Betrayal can come in many forms in a relationship. It could be infidelity, emotional abuse, financial deceit, or a breach of trust. Whatever the form, the pain and trauma it leaves behind can be devastating. As someone trained and certified in healing betrayal trauma, licensed therapist Jonathan Decker has worked with hundreds of individuals and couples whose lives have been rocked by infidelity. In this article, we will explore the steps to healing betrayal trauma and the duration it takes.
PTSD and Betrayal Trauma
The trauma caused by betrayal is real, and it can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD occurs when an individual believes that they and their world are safe, and then that belief is shattered. Reminders of the trauma trigger intense emotions of fear, anger, and sadness. Individuals may become hypervigilant, avoiding places, things, and people that bring powerful emotions to the surface. In the case of betrayal trauma, the partner becomes the trigger, making it particularly nerve-wracking to reconcile.
To manage intense emotions and feelings, Jonathan Decker recommends a technique called box breathing. You trace the four sides of a box in the air with your finger, counting to five with each side. With the first side, you inhale. With the second side, you hold. With the third side, you exhale. And with the fourth side, you hold again before repeating. Box breathing can help individuals calm themselves in triggering situations.
Steps to Healing Betrayal Trauma
The duration of healing from betrayal trauma depends on taking the right steps to ensure recovery. One of the steps is atonement. During the atonement phase, the partner who was unfaithful must be open, honest, and transparent. The infidelity needs to end completely. They must be accountable for their actions, without trying to minimize, justify, or shift blame. They need to temper their defensiveness with genuine remorse. Showing that their remorse is equal to or, at least, in the same ballpark as the pain they’ve caused allows the betrayed partner to begin to trust that this won’t happen again.
The second step is attunement, where the partner must tune into the needs and emotions of the betrayed partner. They must understand the pain they’ve caused and work to help them feel safe and secure. Communication must be open, empathetic, and non-judgmental, and there must be an effort to rebuild the emotional connection between both partners.
The third step is attachment, which involves rebuilding a strong and secure emotional bond. It involves creating new shared experiences and memories, and working on physical and emotional intimacy. The unfaithful partner must show a consistent effort towards rebuilding trust and making amends.
How Long Will it Take?
The duration of healing from betrayal trauma depends on how closely couples or individuals follow the steps of atonement, attunement, and attachment. With commitment, effort, and the right help, it is possible to heal from betrayal trauma. However, the process can take time. Jonathan Decker shares some real-life examples where healing took years due to the lack of the right help and taking the right steps. Thus, the sooner individuals take the right steps, the better it is for their healing process.
Betrayal trauma is one of the hardest things an individual can go through. It can cause intense emotions of anger, sadness, and fear, leading to post-traumatic stress disorder. However, healing from betrayal trauma is possible by following the steps of atonement, attunement, and attachment. The duration of healing from betrayal trauma depends on the commitment, effort, and right help individuals seek.
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