We have all gone through traumatic experiences that cause us to learn how to grow and move on, but it is a little different when that experience is a betrayal. Whether the deception comes from a friend, a partner, a coworker, etc. the healing process is the same. We must go through five stages until we can fully recover from the betrayal in our lives.
This article was written from an interview with Dr. Debi Silber. She shared her story of betrayal and the research she’s been deeply involved in, to help her and others heal. Debi and her husband were together since the 80’s and had four beautiful children. The betrayal came when Debi found out her husband had cheated. She was devastated and wasn’t sure where to go from there. Her first step was getting him out of the home so she could clear her head. Debi began to focus on herself, after realizing she had spent the majority of her life caring for others. Enrolling in a Ph.D. program, she went on to study how women experience betrayal, and what helps them heal? While looking at the stages of grief vs. stages of betrayal, the study showcased the five proven, predictable stages.
Betrayal primarily means breaking an unspoken rule. Regardless of what the deception was, being aware of the following five stages and allowing yourself to experience each step, will be instrumental in your healing process.
STAGE 1: Bottoming Out
Entering into phase one can feel a lot like everything has bottomed out. Think of it as four legs of a table and each leg represents a different piece of you. There is physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, and if one of those legs it a bit off, everything will tip over.
Once you hit this low, what’s next? If you’re thinking crash and burn, you are correct; which leads us into stage two.
STAGE 2: Physical Breakdown
The breakdown of body, mind, and worldview can be physically harmful. This can cause the immune system to become suppressed, inviting illness. If that isn’t enough to deal with already, we begin to view the world as shattered. If you find yourself exhausted and on edge, know it’s a sign you are in this stage, but you’re moving forward.
STAGE 3: Get Outta My Way
This stage carries you into your natural instincts of survival and allows practicality to come into play. We must find a way to survive, and you know you are here when you think “if you can’t help me, move out of my way.” Putting up walls and shutting people out might help you survive but you’re forgetting an essential part, there is no self-care happening. The stress response might still be ignited, however when you know you will be safe, that’s when you can move onto the next stage.
STAGE 4 New Normal
Finding and adjusting to a new normal sounds very intimidating, but if you’ve made it this far, you are in stage four. Though this path may not seem familiar in the slightest, know that it will be okay. This is the time to turn down the stress response and turn up the self-assurance so that you can start to make sense of things.
STAGE 5 Renewed and Re-Energized You
The final stage of the process is healing, rebirth, and a new worldview. It is time to love yourself enough to take care of you now. Gaining a fresh set of beliefs and pursuing new things will help you achieve the strongest version of yourself. It may not be the best time to seek out a new squeeze yet because if you are not fully healed, or this person isn’t on the same wavelength, it will not work.
The big takeaway from all of this is not to fall back into betrayal patterns. If you find you are numbing yourself, it’s time to get real. Ask yourself what will my life look like years from now or what am I pretending not to see? Transformation and going through these stages is not easy, but once you stop resisting, the world will open up to you.