Betrayal trauma occurs when someone that we depend on, or that we’re significantly attached to, betrays our trust in a serious way. This can happen between romantic partners, between family members, or even between employers and their employees.

When someone undergoes betrayal trauma, they lack the mental resources to properly cope with the situation. Instead, the emotions are stored in the body for later processing.

In this article we’re going to talk about how betrayal trauma can occur, how it can manifest later in life, and how you can manage it.

What Is Betrayal Trauma?

Betrayal trauma is a bit different than other types of trauma because it doesn’t always fit into the same scope of traumatic events that we usually associate with trauma. Typical traumatic events include the loss of a loved one, witnessing or being victim to violence, car crashes, or natural disasters, to name a few.

Betrayal trauma, on the other hand, occurs when someone that we’re very close to or dependent on betrays our trust in a serious way. There are a number of ways that this could happen.

  • Getting an STD from a partner who was supposedly faithful, or finding out that your partner has been cheating on you or has gotten pregnant with someone else’s child.
  • Being sexually or physically abused by a parent or caretaker.
  • Finding out that your partner has an addiction to sex.
  • Finding out that your partner was dishonest with your finances.
  • Discovering that a friend or colleague went behind your back and was unfaithful (i.e. sleeping with one of your love interests).

Betrayal trauma tends to leave similar scars as other forms of trauma. However, there are two main differences that influence the way that it affects people.

The first difference is that the victim is generally in a close relationship with the person who traumatizes them. This closeness is what allows for the violation of trust to occur in the first place.

The personal nature of betrayal trauma can make it much harder for someone to accommodate the situation socially and emotionally.

The second difference is that betrayal trauma tends to recur more often. Because of the closeness of the victim and the person who traumatized them, they may not be able to completely separate them from their lives.

If you were betrayed by your spouse, for example, it can be difficult to decide whether or not you should separate. This would involve leaving your life, your home, and potentially the children that you’ve raised with your spouse.

Symptoms and Manifestations of Betrayal Trauma

Many of the symptoms of betrayal trauma are similar to those of psychological trauma.

  • Overwhelming or uncharacteristic, unwarranted emotions
  • Strange behaviors
  • Having difficulty sleeping (too much, too little)
  • Symptoms of brain fog – having a hard time thinking or remembering things

Because of its intimate nature, betrayal trauma can also cause a number of fairly specific difficulties. These include:

  • The spontaneous need to make a life-altering decision regarding a partner or loved one
  • New feelings of insecurity or disrespect in a relationship in which you once felt safe
  • Trust violations
  • Changes in opinion or view of your partners or loved ones
  • Sudden, intense feelings of shame or guilt (maybe I’m not good enough!)
  • You may be subjected to gaslighting, in which the person who betrayed you tries to convince you that it was your fault or that your fears are invalid.

As you can imagine, all of these symptoms can make life quite difficult. Fortunately, there are processes that can help with betrayal trauma.

Managing Betrayal Trauma

There are a few holistic processes that are especially useful for managing betrayal trauma. These include:

NLP, or neuro-linguistic programming. This is a type of therapy that allows coaches to directly engage with the subconscious mind of their clients. Working together with their clients, NLP allows people to reframe their beliefs and attitudes about certain situations.

In this case, NLP would be useful for helping someone come to terms with and process betrayal trauma without letting the negative feelings overwhelm them.

EMI, or eye movement integration. This is a unique form of therapy that uses guided eye movements to help clients recall certain emotions or pieces of information stored (or repressed) in their subconscious. In doing this, they can access traumatic memories and work through them with the guidance of their coach.

Somato-emotional repatterning. This is a holistic mind-body process that works to eliminate not just the psychological aspects of trauma, but the somatic (physical, or body-based) aspects. Somato-emotional repatterning allows you to develop new behavior patterns that will allow you to move forward in life without being negatively affected by your traumatic experience.

If you’re struggling with betrayal trauma, don’t hesitate to get in touch with a coach who can assist you with some of these therapies.

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