There are a number of factors which contribute to being able to recover from a crisis or a trauma. If you’ve experienced a betrayal, maybe read through this list, and see if there are things that can help you here:
1. First … we need to break through the denial and admit to ourselves that we’re dealing with a crisis, and we’ve been traumatized. This is a prerequisite for seeking help.
2. Next … we need to ‘get’ that our recovery comes down to us ourselves. Friends might empathize, and may try to show they care. But, really, we’re the ones who will have to do the work. We have to deal with all the triggers, with the pain, the loss of trust, the roller coaster of emotions and the dark and desperate thoughts. I know it isn’t fair – and we didn’t choose this road.
3. “Building a fence”. By that, we mean being able to decide what is OK in our lives (what doesn’t have to change – for not everything must change) … and things that need attention, and need attention now.
Examples of the former might include: having a career we are proud of; having interests and achievements we feel good about; and having good relationships with our children and friends.
Examples of the latter might include figuring out the extent of our partner’s addiction; determining how long he has been deceiving and lying to us; determining whether he really is serious about getting help; deciding what changes will need to occur for us to stay in the relationship, and for us to feel safe in the relationship.
4. Getting appropriate support from others. This might include finding our own counsellor or therapist; getting help from a couple’s or sex-addiction therapist; finding out as much as we can about betrayal trauma; joining a 12-step or some other kind of support group; and sharing what has happened with select family or friends.
5. Finding other people who can act as role models for coping and recovering from betrayal trauma. For most individuals it’s a lonely, unknown road. Thus, finding others who have trodden this same road too can give a sense of hope when we fear there is no hope. Also, they can act as an example, and share what worked for them.
It should be noted that role models can be real life people we have met or known. Alternatively, they can be people we know about, or simply people whose books we’ve read. For example, they could be people who write about challenging and complex topics such as learning to trust again, or being willing and able to forgive.
6. Having a strong ego. Ego strength refers to that core essence of the self, to that part of us which knows we will survive, no matter what! It includes having a sense of meaning and purpose; having the ability to accept, tolerate and manage intense emotions; being able to judge reality correctly; and being able to make wise and informed decisions (which are in our best interests).
7. Being able to identify the times when we have coped – and the ways that we have coped, with a crisis in the past. This helps us connect us with our self, and with our strengths.
8. Having the ability / being willing to tolerate uncertainty and ambiguity. There are no guarantees, and the future is unknown. Reality has changed… And the past is different too. This is a very scary place for us to be. Being willing to be patient, and ‘to wait and see’ removes a lot of pressure when our stress levels are high.
9. Working on being flexible rather than rigid. What do we mean by that? One of the main reasons that we feel so shocked and scared is – it’s not what we expected, or the way things ought to be. For example, we don’t expect our partner to have a secret life. We don’t expect them to lie or hide important stuff from us. However, if we will face the truth and facts – the facts we don’t want to accept – it’s easier to heal, and to rebuild our broken lives.
10. Having firmly established core values. This means clearly defining what we will and won’t accept. It means communicating where we’re going to draw the line, and how we will establish healthy boundaries. This is part of self-respect and is central to self-care.