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Have you ever been betrayed? I mean out of the blue, unexpected, unfair, undeserved, did not see it coming betrayed by someone you trusted or loved?

I have. It was sudden, uncalled for and personally devastating.

When you reach a certain age you tend to get complacent. You drop your guard. You think with all the drama you’ve faced in high school, or in college, or in your marriage or in life, that life has finally calmed down, you have a grasp on it. You know the red flags and you know how to handle them.  Well, I’m slightly wiser about people than I was at 21 but I still got caught off guard.

I hate being in pain. I hate the energy it takes to recover from a nasty, unexpected, psychic shock, and there’s no way around it. Recovering from betrayal feels like trudging through six feet of wet mud while someone jabs you with hot pokers.

Your first reaction is to howl, plot revenge, and to try to think of ways to numb the pain, or ignore it. But plotting someone’s death or ignoring this type of pain is next to impossible and from what I’ve read not healthy.

Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, talks about the 5 stages of grief; Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance.
Denial and anger are the first raw emotions, but often there is no set pattern. You may swing from rage to depression and from depression to rage. Chocolate and alcohol have been known to be involved.  This is a necessary step and there is no way around it, and no set time limit.

There are 3 steps for dealing with this type of pain.

Step 1
Acknowledge the pain and how you feel. You may cry, or not, you may scream or not, but try to slow down and focus on taking care of yourself and being as I love to say, “ As crazy as you need to be to recover”.

Try to think of ways to take your focus off the negativity and regain your equilibrium.   Think of ways to take your thoughts off what they did to you and replace it with thoughts of what you can do for yourself. This will help you get rid of that feeling of powerlessness.

I’ve been known to plow through a chocolate cake, exercise, go to a funny movie, take a day at the beach, binge-watch tv, shop, take a week off, talk to friends, get counseling. Anything to help me from dwelling on the negative circumstances of the event. It’s not easy, it’s messy and it takes time. Once after a traumatic event I took two years off but that’s another story.

When you’re in this kind of pain its like falling into the ocean and drowning. You can stop, give in and drown in it, you can fight and screamuntil your exhausted and can’t fight anymore, or you can relax and float and come up for short breaths of air until help arrives or you can get back on you feet.

People have said or “sure that’s easy to say but hard to do” and I agree it’s not easy, but it is essential.

I have a favorite saying at times like this. “Living well is the best revenge”.   Spending less time on the person who hurt you and more time on thinking of ways to “live your best life” regardless of the circumstances is showing compassion for yourself.

Step 2
Re-frame the experience, the story you tell yourself.  I read once that thinking negatively about your problems not only doesn’t help solve the problem, it actually makes it harder for you to think of helpful solutions; that the stress from negative thinking creates changes in the brain that can actually lead to mental health problems.

Instead of going over in your head about how you were wronged and what they did to you,  try to find what opportunities this experience might offer you. I know that sounds crazy but most situations have something. The Internet is full of stories of people who were fired from jobs but became rich starting their own business, men or women who were betrayed by their spouses but went on to find the love of their life.

Steve Jobs was fired from the company he started by the man he brought in to help him. That’s betrayal, but he didn’t allow himself to be defeated, he persisted.

He would later say in a speech at Stanford, “I didn’t see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me.”  What opportunities are now available that weren’t there before?

Step 3
Release 
Some people believe in forgiveness but I prefer releasing.
Yes, you were betrayed, taken advantage of conned.
Accept it.
However, when you move into to this phase of acceptance,
You’re not accepting what happened to you.
You’re accepting that it happened. You didn’t deserve it, but that you have the power to overcome it. You are no longer tied by anger to that person who betrayed you.

Brene Brown Phd, who when speaking of resiliency in her book the Gifts of Imperfection  cited the work of C.R. Snyder and the concept of “Hope”. Snyder said, Hope happens when

  • We have the ability to set realistic goals
  • We are able to figure out how to achieve these goals
  • We believe in ourselves.

The ability to overcome betrayal and be resilient is based in HOPE. So be hope-full. You deserved better.