Betrayal trauma is a type of psychological trauma that can occur when a person is betrayed by someone they trust. The betrayal can be physical, sexual, emotional, or spiritual. Betrayal trauma can cause a range of psychological and emotional consequences, including feelings of anxiety, depression, and mistrust. It can also lead to difficulty in forming and maintaining relationships.
Betrayal can be one of the most challenging experiences to overcome. Be it a long-term betrayal or one that happens in a flash, the effects of the trauma it creates can often feel debilitating. After being betrayed, most people experience a type of trauma known as betrayal trauma. Fortunately for our healing process, betrayal trauma follows a similar path to the process of grief, including its 5 stages. Understanding these stages will allow you to work through the healing process with more insight and awareness, so let's have a look at what those are and explore the best way to work our way through them.
THE FIVE STAGES OF BETRAYAL TRAUMADenial
The moment you first realize you've been betrayed. Your mind momentarily refuses to believe it, attempting to protect you from the pain it knows is coming. You doubt your own eyes. You doubt yourself. This can't be true, you tell yourself, even as the realization begins to dawn. It is.Anger
This is the stage where you might lash out. You might say and do things you later regret. You are consumed by rage that can feel impossible to control. This is a natural response to betrayal; it is your mind's way of trying to protect you from the pain. The key here is to acknowledge the anger, to respect it. To have empathy for the voice in your head screaming for justice and/or destruction.Bargaining
Our minds are powerful entities. Once the initial shock and anger have begun to dissipate, your mind will likely try to find a way to make sense of an often senseless experience. It will seek to create meaning where there is none. And so you might find yourself bargaining, either with the person who betrayed you - or with yourself. Now is the time to practice extreme honesty with yourself - an act of self-love that will feel anything but. One strategy is to try looking at the situation through the eyes of an objective observer, or through your own eyes watching a close loved one facing the same betrayal. What would the stranger say about what's happened? What would you say to your loved one?Depression
The reality of what has happened begins to sink in. The weight of the betrayal, and all that it entails, can feel crushing. You might find yourself withdrawing from friends and family. You might lose interest in activities you once enjoyed. This is a natural part of the grieving process; it is not weakness, it is simply your mind and body's way of trying to protect you from further pain. The key now is to be gentle with yourself, to give yourself the necessary time and space to grieve, and to work your absolute hardest to fill your mind with thoughts of healing and growth.Acceptance
The final stage of betrayal trauma is acceptance. This does not necessarily mean that you are okay with what happened, or that you have forgiven the person who betrayed you. It simply means that you have come to accept the reality of the situation, and that you are ready to begin the process of healing. Remind yourself that acceptance is a strength, not a weakness - it is a sign that you are resilient, that you are capable of overcoming whatever life throws at you. Trauma does not have to make you stronger, but overcoming it undoubtedly does!