How To Recover From Betrayal (Not just love betrayal, but betrayal of all kinds.)

how to recover from betrayalI endured a huge betrayal from an unlikely place – a younger woman whom I was close friends with and mentored for many years. When we first met, she was trying to write and sell a book – to no avail. Eventually,  I gave her an idea for a book – then helped her to write the proposal – asking for no upfront money – just a small 10% back end commission – should the book sell.    She enthusiastically agreed – thanking me profusely for not charging her upfront for my time. She had a lawyer draw up papers – which we each signed.

To my shock, soon after I got her the highly successful book deal she’d always dreamed about, she turned into an “All About Eve” kind of character  – displaying low-character behavior –  in a variety of fibbing, royalty-hiding and contract-breaking ways.

At this point, I’ll stop sharing specific details of the story  – because my purpose for this essay is not to complain! Quite the opposite! I want to share my path to recovery. I want to help others who are also suffering from a betrayal – either from a friend, a relative, a spouse, a love partner, a colleague, a boss, a neighbor.

A betrayal can destroy so many varied kinds of relationships – and turn one’s view of the world topsy turvy.

Some of my main upside-down effects after this woman’s betrayal: I found myself less eager to socialize. In particular, I felt nervous to open my heart to new friendships – and thereby to new pain. I felt hesitant to help others with books and projects. I worried they too might take advantage. Plus I did not want to go any place I might see this betrayer: events, cafes, gyms, yoga studios, social clubs.  All my usual haunts now felt haunted by a potential sighting of her.

My solution: I told myself I needed to take some time alone to heal and gain insight.  So I chose to stay in my home more, socialize less. It was easy to do.  I’d just become pregnant. Then I became a mom.  In fact, at the time I thought I was going into a healthful “cocoon” – a less social, nesting period.

But as it turned out, I was entering a “cave.”

The difference:

A COCOON is a quiet, comfortable place you go to evolve into a more beautiful you. It’s a safe haven to experiment with new, uplifting thought patterns. When you emerge, you feel in your full, majestic power – flying higher and further than before.

A CAVE is a quiet, uncomfortable place you go to think and brood – to hibernate. Instead of spending time thinking grand thoughts, you growl. You view the world as cold and to recover from betrayal

How did I finally realize I was in a cave not a cocoon?

When I thought about leaving my home to socialize, I found myself feeling heavy in the heart.

In fact, if you ever want to know if you’re in a cocoon or a cave – check in to feel the weight of your heart when you think about leaving your home.

If you feel light in the heart, you’re telling yourself “Butterfly Stories” about the world – viewing life as a beautiful, safe haven to spread your wings.

If you feel heavy in the heart, you’re telling yourself “Bear Stories”   –  viewing the world as cold and unsafe.

I was telling myself “Bear Stories.” I was even doing “Bear Math.”

This is “Butterfly Math”:

1 untrustworthy person = 1 untrustworthy person

This is “Bear Math”

1 untrustworthy person = infinite untrustworthy people

Positive Psychologists have a term for this “Bear Lens On The World.” They call it “Permanent and Pervasive Thinking.” It’s when you tell yourself stories which make you feel like one negative incident has permanent, pervasive, lifelong negative effects.

In my case, these were some of my permanent and pervasive stories:

“I can’t trust anyone.”

“People Suck”  

“I’m an idiot for being suckered!” 

“I shouldn’t help people any more – they just take advantage.”

This 1 bad thing means I need to keep my heart safely stored in a betrayal-proof Tupperwear container.”

how to recover from betrayalI’m not proud of these thoughts. They are grizzly “Bear Thoughts.” And they were keeping my life limited, dark, dank – and making me feel batty – all signs I was in a cave – not a cocoon!

Basically, a cave is a place you go to shrink your life – a prison for the soul.

A cocoon is where you go to grow your life – an ashram for the soul.

I confess it took me a while to look around and realize I was in a cave. I just knew my heart felt heavier when I thought about going outside to play with others. I decided to journal about my heavy heart. That’s when I realized I was telling myself painful permanent/pervasive stories – triggered by this friend’s betrayal!

Know this now: Although you can’t change your past, you can control the story you tell about it – and thereby change the effects your past has upon your future.

I decided the time had come to rewrite my story so it was a happier one.  Literally.  In my journal. I began by writing down all my permanent/pervasive thoughts.  Next to each, I wrote how non-permanent/non-pervasive the situation truly was!

1. “I can’t trust anyone.” I realized this betrayal shouldn’t be making me permanently anti-social. It BETRAYAL IMAGEshould simply be making me anti-jerks. I realized I should even look upon this betrayal with a bit of gratitude – because it was a powerful reminder to honor my intuition more -and stop being color blind to red flags – no matter if they show up as smaller red hankees. (Truth be told, looking back, there were times I felt this woman’s energy to be pushy in an uncomfortable, aggressive way.) Basically, this event was not meant to stop me from trusting. It was meant to stop me from ignoring my gut – and thereby keep me safe from falling for even bigger business betrayals down the road.

2. “People Suck” Yes, some people do suck. But not ALL people! Plus, I should never allow someone who sucks to suck all the joy out of my day – and my life! Sure it’s bad when someone’s a jerk. But things could be worst. I could be the person who’s doing sucky, low-character  things. And I am truly proud of NOT being someone who could behave so badly. Indeed I feel compassion for my betrayer. She is stuck living with herself – while I get to move on and away.  But how could I move on and away, when I was still holding onto resentment? After all, anybody who angers me is actually controlling me – which means they are still an active (and negative) presence in my life.  If I wanted to be happy, I needed “To Pull An Elsa” – and “Let it go”!

how to recover from betrayal3.  “I’m an idiot for being suckered!” When I re-read this permanent/pervasive thought, I realized I was displaying the classic case of “blaming the victim.” (Not that I enjoyed using the word “victim.” In fact, I’ll be writing more about the word “victim” at the bottom of this essay!)   Basically, calling myself “an idiot” is showing anger and shame at myself – rather than focusing the anger and shame where it more rightfully belongs – on my betrayer! I decided I needed to re-write my word choice from “I am an idiot” to “I am a wronged person.” And the reason I was wronged did not truly have to do with intelligence. I simply didn’t see the betrayal coming, because I never would have done such a thing. I have an awake and active good heart. I value loyalty, strong character and sticking to commitments. Not just for legal reasons – but moral reasons. I remembered a quote I’d heard: “Fools take a knife and stab people in the back. The wise take a knife, cut the cord and free themselves from the fools. “  I decided that since I very much value the trait of being a non-idiot  – that I should do this wise choice – cut the emotional cord – and set myself free as a butterfly leaving a cocoon!  The best way to cut the cord? Forgiveness. Yes, even if the betrayer was not sorry, forgiveness was still necessary. How could I forgive? I needed to keep reminding myself:  Forgiveness doesn’t excuse my betrayer’s behavior. Forgiveness simply stops her behavior from destroying my heart!  Plus it helped to keep in mind a great Wayne Dyer quote: “How people treat you is their karma. How you react is yours.” 

4. ‘This 1 bad thing means I need to permanently keep my heart safely stored in a betrayal-proof Tupperwear container.”  When I first re-read this particular pervasive/permanent story, I chuckled. I wondered: “Why should I punish myself for the crime this woman committed? Isn’t that misplaced punishment?” And this new choice (to avoid letting love into my life) was very much a big self-punishment. After all, love is good stuff! I love love! Plus whenever I push friends and/or potential-new-friends away, it’s as if I’m punishing these people for the sins of my betrayer! Totally batty cave thinking! Once again I was reminded of the lessons I should be learning: “Pay attention to the energy I feel around people. Listen to my gut!” Truth be told, it wasn’t my trust in other people that was being shaken up by this betrayal. It was my trust in myself ! I needed to re-gain my trust in my abilities to see people clearly! So I gave myself another writing assignment: Jot down all the times I’ve trusted my life choices – and I was correct. Write about all the awesome, trust-worthy, loving friends I’ve chosen to be in my life – so I’m reminded that I have a “good internal picker” and that love is indeed good stuff.

5.  “I shouldn’t help people any more – they just take advantage.”  When I re-read this permanent/pervasive thought, I also saw it as a form of self-punishment – because I love helping people! I shouldn’t become less of me because this woman showed low character values. Instead, I should become even more aware of how important strong character values are to me – and embrace them even more fully. So I gave myself another writing assignment: Write down a list of people I’ve helped with creative projects – and stay reminded how most people do NOT take advantage, fib and break contracts. Next I wrote about how good it always feels to help and support people – a win/win – for both the giver and receiver!

how to recover from betrayalIf you’re presently recovering from a betrayal, I encourage you to watch out for thinking painful, permanent and pervasive thoughts. Please refuse to become a member of that club called “People Suck.” Please refuse to distribute any of that club’s untrue literature.

Instead I invite you to join me in a club called “You Live. You Learn. Life Gets Better. Yes, You Can And Will Trust Again.”

Although we can’t always control what happens to us, we can control our response.

We can choose the role of victim – focusing on blame, anger, regret and resentment.

Or we can choose the role of victor – seeking support, healing our wounds, retrieving our power, and moving forward stronger and wiser than before.

Are you recovering from a betrayal in love or a challenging break up? Do you find yourself in the cave rather than the cocoon? I’d love to give you research-proven tools to move forward – and  say NEVER AGAIN to to toxic relationships – with my NEVER AGAIN PROGRAM – an easy-to-do online home study course – you can watch and/or listen to from your computer or idevice -at your convenience – and keep for life! Click to find out more – and grab a huge discount for a limited time!

Is your story of betrayal a story you want to write as a fiction or non-fiction book – to turn your pain into purpose? Click here to grab my secrets of writing a hot best seller!

Written by Karen Salmansohn (Founder)

Hi I’m Karen Salmansohn, founder of NotSalmon. My mission is to offer you easy-to-understand insights and tools to empower you to bloom into your happiest, highest potential self. I use playful analogies, feisty humor, and stylish graphics to distill big ideas – going as far back as ancient wisdom from Aristotle, Buddhism and Darwin to the latest research studies from Cognitive Therapy, Neuro Linquistic Programming, Neuroscience, Positive Psychology, Quantum Physics, Nutritional Studies – and then some.
  • Chantal

    A very good post, I am struggling a lot with betrayal and deceit. I am trying to get passed it, but the cave pulls me back in. I do worry that I will brick up the entrance with me still in it. Thank you for posting, I love your wise words x x

    • Dandi

      So nicely written! Thank you:)!!!

    • Edward Case

      passed…should be past, in the context of your sentence. sorry, about my grammatical correction. Chan, sometimes the feeling of betrayal, won’t respond to a frontal, direct ‘correctional’ attitude. Sometimes you just can’t fight it directly. Sometimes you have to ‘flank’ the problem…go to one side of it. By directing yourself into an unrelated task. e.g.-a love affair jilted…instead of getting another love affair right away, flank the issue, with taking up cycling, walking, church, swimming, movie going, a hobby…think of anything that piques your interest, turns you on, and go for it! Let the nature of your heart, inside do the healing when you are distracted, then, return to the task, of finding a true love.

  • Angel In Training

    Thank you for your insight…
    I have done all the above…
    It took me 7 years of living in a cave to realise I had hid myself away and what I felt was my shame of my now x-husband for having an affair…
    I told myself it must be all my fault, it took me so long to realise it was a joint responsibility to make our marriage work…
    I didn’t betray his love with lies and deceit…he just needed to be honest it would have been so less soul destroying for all concerned…
    My life is moving on now but now and again his wounds to my heart still hurt…you never stop loving and for me it means he didn’t destroy my trusting heart although he did come close….
    I view life differently now, I am stronger very independent and honest with my words to the point of intakes of breath from people I talk too.
    As I vowed never again will I let myself be a people pleaser as it
    confuses and leads people to think it’s ok to dump on you….
    I now have friends who love my open honesty but also know I choose to be treat with respect and love.
    Reading this it sounds as if I am quite harsh but I love to shine and help people feel better and make them smile..
    I try to a good deed each day forsomeone

  • T

    Timely post for me as I’ve recently been betrayed & this article was an epiphany that I was building a cave! and my heart still feels heavy! Thank you for steering me in the right direction Karen!

  • Sylvie

    Thank you for posting this on Facebook, and to write it. It is like if you’ve listened to the phone call I had half an hour ago. I needed just THAT, just NOW. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you

  • sam

    This sure struck a cord with me…I have only just exited the bear cave after 7yrs, loads of betrayal that was so hurtful and made me feel like hiding under my doona…have been praying a lot recently to heal open my heart as I knew it was like concrete and closed shut…I feel lighter now and on my way….the world even responds differently probably because I do also….have had to let go and allow karma take its own course and be unattached to finding out the result……just concentrate on my own journey….wish I had access to yourself and Christina Rasmussen earlier 🙂

  • Liberty

    Wow this describes exactly how I’ve been feeling lately … Like this bear in a cave. Thank you for giving me a new & better metaphor for the situation 🙂 <3

  • Monty Kanjan

    Thank yu so much for posting this and letting people read. So very much kind of yu and I really appreciate the work. #Blessings 🙂

    May God always keep yu away not only from Betrayal, but from all the negatives!

  • Kelly B

    Thank you for this post. It was good to see a different way of looking at past hurts. A much better way. Hopefully my heart will open again.

  • Ira

    Thank you for this post.. I have had a similar experience.. With a group of friends.. And I lived in that cave for almost a year… But I have now decided to come out of it.. I have already cut the chord and detached from those people.. Now time for new beginnings!

  • lyn

    Ten years in the cave following the break up of my 27 year marriage, every time I came out it seemed I encountered yet another betrayal, now i realise this is due my people pleasing I was so lonely that I would give my time and attention to the detriment of myself and people thought I was OK with that. Finally last month I moved house and encounters sniping and spite from ‘friends” who felt I was up myself for doing so Finally I get it. doing my level best to make this house a springboard to happiness not a prison. Small steps

  • NikkiJ

    Wow!!!! LOVE this!!! I absolutely resonate with ALL of your points!! I am recovering from a horrible betrayal, but happy to say that I have been able to turn my cave into a cocoon. I too believe there was a lesson learned. I am still working on the forgiveness- to eliminate the hurt in my heart once and for all…but I am choosing the role of the VICTOR!!!

  • Jas’D

    Honestly, you could have written this specifically for me, as I have all these symptoms, to a distressing degree this weekend. I’m so glad I have read this now, as I understand what is happening to me, praise the Lord! Thank you so much, Karen…

  • Oh my … Goddess!

    Oh my goodness, I could have written this one! And like you, I found myself in a cave. Not just for a few months, for a few years. I learned a lot. Cried a lot. Dropped some friends who didn’t have my values. The list goes on and then I decided things would be different and now I’ve come out of my cave. I am now in what I like to call … I am now in my “resort”. A resort is a beautiful, amazing, energetic place… and that is where I want to be. Where I want to live…A big wide open bright beautiful resort that I can be positive, energy filled, creative and loved. And so it is.

  • Indyk Mihal

    Great post but sometimes betrayal can cause the party to have life-time financial consequences even if you recover from the emotional sides and maybe its best to accept things you cannot change and move on once you’ve dealt with emotional aspects!

  • Amy

    I started reading this and WOW did it hit home! I have been betrayed by a family member and it’s been going on for a while. Every time I have been betrayed in the past by this person I would always forgive and forget and think to myself that she wouldn’t do me that way again.. well every time I was fooled! Your post helped me to see that I can and will get passed this and to know that I am a strong person and will finally come out of my own cocoon! Thanks again for the words of wisdom!

  • Sandra

    I am blessed with a little sister who finds these articles and shares them with me. She is trying to draw me out of the “cave” I’ve chosen to hide in, following devastating betrayal. This post really resonates with me and I now see myself as that “bear”!! I’ve tried to convince myself that I needed privacy to heal, when in reality I am hiding from the world!! I feel resentment and anxiety when I am forced to leave the “cave” for any reason. Deep down I know it is unhealthy, but it is comfortable!! I am trying to find the strength to free myself from this “prison” I’ve created and allow myself to grow from the experience. This article is one of those steps……

  • Decembersgirl

    I agree with you wholeheartedly! My sister (older) was left with all that was left monetarily, from our parents and she has my entire family believing they wanted me to have none of it. Not only am I left without the money I was counting on my entire life. The cousins that I;ve known forever won’t talk to me. I don’t know how to put the pieces together again. I do have a wonderful boyfriend but this anger doesn’t ever leave. I hope. I try. Each day.

    • Annette

      I can relate to be cut out of a family. Struggled with the deceit and sense of entitlement..kept feeling I was a victim at some level..turned that around to a to go as I please, unincumbered by family obligations/manipulations. Try to look at the opposite of what I’m feeling…pendulum swings both ways on everything with neutral in the middle, too much negative to the left, positive to the right…and it careens back & forth. Always a matter of my humble experience

  • Edward Case

    Hi Karen, Betrayal comes in all shapes. A doctor of psychiatry violated confidentiality. A wife committed multiple adulteries. A school system that promised a job and leads to placement reneged. All at once. A landlord dropped an eviction notice on top as icing on the cake, when I fell behind 186 dollars of a 475 rent one month, due to a roommate stiffing me. Betrayal is the Human Game. My integrity is stronger that all the folks who so easily backstab ya. You, and ‘anyone’ can trust me. I am trustworthy. I hold trust and reliability, and honesty and loyalty in very high regard. My greatest defect of character, is that I dream, and I believe, that others want to be as trustworthy as I am. However, I have a very terrible weakness, more terrible than my naivety. The weakness is personal, but I will relate this…it involves instincts. A normal instinct driven to desperation. I am at war within myself, over it. I wish I had led a life of a combat soldier. It would have been much simpler.

  • soozannah

    I would so love to know who the “all about Eve” character is!!

    • notsalmon

      Lips sealed. Not telling. 🙂 My goal is to let go – and that feeds the negative energy. 🙂

  • Devi Bea

    Wonderful article Karen. I love it. I don’t know if you remember me but I did a reading for you many moons ago. I am so happy to see you have done so much good in your life for you and for others.

    • notsalmon

      thanks so much Devi!! Hope all is awesome in your world!