Healing Betrayal Trauma:
Finding Heart in the Dark
The Reality of Betrayal Trauma
Before we can heal most anything, we need a proper diagnosis! Only recently have we become aware of how profoundly betrayal can traumatize a person. No, you are not crazy. Know that you are enduring a devastating shock to your body and mind. As a culture, we have been “blind to betrayal” as a deeply shattering, traumatic, life-altering offense.
What is Trauma? Trauma occurs when an overwhelming experience throws us into physical and emotional shock. Car accidents, physical or sexual assault, natural disasters, active military service, sudden death of a loved one, witnessing violence. These are all examples of situations that can precipitate a traumatic reaction, and, if not treated, turn into chronic post-traumatic stress.
What is Betrayal Trauma? Betrayal trauma strikes when someone we are close to and depend on violates our trust. Lying is at the core of betrayal in close relationship. Disloyalty, infidelity, dishonesty and disclosure of confidential information head the list. Betrayal trauma destabilizes and disturbs our core self in a way that other trauma does not.
What are symptoms of Betrayal Trauma? Betrayal trauma can make you feel as if you are losing your mind. Your trust has been shattered, your world has turned upside down, your memories suddenly distorted beyond belief. You are left feeling powerless, vulnerable, wounded, broken. Initially, the shock numbs you into denial, a sense of unreality. As in, “this cannot be happening.”
But soon enough you realize your ordinary coping mechanisms have disappeared. The psyche reverts to primitive defenses to cope with the dread of annihilation of our core self. You find yourself adrift in a sea of anxiety, flashbacks, obsessive thinking, and uncontrollable intense emotions. Beset by insomnia, extreme weight loss or gain, isolation from family and friends, no wonder you keep asking: what is happening to me?!!
Healing Betrayal Trauma as Soul Work
A dark night of the soul. I consider betrayal trauma a serious “dark night of the soul”. Betrayal is ultimately an existential/spiritual as well as a mental/emotional crisis. You are facing unprecedented suffering and confusion, with little understanding from those around you about what you are going through. When we are in this much pain every instinct wants to drive us to distractions, to do anything to push the suffering away.
To heal betrayal trauma means passing through a dark night of the soul to the tenderness and wisdom of one’s own heart. I offer this website to encourage anyone wrestling with betrayal trauma to swim against the stream of distraction, denial, and diversions.
Here I support you to make an inward turn towards the suffering. To see betrayal trauma as an unprecedented opportunity to deepen your relationship to life’s deep mysteries: to suffering, loss, pleasure and pain, good and evil.
Turning towards the suffering. As a psycho-spiritual researcher, after decades of study and practice, it still surprises me. Whenever I manage to befriend my suffering with kindness and loving attention, an uncanny intelligence emerges to help.
I think of healing trauma as soul work. Call it Heart, Love, God, the Universe, Spirit, Angels, True Nature. Somehow an inner strength emerges from the suffering itself. As if the suffering were a portal to a deeper reality of goodness and hope. Like a magic elixir, kind acceptance of the situation, of the pain, lifts the denial. Finally, the intense emotions, the anger and tears, hurt and fear release easily through me. A beautiful releasing that opens to the deep heart, revealing the loving nature of life.
Getting the help you need. I hope some of the resources on this site will help you dive with more confidence and curiosity into whatever darkness surrounds you. May the information help you to reach out for the help you need to heal this shocking threat to your well-being. Here you will find articles, links, posts, quotes, humor, books (including my own Love and the Mystery of Betrayal) and poetry that may speak to you and help you know you are not alone, that healing is possible.
I believe you will eventually find your way through the grief of this betrayal to the hidden treasures in the brokenness. To trust again. To have faith in the wonder of existence as the source of ultimate trust. To feel more deeply than ever the astonishment of being here at all. To feel gentleness and kindness for yourself… and for anyone you need to release from your world.