The term "betrayal trauma" was first used by psychologist Jennifer Freyd in the 1990s. Dr. Freyd is a pioneering researcher in the field of trauma and betrayal, and her work has helped to raise awareness of the unique and often long-lasting effects of betrayals of trust by those we depend on. Dr. Freyd's work has contributed significantly to our understanding of the psychological and physiological impacts of trauma, particularly in the context of betrayals by loved ones, close friends, or trusted authority figures.
A common experience of betrayal is after the discovery of infidelity in a relationship. This type of betrayal is particularly devastating because it violates a person's trust and expectations in a relationship, causing feelings of hurt, anger, and loss of security. It can also lead to feelings of shame and guilt, and damage one’s self-esteem and self-worth. Those who struggle to heal from betrayal may go on to develop trust issues, experience feelings of abandonment, and have difficulty maintaining close relationships. These symptoms and the difficult circumstances of navigating through a shattered relationship often leaves betrayed partners feeling overwhelmed and unsure what to do first. With a little guidance however, you can begin to take empowering steps towards healing.
Recovering from betrayal trauma requires a multi-faceted approach. You can start feeling better the sooner you begin your healing journey. Below are several strategies for overcoming betrayal that you can try today. I recommend selecting one or two strategies below to get started as opposed to trying them all at once. You will receive more benefit by focusing on one strategy at a time.
1. Practice self-care: Engage in activities that bring you comfort and joy, such as exercise, journaling, hobbies, or spending time in nature.
2. Connect with a support system: Surround yourself with friends and family who are supportive and understanding. Joining a support group can also provide a sense of community and help you feel less isolated.
3. Challenge negative thoughts: Betrayal trauma can lead to negative thought patterns. Challenging these thoughts and replacing them with positive affirmations can help rebuild self-esteem and resilience.
4. Build new relationships: Surrounding yourself with supportive and trustworthy people can help you rebuild your sense of security and trust.
5. Be kind to yourself: Be gentle and forgiving with yourself as you work through the healing process.
6. Work through emotions: Allow yourself to feel and process emotions, rather than suppressing them. This can include journaling, talking to a trusted friend, or expressing emotions through art.
7. Focus on the present: Try to live in the present moment and not get stuck in thoughts about the past or worries about the future.
8. Practice Meditation: After a traumatic experience, you may feel like you’re in a constant state of fight or flight, so it becomes crucial to remind your body of a more relaxed state. Practicing mindful meditation, even for a few minutes a day can help calm your mind and body.
9. Create a new narrative: Focus on your personal growth and making empowered decisions that bring fufillment.
10. Seek professional support: Processing your experience and trauma reactions with a professional can be immensely helpful. They can tailor treatment to your specific needs and help you feel like yourself again.
It is important to remember that healing from betrayal trauma takes time and patience. Everyone's journey is unique, and getting the right support and resources can make all the difference for your healing journey. Please know that you are not alone and talking to a therapist can provide a safe space to process your feelings and work through the trauma. If you or someone you know is struggling with betrayal trauma, reaching out for help can be the first step towards healing and recovery.