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Surviving Betrayal Author: Radonda Rowton, LPC

Betrayal is one of the most painful human experiences a person can experience. When we discover that someone we trusted has betrayed us, we immediately realize that the proverbial reality rug where we sat so proudly and felt so secure, has been pulled out from under us. A damaging aspect of betrayal is that our sense of reality is undermined. What felt like solid trust has crumbled. Our innocence that allowed us to trust has been shattered, and we are left wondering, what happened? What kind of person would do this to me? This kind of trauma is usually accompanied by emotional numbness because of the disbelief.

After being betrayed, we may think that we want a couple of things. We may immediately want justice and want to wound the person who hurt us—as deeply and as excruciatingly—as we have been wounded. Another thing that we may feel that we need is answers, so we begin to investigate by asking other peoples opinion of the situation. Be careful about asking the opinions of others because you may find out more than you bargained for. Those wounding words tend to boomerang and make us feel so out of the loop and abandoned, which tears at our self-esteem. Often, making choices after such trauma are unwise until we gain our sense of self again. The truth is that the hurts that inflict damage are the ones where a bond of confidence has been damaged. Camaraderie in friendship is a connection with another person that allows us to understand and care about their wellbeing, sometimes as keenly as we our care about own. If you have experienced such bonding, you may feel that you are experiencing a kind of higher reality—but when that bond is ripped apart, we often lose trust in our own ability to make good decisions, because we wonder how we could have been so wrong in our interpretation of this friendship. So, how do we work toward healing from friendship betrayal? 1. Gain some detachment. Space from the person that wounded you helps because it’s really hard to heal in a place where you were wounded. 2. Don't indulge in emotions you cannot afford. Don't act as if you’re feeling worse than you really are—or better. Be honest with yourself and with others. 3. Make a plan for emotional recovery. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and fresh perspective from someone who can be trusted and is unbiased, then work toward healing those areas…. don’t rely simply on letting time do it for you. 4. Feel the loss inside and grieve over it—remembering that you must go through the process, but the process will not and should not last forever.

5. Seek a confidant who has survived the same kind of betrayal and has come out on the other side…hope is important.

6. Work toward a tomorrow that will be better than yesterday. Don't fixate on the past or what might have been…dwelling obsessively on how you were wronged will just set you back and keep you stuck.

7. Counter self-pity by being of service to someone else. Counter regret by seeking out activities that build your self-esteem. Find and stay in a drama free environment as much as possible.

In the beginning, this list may seem impossible and then it may seem inconsistent. One day you may feel that you are on the right track; the next day you may feel that you are a train wreck. The key is to get back up and stay on the path. You will know that you are well on your way to healing when you begin to feel kind toward the one who betrayed you. I know that sounds impossible when your pain is so real and huge, but we can't be kind to ourselves unless the feeling of ease, acceptance and nonjudgment extends beyond our own self-interest. Otherwise, kindness is simply a mask for egotism. The idea of "I'm getting better; I hope he or she rots in hell" is a contradiction and does not indicate healing.

In the end, when you reach that place of healing, you will see how fortunate you are. As horrible as betrayal is, forgiveness belongs to those who know how to love in the first place, and you will be one of them.

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