Just saying the word out loud makes my heart rate go up. It is a word and a feeling that is familiar to me.
Betrayal: To aid an enemy of; be a traitor to. 2) To prove faithless to; disappoint; betray a trust. 3) To deceive; seduce and desert.
We own some property with a wooded area in the back half acre. For months I have been excited about the prospect of getting a fire pit set up so that we could roast s’mores and feel like we were in our own private forest. There is a lot of downed wood, so I have spent many days down there cleaning up to get ready for a fire. I even invited my dad over with his chain saw to get things moving.
Each and every time I would clean up I told my new husband that I was ready for a fire, and each time he has told me that he thinks we need to clean more up because of fire danger. Unwillingly I agreed, after all there are houses around and if a spark got in the downed wood it could be bad.
I was disappointed but continued to work on it. When I had extra time I would move logs and brush farther away from the clearing.Two weekends ago some of my friends came down to do a self-care weekend. It was pure heaven and much-needed self-care.
A couple days after getting back my husband told me that over the weekend he had taken his kids down into the forest. They had set up a tent and made s’mores over a fire.
My heart stopped, he was kidding….. right? I have been asking to start a fire for months and each time he said no. While I was gone he did it without me.
I was so upset. The tears began to flow and I became angry.
What just happened?
I said, “What about the fire danger?”
He blew me off with,”It has been raining a lot, things are wet down there, plus I took a bucket full of water just in case.”
At this point my head was spinning. I felt my chest compress and my heart felt as if it stopped. It has been a wet spring, each time I asked for a fire, things were wet. Faulty Core thoughts took over my brain. Why was I consistently told no? Why was it not okay for me, but it was okay for him. I was livid! In fact, I am still very hurt and angry by it.
During the week I was unable to go into the woods at all. I usually enjoy going back there, but all the sudden the woods became a trigger for me. I have been upset about it ever since.
My inner self was saying horrible things:
“You are such a brat, why are you making a big deal out of this?
“Seriously, He wanted some fun time with his kids.”
“What is wrong with you?”
While the whole time feeling this sense of loss and sadness. I tried to shake it, I tried to tell myself it wasn’t a big deal, but the bad feeling hasn’t gone away. I’ve been trying to work through it, but I have felt stuck.
Finally, I called a friend, one of my safe people. I was determined to figure out why this seemingly small thing was huge to me. I explained my situation to her. She said, “Oh, you feel betrayed.”
Immediately I knew that she was right on.
The train wreck
Betrayal is tricky because of how it links itself in the brain. It is kind of like a train. When you have been betrayed once your brain creates a train car. It does not forget the betrayal. When you are betrayed again the two trains link together. When you have 100 or 1000 betrayals, there are 100- 1000 cars on your train.
Each time you are betrayed you are hit with the train. That is why individuals that have faced a lot of betrayal have BIG reactions. Just like I did! Then we shame ourselves because we can’t figure out why we are so upset by such a little thing. The key is in understanding that it is not a little thing. Betrayal leaves a train of trauma cars.
Dealing with the betrayal train wreck
- Recognizing that it’s betrayal: The first step is being compassionate and recogizing that you feel betrayed. Don’t shame yourself, accept your feelings for what they are.
- Quit betraying yourself: Trust you gut, if you are around people who are continually betraying you, you are standing in line asking for more train cars. Take care of yourself first, after all you are a child of God also. Never does God encourage us to stay in abusive situations. Get away from people that you can not trust. (For women whose husbands are the betrayer, this is tricky, I am not telling you to get a divorce. That is between you and God.) I know that God asked me to stay in my situation for 19 years. He may ask you to stay also. In this case, you have to turn the betrayals over to him.
- Do Over: If the person who betrayed you is able and willing you can do things over again this is a great solution. It doesn’t take away past trauma, but it can neutralize the additional train car and keep it from joining the train. You can erase an old triggering memory with a new memory. I have many stories of how this has worked for me. The first time I tried it with my new husband I felt a little silly, but it worked. (Long story, but I asked him for a do-over on our wedding proposal)
- EMDR: Seeing a therapist that is certified in EMDR was a game changer for my betrayal trauma. I was able to replay many events from my past and change the ending. In doing this I was able to remove past trauma. If you have a lot of betrayal in your past this is key for healing. I highly recommend it.
I hope this helps you understand how betrayal works. Next time you are hit by your train car, be compassionate and kind to yourself. Talk to yourself like you would a dear friend in the same situation. You did not create the train!