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Why Shattered to Unshakeable?

Updated: Apr 30, 2021

I just finished a technically challenging, but personally rewarding, 5 Day Shattered to Unshakeable Challenge where I walked women who had experienced spousal betrayal trauma through what they needed to do to heal from shattered to unshakeable and beyond! I was so honored to have the support of FOUR INCREDIBLE WOMEN, who have gone through my programs, and were willing to share their stories. THANK YOU, lovely gals, for being willing to light the way for other women who have found themselves in some of the dark places you once found yourselves in!

What’s the big deal about betrayal trauma?

You may be asking questions like: “What is the big deal about spousal betrayal trauma, anyway? Why are you focussing on this topic? Why don’t you just tell women to forgive, get over their emotions, and move on? Why are you encouraging women to unpack their emotions even when the betrayal happened long ago? Why are the symptoms of post betrayal trauma considered synonymous to any other PTSD?”

Well let me unpack some of these questions for you:

Why spousal betrayal causes trauma

Trauma is the response to a deeply distressing or disturbing event that overwhelms an individual's ability to cope, causes feelings of helplessness, diminishes their sense of self and their ability to feel a full range of emotions and experiences. It does not discriminate and it is pervasive throughout the world (

Betrayal trauma in an intimate relationship is usually caused by some form of addiction. Although all types of betrayal, such as those caused by substance abuse or financial impropriety, can provoke a traumatic, deeply distressing response, none are as heart rendering to one’s sense of self and value, as the betrayal of sexual intimacy. Within a sexually intimate relationship, there are spoken and unspoken rules of exclusivity, that when trespassed, parallel no other type of betrayal.

If the truth be told, spousal sexual betrayal is so deeply disturbing that it causes a deep wounding that shatters the betrayed to the very core of their being, and overwhelms their ability to cope . Not only does it affect a person’s sense of identity and worth, it construes their perception of reality and inhibits a person’s ability to trust and attach intimately, regardless if the relationship continues or not. Like other forms of PSTD, the effects of betrayal trauma can remain for literally years, surfacing when triggered by something that brings the experience of betrayal into recall.

The lingering effects of betrayal trauma

The lingering effects of betrayal trauma often lead to symptoms like:

  • Shame, loss of self-esteem and self-worth

  • Avoidance, blocking, dissociating, numbing, burrowing in over-busyness and/or withdrawal from deep emotional engagement

  • Difficulty self regulating emotions such as fear, anger, rage, disrespect and loathing

  • Intrusive thoughts, suspiciousness, and hypervigilance

  • Lack of healthy attachment, loss of belief in the safety and goodness of others,

  • Inability and be truly authentic, transparent and intimate

  • Distorted beliefs, misconceptions and misperceptions

  • Inability to fully trust (self, others and God)

  • Self-protectionism in the form of fight, flight and freeze responses

  • Mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and panic attacks

  • Physical manifestations including insomnia, stress, stomach disorders, fibromyalgia, and other autoimmune diseases

The list could go on...but in a nutshell, post betrayal trauma is a debilitating response to a traumatic event just like any other form of PTSD, affecting one’s overall health and well-being until the effects of the trauma are fully addressed and replaced with healthier mindsets and coping mechanisms.

Beginning the recovery process

The first step in recovery is to make a decision to come to terms with what happened and a willingness to unpack your shattered emotions, not avoid them. When you don’t address the traumatic experience, your turmoil can spill over to other areas of your life. No matter how carefully you try to suppress or ignore what happened, you can’t erase it. Even if you do manage to shove your memories away, this won’t help you heal. Leaning into a trauma, like infidelity, might seem too painful to even consider but in reality, acknowledging and accepting it as your reality, gives you permission to begin exploring, understanding and addressing the impact it had on you, which can help kick off the healing process and produce a healthier, more radiant YOU!

Practice accepting difficult emotions

Plenty of unpleasant emotions can show up in the aftermath of betrayal. It’s common to feel humiliated or ashamed. Initially, you will grieve. You might also feel furious, vengeful, sick, or a desire to withdraw from fully attaching in a relationship . Naturally, you might find yourself trying to avoid this distress by denying, blocking or disassociating from what happened.

The problem with disassociating or blocking out what has happened, is that triggers will eventually cause memories of the betrayal to resurface, which will in turn cause you to experience or suppress the trauma over and over again. Although hiding from painful or upsetting emotions might seem easy, safe, and logical, the reality is, avoiding or masking your emotions can make it more difficult to self-regulate them. Identifying and putting a name to specific emotions like self-doubt, anger, regret, sadness, loss and mistrust can help you begin navigating them more effectively.

The next step to recovery is the practice of unpacking and accepting the overwhelming emotions, and learning how to handle the debilitating memories, triggers and fears. Recognizing exactly what you’re dealing with can make it easier and less frightening to sit with those emotions and will increase your awareness of them. Greater emotional awareness, in turn, can help you begin understanding them and identifying strategies to cope with those feelings more productively. It will help you identify the lies you’ve believed and replace them with truth. It will help you know what you need to do to protect yourself from further wounding, and to be willing to risk attaching in an