How To Recover From Betrayal (Not just love betrayal, but betrayal of all kinds.)
I 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.”
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 unsafe.
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.”
“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.”
I’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 should 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”!
3. “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!
If 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.
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