Estimated reading time: 4 1/2 minutes
Most of us feel betrayed from time to time from small slights such a friend cancelling or little white lies to bigger issues such as emotional affairs and infidelities. Betrayal takes away our peace and well-being. The hurt can run deep, particularly in romantic situations where there is an implicit promise that our partner will not hurt us.This promise gives us permission to let down our defences and create a heart connection with our partner. Loving relationships are held together by emotional bonds.
When the promise to not hurt us is broken, it can feel like a betrayal, leaving us feeling like a victim and out of control. Our brains have powerful emotional reactions to behaviours that threaten our attachment bond. When betrayed, we can go from thriving to survival mode, feeling all we value is at risk. In survival, we go into fight—acting aggressively, or flight—withdrawing from the situation (passive aggressive behaviour).
The good news is that betrayal can lead to personal growth for both parties when they choose to learn from the experience. It’s possible to heal from betrayal and create a life even better than before it happened, due to new insights and wisdom.
The Three C’s for healing betrayal are:
- Connect: with your feelings. You are not going crazy as betrayal taps directly into your survival response. It is normal to react with strong feelings, particularly anger. Steven Stosny says you feel angry due to the following combination of feelings:
Vulnerability (sadness, disappointment, anxiety, shame) + Blame = Anger
It is also possible that the current betrayal could have tapped into feelings of previous betrayals. To heal present and past betrayal, observe and validate your feelings without judgement. This will allow them to flow and pass. Comfort yourself, as a parent would a small child and allow yourself to feel lighter and freer.
Steven Stosny suggests that the next time you are angry or resentful, forget about blame and justifying the feeling and focus instead on healing, improving, or being true to your deepest values. This will help to dissipate resentment and anger.
If your feelings are very strong or overwhelming, it is important to get support in a safe environment. Work with a wise, trusted friend or a counsellor—kind, gentle people that can help you make sense of your emotions and feel centred again.
Rather than focussing on blame, focus on the things that are important to you and bring you joy. Immersing yourself in nature or a creative project that you love can help to heal your wound and connect you to your true loving self.
- Confront your emotions: by validating them as described above. Don’t hang onto your story for an extended time. Ask yourself: ‘Why did the betrayal happen in the first place?’, then change the things that you can for the better. If you decide to stay with your partner, it is important to know they have the same values as you. If you value honesty and trust and they don’t, the relationship is unlikely to work. To go forward together:
The betrayer must:
• Own their mistake and undertake the personal work required to create new behaviours
• In words and actions, reinforce their commitment to you so that you feel safe with them
The betrayed must:
• Indicate to your partner that you are open to trusting again
- Compassion: towards yourself and the one who betrayed you. When you ask yourself: ‘How did I get myself into this?’, to reinstate your trust in yourself:
• Make a list of all the great decisions you’ve made in the past
• Write a list of all the people you can trust. This develops balance and perspective around the betrayal. Betrayal rarely applies to all areas of your life
• Remember life is a learning experienceTo trust the person who betrayed you again, it takes:
• Time to heal
• Constant action on their part to demonstrate that they are open, honest and trustworthy at all times
• Understanding from your partner in relations to any survival reactivity, until you feel calm and safe with them again
It can take time to develop compassion towards the betrayer if you’re overwhelmed by your feelings. It can be helpful to understand that no one consciously harms another; this is done unconsciously. The betrayer is unconsciously acting out their unresolved issues and feelings of being betrayed in the past. Everyone does the best they can with the skills they have at the time.
If you’re struggling in relationships, it can be an opportunity to develop new skills to create healthy, functional relationships.
The only sin is ignorance ~ Buddha
In the aftermath of betrayal, it can be normal to want to be alone. However, small acts of kindness for others will remind you of your true nature—of the inherently beautiful person you are. Don’t ever let an incident of betrayal diminish your light.
When you have been betrayed by another, perhaps you are betraying yourself? Your outer world is a reflection of your inner world. As within, so without. If you do not see yourself as worthy of the highest good, you are betraying yourself. Past conditioning, traumas, or limiting beliefs can prevent you from seeing yourself in your best light.
Betrayal can leave a deep wound, however, with commitment and persistence, it can be healed, leaving you to feel stronger and wiser than before. Healing betrayal can be a reminder of things that are not real and help you to reconnect to the divine, magnificent being you are.