Tips for Healing After Betrayal

Tools for Healing From Betrayal Trauma

Betrayal trauma can leave individuals feeling lost, confused, and struggling to find a path forward. The aftermath of such a profound breach of trust often results in a whirlwind of emotions, including anger, sadness, fear, and even self-doubt.

Many people find themselves trapped in a cycle of hypervigilance, constantly on guard against further hurt, while simultaneously yearning for healing and restoration. 

Traditional approaches to healing from betrayal trauma often focus on what not to do, providing lists of behaviors to avoid or warning signs to watch out for. While these can be helpful, they sometimes leave individuals feeling more restricted and anxious rather than empowered.

That is where the acronym SHAWN B comes in, offering a comprehensive and proactive approach to healing and empowerment. This innovative method shifts the focus from mere avoidance to active engagement in the healing process, providing individuals with practical tools and strategies to reclaim their sense of self and rebuild their lives after betrayal.

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Understanding SHAWN B

SHAWN B stands for Safety, Honesty, Authentic reality, Widening tolerance, Noticing actions, and Boundaries.

This holistic approach addresses the complex needs of those recovering from betrayal trauma, recognizing that healing is a multifaceted process that requires attention to various aspects of one’s life and psyche. Unlike one-size-fits-all solutions, SHAWN B acknowledges the unique journey each individual faces in their recovery. 

By breaking down the healing process into these six key components, it provides a structured yet flexible framework that can be adapted to personal circumstances and needs. Each element of SHAWN B builds upon the others, creating a comprehensive strategy that not only helps individuals navigate the immediate aftermath of betrayal but also equips them with tools for long-term growth and resilience.

This approach aims to empower those affected by betrayal trauma, moving them from a place of victimhood to one of active participation in their own healing journey.

Safety: The Foundation of Healing

Safety is paramount in the healing process. When embarking on a journey of healing, understanding and prioritizing your sense of safety is essential.

Safety serves as the foundation upon which all healing efforts are built, providing the stability and security needed to address and process past traumas, emotional wounds, or physical ailments. Without a strong sense of safety, it becomes challenging to fully engage in the healing process or to make meaningful progress.

It’s crucial to identify what safety feels like for you personally. This is a deeply individual experience, as each person’s perception of safety can vary based on their past experiences, current circumstances, and unique needs. For some, safety might be found in a quiet, private space where they can retreat and relax.

For others, it may involve the presence of supportive friends or family members who offer reassurance and understanding. Taking the time to reflect on what specifically makes you feel safe can help you create an environment conducive to healing.

Creating physical safe spaces can be an important step in this process. This might involve arranging your living space in a way that feels secure and comforting, such as having a cozy corner with soft lighting and soothing decor.

It could also mean setting boundaries to protect your personal space and ensuring that you have control over who enters your environment. Physical safety extends beyond your immediate surroundings and can include establishing routines that bring a sense of predictability and calm to your daily life.

Learning to recognize emotional safety is equally important. Emotional safety involves feeling free to express your thoughts and feelings without fear of judgment or rejection. It can be fostered through relationships with people who are empathetic, trustworthy, and non-judgmental.

Open and honest communication is key, as it allows you to share your experiences and emotions in a way that feels validating and supportive. Additionally, practicing self-compassion and being gentle with yourself can help you build an internal sense of emotional safety.

Remember, your body holds wisdom about your safety – listen to it. Our bodies often provide subtle signals about our state of safety or danger. Physical sensations such as tension, relaxation, pain, or comfort can offer clues about how safe we feel in a given situation.

Gut reactions or intuitive feelings about people, places, or experiences can also be important indicators. Stress responses like increased heart rate, shallow breathing, or muscle tension can signal that we are not feeling safe. Paying attention to these bodily cues and honoring what they tell us can guide us toward environments and practices that enhance our sense of safety.

Honesty and Transparency: Rebuilding Trust

While you have the right to expect honesty and transparency in your primary relationship, it’s equally important to be honest with yourself. In any significant relationship, mutual trust is built on the foundation of honesty and openness.

Expecting your partner to be truthful and transparent is a reasonable and healthy expectation, as it ensures that both parties are aligned and aware of each other’s thoughts, feelings, and intentions. However, this expectation should also be mirrored internally, where self-honesty plays a crucial role in maintaining the integrity of the relationship.

Being honest with yourself involves a deep, introspective process of acknowledging your true feelings, desires, and motivations. It requires you to confront uncomfortable truths about yourself and your situation, rather than avoiding or denying them.

Self-honesty is the cornerstone of personal growth and authenticity, allowing you to make decisions and take actions that are congruent with your true self. By understanding and accepting your own emotions and needs, you are better equipped to communicate them to your partner, fostering a deeper connection and understanding within the relationship.

This doesn’t mean you must share everything with an unsafe person, but rather cultivate honesty in safe relationships and with yourself. Not every person or relationship warrants full transparency, especially if it compromises your safety or well-being.

It is essential to discern which relationships are safe and supportive, where honesty can thrive without fear of judgment or harm. In such safe spaces, honesty can be a powerful tool for strengthening bonds, resolving conflicts, and building trust. It is equally important to maintain honesty with yourself in these contexts, ensuring that you are not sacrificing your own needs or values for the sake of the relationship.

Embracing Authentic Reality

Many struggle with romanticizing the past or ignoring red flags. It’s a common human tendency to look back on past experiences with a sense of nostalgia, often idealizing moments that were, in reality, more complex or difficult.

This can be particularly true in relationships, where the mind might focus on the good times, glossing over the problems and red flags that were present. By romanticizing the past, we create a skewed perception that can hinder our ability to make sound decisions in the present and future.

Authentic reality means acknowledging the truth of your situation, even when it’s painful. Embracing authenticity requires a commitment to seeing things as they truly are, not as we wish them to be.

This involves recognizing and accepting the flaws, challenges, and discomforts in our experiences. Confronting these realities can be difficult, as it may involve admitting to mistakes, acknowledging painful emotions, or facing uncertain outcomes. However, this honesty is crucial for personal growth and making informed decisions that align with our true needs and values.

This might involve keeping a log of events or seeking support to help you stay grounded in reality. One practical method for maintaining a clear perspective is to keep a written record of significant events, feelings, and thoughts. By documenting what happens and how you feel about it at the time, you create a factual account that can be referred back to when emotions cloud your judgment. This practice can help you identify patterns and recognize red flags that you might otherwise overlook.

Seeking support is another vital component in staying grounded in reality. Engaging with trusted friends, family members, or mental health professionals can provide an outside perspective that helps balance your own.

These supporters can offer insights, ask probing questions, and provide the empathy and encouragement needed to face difficult truths. Their objective viewpoints can help you see things more clearly and validate your experiences, making it easier to stay rooted in reality.

Widening Your Window of Tolerance

Trauma can narrow our ability to handle stress. When we experience trauma, our nervous system can become hypersensitive, leading to an exaggerated stress response even in relatively mild situations.

This narrowing of our ability to manage stress is often referred to as a reduced “window of tolerance.” Within this limited window, we might find ourselves quickly overwhelmed, experiencing heightened anxiety, panic, or shutdown. Recognizing this impact of trauma is the first step toward understanding the need to expand our capacity for stress management.

Widening your window of tolerance involves gradually exposing yourself to discomfort and learning to regulate your emotions. This process, often referred to as “systematic desensitization” or “gradual exposure,” involves intentionally and progressively facing situations that evoke mild to moderate stress.

By doing so, you allow your nervous system to adapt and build resilience. The key is to start with manageable levels of discomfort and gradually increase the intensity as your tolerance grows. This controlled exposure helps in recalibrating your stress response, enabling you to handle more significant challenges without becoming overwhelmed.

Learning to regulate your emotions is a crucial component of this process. Emotional regulation involves developing skills and strategies to manage and respond to your emotions in healthy ways. Techniques such as deep breathing, mindfulness meditation, and grounding exercises can help calm your nervous system when faced with stressors.

Additionally, engaging in regular physical activity, maintaining a healthy diet, and ensuring adequate sleep are essential for supporting overall emotional well-being. Over time, these practices can enhance your ability to stay composed and centered, even in the face of discomfort.

This process expands your capacity to deal with challenging situations. As you gradually expose yourself to stressors and build your emotional regulation skills, you will notice an increase in your resilience. Your window of tolerance widens, allowing you to navigate life’s inevitable challenges with greater ease and confidence.

This expanded capacity not only improves your ability to handle stress but also enhances your overall quality of life. It enables you to engage more fully in relationships, pursue personal and professional goals, and enjoy a greater sense of inner peace and stability.

Noticing Actions, Not Just Words

It’s easy to get caught up in promises and intentions. Words can be powerful and persuasive, often giving us hope and a sense of reassurance.

Promises about future behavior or intentions to change can sound convincing, especially when they come from someone we care about or trust. We want to believe that these promises will come to fruition, and we may find ourselves holding on to the potential they represent. However, relying solely on what people say they will do can be misleading, as intentions do not always translate into actions.

However, true change is evident in actions. Actions speak louder than words because they demonstrate a person’s true commitment and capability to change. While someone might genuinely intend to act differently, only their consistent behavior over time can confirm their dedication to that change. It is through their actions that we see the reality of their promises and intentions.

Observing actions rather than relying on promises helps us to assess the sincerity and effectiveness of a person’s efforts to improve or alter their behavior.

Focus on noticing the “feet” – where a person is actually going, not just where they say they’re headed. This metaphor emphasizes the importance of paying attention to the direction and consistency of a person’s actions.

By observing where someone’s “feet” take them, you can gauge their true priorities, values, and intentions. Are they taking steps toward the goals they have articulated? Are their actions aligned with the commitments they have made? By focusing on their behavior, you gain a clearer understanding of their genuine intentions and the likelihood of sustained change.

In relationships, this approach can be particularly valuable. It helps you discern whether someone is trustworthy and reliable based on their actions rather than their words alone.

If a person consistently demonstrates through their behavior that they are working towards positive change, this builds trust and confidence in their commitment. On the other hand, if their actions consistently contradict their promises, it may be a sign that their intentions lack substance or that they are not ready or willing to make the necessary changes.

The Power of Boundaries

Boundaries are not about controlling others, but about protecting what’s important to you. The concept of boundaries often gets misunderstood as a means of controlling or dictating the behavior of others. However, healthy boundaries are fundamentally about self-care and self-respect.

They are tools we use to define and protect our personal space, emotional well-being, and core values. By setting boundaries, we communicate our limits and expectations, ensuring that our needs are met and our integrity is maintained without infringing on the autonomy of others.

Think of boundaries as a fence around your values and needs, rather than a cage around specific behaviors. A fence serves to delineate your property and signal to others where your domain begins and ends, without trapping anyone inside. Similarly, boundaries help clarify what is acceptable and unacceptable in terms of how others treat you and how you treat yourself.

They safeguard your values, priorities, and emotional health by creating clear, respectful guidelines for interactions and relationships. This approach emphasizes the protective, rather than restrictive, nature of boundaries.

Boundaries allow you to maintain a sense of autonomy and control over your life. By clearly defining what is important to you and what you need to feel safe and respected, you empower yourself to make decisions that align with your values.

This might mean saying no to requests that overextend you, distancing yourself from toxic relationships, or dedicating time to activities that nurture your well-being. Establishing boundaries helps you preserve your energy and focus on what truly matters, fostering a sense of balance and fulfillment.

Setting boundaries also enhances communication and mutual respect in relationships. When you articulate your boundaries clearly and assertively, you provide others with a roadmap for interacting with you in a way that is considerate and supportive.

This can prevent misunderstandings, reduce conflicts, and promote healthier, more respectful relationships. It also models the importance of boundaries to others, encouraging them to set and communicate their own limits, which can lead to a more harmonious and balanced dynamic.

Empowering Your Healing Journey

SHAWN B shifts the focus from trying to control external factors to empowering yourself. By internalizing your locus of control and honoring your needs, you build trust in yourself and your ability to heal.

Remember, healing is a journey, not a destination. The SHAWN B framework provides a roadmap for navigating the complex terrain of betrayal trauma recovery, offering hope and practical strategies for those seeking to reclaim their power and rebuild their lives.

Help is Available

The dedicated coaches at Choose Recovery Services are committed to guiding individuals through their healing journey. These experienced professionals understand the complexities of betrayal trauma and are well-equipped to help clients navigate each component of the SHAWN B approach.

Through one-on-one sessions, group coaching, and specialized courses, the coaches offer personalized support in developing safety strategies, fostering honesty and transparency, embracing authentic reality, widening tolerance for discomfort, recognizing meaningful actions, and establishing healthy boundaries.

They provide a safe, non-judgmental space for clients to explore their experiences, process emotions, and learn practical skills for recovery. 

The coaches at Choose Recovery Services are not just educators but also compassionate allies, walking alongside clients as they transform pain into growth and empowerment.

Whether you’re just beginning your healing journey or looking to deepen your recovery, the coaches at Choose Recovery Services are ready to help you in your unique situation, supporting you every step of the way towards a healthier, more fulfilling life.

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