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Moving Beyond Betrayal

Moving Beyond Betrayal

Betrayal happens with the breaking of a spoken or unspoken rule within a relationship. The more we trusted and were dependent upon the person, the bigger the betrayal. We can be betrayed by a family member, a partner, a friend, a co-worker, or someone in a position of authority.

Which betrayals hurt the most? The ones which involved the greatest amount of our time, trust, and heart.

Betrayal blindsides us for three reasons:

  1. Without our awareness or consent, the person we trusted chose to break that spoken or unspoken rule, putting their needs above ours at our expense. This intentional decision is one of the reasons why betrayal hurts as much as it does.
  2. Betrayal sends a shock to the body and mind, imprinting the experience on us at every level.
  3. Trust, which is the foundation of relationships and allows us to feel safe, valued, and secure, is shattered.

This combination leads to a collection of physical, mental, and emotional symptoms so common it’s been named Post Betrayal Syndrome.

[Related: Relational Intelligence: A Look at How We Relate to Others]

So, how do you move past betrayal?

It involves unpacking and moving through all of the areas that were impacted by the betrayal experience in order to move from one stage to the next, instead of handling individual symptoms as they arise.

Digestive issues, fatigue, anxiety, and senses of rejection are all common physical and emotional symptoms left in the wake of a betrayal. It’s natural to seek the support of a practitioner to help with your digestive issue, see a therapist to work through your feelings of rejection, and take something prescribed by your doctor to help manage your anxiety. While that may bring some relief, it’s only a part of what is needed in order to fully heal. It’s equally as important to find meaning from the experience. What have you learned from the betrayal? What new insights do you have? What new boundaries are in place?

How do you do this? One step is what’s called "deliberate rumination," where you review the experience in order to extract meaning from it. This is very different from marinating in the experience, when you’ve gone over the experience endless times, each bringing you no closer to a resolution or understanding.

When you marinate, you feel stuck in a negative loop of emotions where your thoughts trigger negative emotions, and those emotions trigger more negative thoughts. It thus goes on and on without resolution or any type of closure. The intention of deliberate rumination, rather, is to make sense out of the experience so you can move forward with a greater understanding as to why the betrayal has occurred and what you've learned from the experience.

It’s also important to rewrite the story of your experience so that your experience becomes a part of your story instead of the story itself. This involves viewing the person who hurt you in a different light, working toward eventually seeing that person as one of your greatest teachers, because they taught you about who you are and what you now see clearly. I know this may seem impossible, but it’s an important part of healing, and can happen through strategy and planning.

[Related: The Upside of Trauma (Yes, It’s Possible)]

It also involves a unique look into forgiveness.

We’ve all heard that forgiveness really has nothing to do with the other person, and everything to do with letting go of the pain the experience has had on us. While that’s true, forgiveness is often challenging because it speaks a language the logical and rational mind doesn’t understand.

If you’ve been trying to forgive the person who hurt you through logic and reason, it’s akin to using a hammer for a home improvement job that requires a wrench. Forgiveness can’t happen without looking at the person who hurt you through the lens of your heart and highest self, instead of your mind and ego.

Moving past betrayal and into a stage called Post Betrayal Transformation also includes healing aspects of the self that were impacted by the experience. To move forward, you will need to rebuild your senses of safety, trust, confidence, and self-esteem after the wounds of rejection and the feelings of being disregarded, unimportant, cast aside, and unappreciated. When you do, you will realize that your experience has helped to create the strongest, wisest, most empowered, unshakeable version of you.

Not only is it possible, but it’s predictable, and there’s a proven system to walk you through every aspect of your experience - from betrayal to breakthrough. Your experience doesn’t have to define you or leave you sick, sad, stuck, or small. Instead, it can be a great catalyst leading to your most magnificent self.

[Related: Techniques to Lessen the Disruptive Symptoms of ADHD at Work]


Dr. Debi Silber is a transformational psychologist, a recognized health, mindset, and personal development expert, speaker, and author of the Amazon #1 Bestselling book The Unshakable Woman: 4 Steps to Rebuilding Your Body, Mind and Life After a Life Crisis. Debi’s recent PhD study on how women experience betrayal led to two exciting discoveries, along with identifying symptoms so common to betrayal they’ve become known as Post Betrayal Syndrome.

Have more questions? Follow up with the expert herself.