Victim to Chooser

Being betrayed by a trusted partner is one of the most psychologically devastating experiences someone can go through.

The shattering of core beliefs about your relationship, yourself, and the world can leave you questioning your reality and struggling with powerful cognitive distortions.

However, it’s important to know that you don’t have to stay stuck indefinitely in the darkness of victimhood after betrayal.

While disempowering thoughts like “I’m not enough,” “There’s no way out,” and an inability to trust are natural initial trauma responses, they don’t have to define the rest of your healing journey.

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There are four distinct stages that most people navigate when recovering from the deep wounds of betrayal:

Stage 1: Victim

In the beginning, you are very much living in the “victim” mindset. This space is characterized by thoughts of never being able to trust again, feeling hopelessly powerless to change the situation, overwhelming shame, and belief that you are somehow flawed or to blame for being betrayed.

While painful, this stage can serve a self-protective purpose initially after profound trust has been violated.

Stage 2: Emerger

As you start to emerge from the fog of victimhood, you begin recognizing more empowering perspectives.

These may include trusting your instincts about untrustworthy patterns, acknowledging that you can’t control the betrayer’s choices, believing you deserve better, and refusing to accept mistreatment any longer. Anger and grief surface as emotions that can propel you forward when processed healthily.

Stage 3: Reclaimer

In the reclaimer stage, you more deeply own your worth and rights. You commit to firm boundaries and feel determination to reclaim what was taken from you by another’s selfish choices.

A focus on self-care, nurturing hope, and envisioning new positive relationship patterns dominates.  

Stage 4: Chooser

The final stage is getting to a place of feeling fully agentic in your life again – like you’ve reclaimed the Driver’s seat. From this empowered viewpoint, you clearly know your core values and what you will/won’t accept in your life and relationships going forward.

A “chooser” embraces a wholehearted self-love and acts from a place of unshakable self-trust.

Let’s take a closer look at the first two stages. Be sure to check back next week to learn more about the last two stages.

Victim Stage

Being stuck in the “victim” stage after experiencing betrayal trauma can be emotionally and mentally exhausting. It’s like being caught in a cycle of disempowering thoughts that constantly reinforce feelings of inadequacy, hopelessness, and shame.

Let’s break down some of these thoughts and explore how they manifest:

1. “I’m not enough”: This belief stems from the profound hurt caused by betrayal. When someone you trusted violates that trust, it can shatter your sense of self-worth. You may start questioning your value as a person and internalize the betrayal as a reflection of your inadequacy.

2. “There’s no way out”* Betrayal trauma can make you feel trapped in a situation with no apparent escape route. You may feel overwhelmed by the magnitude of the betrayal and unable to see beyond the pain and betrayal you’re experiencing in the moment.

3. An inability to trust again: Trust is a fragile thing, and betrayal can leave deep scars that make it challenging to trust others again. The betrayal may lead you to believe that everyone is untrustworthy, making it difficult to form new relationships or rebuild trust in existing ones.

4. Feeling hopelessly powerless to change the situation: Betrayal can strip away your sense of agency, leaving you feeling powerless and unable to influence the outcome of your circumstances. This feeling of helplessness can be paralyzing and further entrench you in the victim mentality.

5. Overwhelming shame: Betrayal often triggers feelings of shame, as you may blame yourself for not seeing the signs or for somehow deserving the betrayal. This shame can be all-consuming, making it difficult to move past the betrayal and heal.

6. Belief that you are somehow flawed or to blame for being betrayed: This thought is perhaps one of the most insidious aspects of the victim mentality after betrayal. You may start believing that you brought the betrayal upon yourself, whether through perceived flaws or mistakes you’ve made in the relationship.

While these thoughts are a natural response to betrayal trauma, it’s essential to recognize that they don’t have to define your healing journey.

Moving through the other stages of healing, such as acknowledgment, acceptance, and empowerment, can help you challenge and eventually overcome these disempowering thoughts. With time, support, and self-compassion, you can reclaim your sense of worth, rebuild trust, and emerge from the victim stage stronger and more resilient than before.

Emerger Stage


During the “ermerger” stage of healing from betrayal trauma, several key perspectives emerge, signaling a shift from the victim mentality towards empowerment and growth.

Let’s delve into each perspective and explore how they contribute to the healing process:

  1. Trusting your instincts about untrustworthy patterns: As you move through the emergence stage, you start to recognize and trust your intuition regarding unhealthy patterns or red flags in relationships. You become more attuned to behaviors that signal betrayal or mistreatment, allowing you to protect yourself from further harm.
  2. Acknowledging that you can’t control the betrayer’s choices: One crucial aspect of healing is realizing that you cannot control the actions or choices of the person who betrayed you. Instead of expending energy trying to change them or understand why they betrayed you, you focus on taking control of your own reactions and decisions.
  3. Believing you deserve better: In the emergence stage, you begin to cultivate a sense of self-worth and self-respect. You recognize that you deserve to be treated with kindness, honesty, and respect in your relationships. This belief empowers you to set boundaries and standards for how you expect to be treated moving forward.
  4. Refusing to accept mistreatment any longer: During this stage, you make a firm commitment to yourself to no longer tolerate mistreatment or betrayal in any form. You reclaim your agency and assert your boundaries, refusing to allow others to undermine your well-being or sense of worth.

As you navigate the emergence stage, you may experience a mix of emotions, including anger and grief.

While these emotions can be intense, they also serve as catalysts for growth and transformation if processed healthily. Anger can fuel your determination to break free from toxic dynamics, while grief allows you to mourn the loss of trust and innocence while also making space for healing.

However, it’s essential to be mindful of thoughts or behaviors that may indicate being stuck in the emergence stage rather than progressing through it. Some signs of being stuck include:

  • Persistently dwelling on feelings of anger or resentment towards the betrayer: While anger can be a natural response to betrayal, holding onto it indefinitely may hinder your ability to move forward and heal.
  • Difficulty setting boundaries or asserting your needs: If you find yourself unable to establish healthy boundaries or assert your needs in relationships, it may indicate that you’re still grappling with feelings of powerlessness or unworthiness.
  • Continuously seeking validation or closure from the betrayer: Seeking validation or closure from the person who betrayed you can keep you tethered to the past and prevent you from fully embracing your healing journey.

You Can Heal As You Move Through These Stages

While everyone’s healing journey will look a bit different, having a roadmap of the stages you may encounter can help you recognize unhealthy mental patterns to watch for and encourage you to keep choosing growth – even when fear and doubt feel overwhelming.

The path from victimhood to wholeness is a difficult one, but absolutely possible with patience, self-compassion, and nurturing the mindset shifts that lead to reclaiming your power.

Help Is Available

At Choose Recovery Services, our team of dedicated coaches and therapists is committed to guiding individuals through their journey out of the victim stage towards healing and empowerment.

With a compassionate and personalized approach, we provide a supportive environment where clients can explore their feelings, challenge disempowering thoughts, and develop resilience in the face of betrayal trauma. 

Our certified coaches offer evidence-based therapeutic techniques tailored to each individual’s needs, helping them navigate complex emotions, such as grief, anger, and shame, in a safe and nurturing space.

Through collaborative goal-setting and skill-building exercises, our coaches empower clients to reclaim their sense of agency, set healthy boundaries, and cultivate self-worth. With guidance, support, and unwavering dedication, we assist individuals in moving beyond the victim stage towards a life filled with healing, growth, and renewed hope.

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