Have you ever been betrayed so badly you don’t know if you can ever trust again? Has someone asked you to trust them only to break a promise, be disloyal or unfaithful? Did you trust blindly, or did you see the warning signs that this person was disingenuous and had no integrity? Betrayal trauma can be the worst kind of trauma to recover from and is considered one of the most painful human experiences. This type of trauma refers to the pain and emotional distress that occurs when someone you love and trust, such as a family member, intimate partner, close friend or anyone you hold in high regard violates your trust. Research has found that approx. 60% to 70% of people who suffer from betrayal trauma also present with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Residual symptoms associated with betrayal trauma are depression and overwhelming anxiety which can be debilitating and cause problems with functioning in day-to-day life. Betrayal trauma can have a profound and paralysing effect on your psyche and your ability to trust again. Discovering that someone we love and trusted has deeply hurt us, completely undermines our sense of reality and leaves us feeling that the rug has been pulled from under us. Our lives as we know it may have to be seriously altered through no choice of our own. Whether the betrayal was infidelity, abandonment, dishonesty, vicious gossip, a smear campaign, disloyalty or repeat betrayals, there is no doubt that it is traumatic and causes considerable distress, feelings of loss and grief, damaged self-esteem, self-doubt, anger and our ability to trust can be completely shattered.
We’re left wondering: What happened? How could this happen? Who is this person?
When trust is broken in a relationship, we need to review the red flags. When a relationship is one of constant chaos and confusion, or insincerity, dishonesty and disrespect, it is impossible to trust. When someone’s words don’t match their actions, it is impossible to trust. When someone has frequent outbursts of intense rage or silence, it is impossible to trust. When someone refuses to take accountability and responsibility for their poor behaviour or disrespect, it is impossible to trust.
What is possible to trust is that niggling voice inside your head and that visceral sensation in your body when you are subjected to such behaviours. This is your internal guidance system, aka, your gut instinct or intuition, alerting you that you are not safe and something is wrong. Our ‘gut instinct’ is the most ancient and primal ‘sixth sense’ we have. It is the one thing we can truly rely upon and trust the most. Learning to tune into it is a skill we all need to embody. We get so caught up in the phraseology of people’s words and intentions, which can be fantastic in theory, but the reality of it can be very different if words and actions don’t line up. When we learn to listen to our gut instincts, we can avoid so much unnecessary suffering and weed out people with meaningless words and ill intent.
Trusting our inner knowing enables us to see through people trying to convince us they are someone they are not. It enables us to tell when people are sincere and have integrity. We all want to see the best in people, but some people do not have the best intentions. We can be blind sighted by people, their empty promises and future faking. It is always easier to see, in hindsight, how a person may have exploited our good nature. Unfortunately, this is usually after they have caused a lot of pain. If we spend time tuning into that little voice inside our head or that uneasy feeling in our body, we can learn how to align with the truth before we have to endure negative experiences.
When people betray our trust, we can feel a lot of shame and humiliation. We berate ourselves for trusting them. We question our judgement. We may blame ourselves, thinking somehow their betrayal is our fault. We may feel rejected, abandoned, unlovable and these feelings can diminish our self-worth. Our sense of reality can become completely eroded. Betrayal trauma can leave us traumatised and isolated. We feel mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and physically depleted.
What we fail to see is that we are not responsible for someone else’s lack of integrity, their dishonesty, deceit and inability to be transparent. And this is exactly why we have an internal guidance system. Our gut instinct or sixth sense can pick up on energies and vibrations that our conscious mind cannot. Ultimately, the purpose of our instinct is to protect us and guide is on our divine path. If we tune into it, we can learn to trust in our divine guidance. Life experiences teach us who and what we can and can’t trust. They also teach us that trust can be such a fickle thing. Red flags are warnings that something is amiss. Trusting our gut feelings, listening to our intuition, paying attention to our instincts and being proactive, allows us to have more genuine experiences. When we quieten our mind and trust our gut feelings, our inner knowing, we step into alignment with our higher selves. When we experience resistance and unease we are not in alignment. Our neural pathways literally light up and send signals to our brain from our gut to prepare for fight or flight. Our body senses danger before our brain does. When we activate our sixth sense we tune into our subtle world, our spiritual experiences and perceptions!
Trust is defined as a “firm belief in the reliability, truth, strength, honesty, predictability or ability of someone or something”. It is a feeling that you can depend on someone because they offer safety and security. We need to possess these traits in ourselves and trust our own internal guidance. When we do, we stand firmly in our truth, and we are in alignment with our higher selves, we have no reason to doubt our sixth sense.
Ultimately, trust in another is a leap of faith. We can never fully predict with absolute certainty how another person will act or be with us, tides can turn in an instant. This leaves us in a very vulnerable position, particularly if we have invested a great deal of ourselves, our heart, loyalty, time, etc. in the relationship. To trust without significant fear can be very difficult in this instance and is why it’s so important to build a loving and trusting relationship with our higher selves above all else.
Trust with others is only ever maintained through consistency. If people show up for us consistently through good times and bad, we recognise these relationships as stable and trustworthy. The important thing to remember is that it has to work both ways. Inconsistency breeds uncertainty and a lack of trust.
We learn how to trust from the moment we are born. We are completely dependent on our caregivers to fulfil our basic needs and when these needs are met consistently, we instinctively know we can trust that we are safe, nurtured and looked after. As we grow, we develop new relationships outside of the family dynamic. Our life experiences will determine how we trust the people that come into our lives. As adults we try to make intelligent considered choices on the type of people that present themselves in our environment and although we use our spiddy senses to weed out people that can be potentially toxic, we are taking a leap of faith every time we decide to trust someone or something. We can be naive until we are not, or we can make informed choices until we are proven otherwise. Ultimately, it’s a gamble either way. Life teaches us to be wise and develop sound judgement and this usually happens because we have overcome difficult experiences that have tested us. When our trust is broken, we learn to look out for certain traits in a person to feel secure in a relationship. We need to ask ourselves are they considerate, do they show careful thought about our wants and needs? Are they sincere, do they come across as honest, do their actions match their words? Is integrity important to them? Are they reliable, do they show up for us and do what they say they are going to? Are they responsible, do they take ownership of their actions and acknowledge when they’ve done something wrong? Are they competent, do they have the knowledge, skills, and resources to back up their promises? If a person doesn’t align with these questions consistently, we need to address this. Although there are always people in our lives, we know with a feeling of absolute certainty that we can trust, it is so important learn to truly trust our sixth sense and be alert when energies change.
So, the old saying “trust your gut” has far more significance than we ever realised. Our internal guidance system functions as our personal life compass and trusted companion. Tapping into it helps us attune to our souls’ desires while aligning with our higher purpose. When we tune into this divine guidance system, we achieve so much personal power and self-mastery. Once we trust that inner voice, we can teach ourselves to operate from a place of certainty, courage and integrity. Following our instincts not only directs us towards the best path for us it also alerts us when we are being misled or going off path. However, it is important to note that our gut instinct can be hijacked by our brain or clouded by fear. If we quieten our mind through meditation, connect to our heart centre and listen from a place of love, we can be confident that our inner voice is trustworthy.
Many of us choose not to put so much trust in a feeling or an instinct we can’t explain. But our instinct is our innate blueprint, our intuitive power and trusting it can lead to a life of peace, joy and prosperity.
If we learn to trust the signals we acquire intuitively we can enrich our lives so much and protect ourselves from harm. Tuning into our hunches can guide us to go in a certain direction that serves us or leads us to safety in times of chaos, it can encourage us to step into new opportunities during times of apathy and it can open up worlds beyond our imagination. We learn to stand in our truth and have the confidence to make decisions that are right for us.
Have you ever had a knowing feeling that a decision you have made is right for you, maybe you have been offered a job and you have no doubt in your mind it is meant to be? Or have you ever met someone that you get an uneasy feeling from? You can’t quiet put your finger on it, but this feeling is very strong. This is your ‘gut instinct’ speaking to you, your inner voice alerting you. Maybe this person has given you no indication that they can’t be trusted but yet your feelings around their energy indicate that they are someone to be careful interacting with. Then in time their actions don’t match their words and their behaviour becomes inconsistent. You look back in hindsight and can equate your initial gut feeling to what you are now aware of; this person cannot be trusted.
Why is learning to trust ourselves so important?
Learning to trust ourselves and our gut-feeling is a vital life skill and could be the difference between living a life of joy or suffering. More often than not when we don’t follow our instincts, we experience disappointment or pain. This applies to how we relate to ourselves too. Have you ever said to yourself; ‘I don’t trust my decisions on this topic because I’m too emotionally invested’, or ‘I don’t trust to speak up because I’m afraid I’ll be wrong when I do’? Or equally; ‘I trust myself implicitly because I have a proven track record’, ‘I trust that I am capable of doing this job because I have all the relevant training’, etc.? What we tell ourselves about ourselves can have a profound impact on how we trust. If we don’t trust our own decisions and behaviours, we tend to project this lack of trust out into our environment. Self-trust is so important because it leads to a better relationship with us first and foremost which in turn leads to better relationships with others. We can create healthy boundaries. The better we trust ourselves, the higher our self-confidence and self-assuredness will be. But more importantly, self-trust allows us to tap into our true potential and become more than we are. If we rely on trusting our external world, then we give it control over our experiences but if we build a trusting relationship with ourselves and our inner knowing we can create the world we want.
Years of building trusted bonds can be undone in an instant through some sort of major betrayal or even a minor misunderstanding. Factors that are crucial in keeping trust fluid and maintained are respect, communication, transparency, reliability, honesty, security and safety. Trust is about balancing all these attributes while creating healthy boundaries. Integrity and trust go hand-in-hand. When we do the right thing and live by our values, we build honesty and credibility; both are earned by being honest and having genuine intentions.
How to recover from betrayal trauma:
- Accept that you are traumatised. The first process of healing usually requires acceptance and coming to terms with the situation. No matter how much you try to suppress the betrayal without addressing it, you will just be spinning your emotional wheel and prolonging the inevitable. It is always important to acknowledge the betrayal and explore why it happened. When you accept it, you will begin the healing process.
- Practice accepting the difficult emotions that come up. After the betrayal, you will normally feel hurt, disappointed, humiliated, and let down. You may also feel angry and vengeful. Naturally, you will try to avoid these emotions. It is important not to suppress your feelings or emotions without solving the root cause.
- Recognise the emotions you are dealing with; this will give you awareness to help you identify the strategies to cope with the feelings.
- Ask for support, seek professional help, never suppress trauma, it will resurface. Start the inner work to rebuild the trust within yourself. Tune into your gut instincts again, recognise that they were there all along.