner child deserves. Your inner child is counting on you being the one person who won't ever let them down.
Betrayal helps us to refine our filter, and to sharpen our focus and target.
You have a choice about who to let into your life and the level of emotional attachment you develop with them – which will ultimately be a reflection of your relationship with yourself.
Maxine Harley (MSc Psychotherapy) MIND HEALER & MENTOR
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