Betrayal can leave a psychological wound that just never seems to get better. For many of us, it’s a constant struggle to cope with the emotional pain and trauma. 

But how do you know if you’re merely surviving and not healing? What can you do if you’re stuck trying to figure out the next move? 

I’m Dr. Debi Silber and welcome to another insightful episode of A Dose of Dr. Debi.

Today, we’ll be discussing the third of the Five Stages to get from Betrayal to Breakthrough, which is the stage that many people tend to linger in and fail to move on from. This survival stage is necessary in breaking out of the shock and trauma of the second stage, but it isn’t a place that you want to stick around in for too long.

We’ll talk about what happens when you’re in it, why you could be stuck, and what you can do to lift yourself up and progress to the next stage.

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In This Episode

  • Identify if you’ve gotten stuck in survival mode
  • Discover the common reasons why people are unable to move on
  • Find out how to move forward in your healing journey


Hi there, Dr. Debi here. Welcome to another Dose of Dr. Debi. Are you stuck? I’m asking that because I’ve been on podcasts every single day, Monday through Friday, and I’ve been going over The Five Stages from Betrayal to Breakthrough, and when I talk about Stage Three, which is survival, survival instincts emerge. I start talking about it and the host says; “Oh my gosh, (if they’re a coach) that’s where all my clients are!” Or; “Oh my gosh I remember exactly when I was in that stage and I stayed there for a very long time.”

It’s the most common place to get stuck in. And if we’re not careful, we could stay stuck in that stage for life so I want to share what it is. This way, if you’re there (also there are four reasons why we tend to stay in that one place) and when you know you can see if that’s exactly what you’re doing and of course what you can do about it.

So, when it we talk about The Five Stages and I won’t go through them here, we talk about them in Trust Again and that’s what we teach within The PBT Institute. Stage Two is the shock and trauma, and you ignite the stress response so you’re headed for every single stress related symptom, illness, condition and disease. Your mind is in a complete state of chaos and overwhelm-you cannot wrap your mind around the information you just learned this makes no sense to you. Your worldview is shattered- that’s your mental model. It’s your rules of your world, it’s what prevents chaos. So the bottom has truly bottomed out on you in Stage Two, it’s terrifying. It’s the scariest of all of the stages.

Think about it though, if the bottom were to bottom out on you, what would you do? You’d grab hold of anything and everything you could to stay safe and stay alive. That’s Stage Three, survival instincts emerge. It’s the most practical of all of the stages; “If you can’t help me get out of my way.” “How do I survive this experience?”  “Who can I trust?” “Where do I go?” “How do I feed my kids?” It’s that practical. Here’s the trap.

Once you figured out how to survive, because it feels so much better than the shock and the trauma of where you just came from, you think it’s good. You’re like; “Okay, alright, we got this.” And, on some level, it is good because it’s so much better than the shock and trauma of where you just came from. Yes it’s better, but that doesn’t mean it’s good. Transformation doesn’t even happen until Stages Four and Five. But a few things happen in Stage Three. Because we feel like we’re kind of on solid ground a little bit again, few things start happening. The first is we start getting all of these “small self” benefits.

·         We get to be right

·         We get our story

·         We get someone to blame

·         We get a target for our anger

·         We get sympathy from everybody we tell our story to

·         We don’t have to do the hard work of learning to trust again; “Should I trust you?” “Can I trust you?” “Forget it. I’m just not trusting anybody.”

So we start planting some deeper roots there. Then the next thing that happens. Because you’re here and you’re not supposed to stay for a long time but you are, now your mind starts doing things like; “Well, maybe you’re not all that great.” “Maybe you deserved it” Maybe this, maybe that, and you start planting some deeper roots. Then, because “like energy attracts like energy,” now you’re calling situations and circumstances and even relationships towards you to confirm that this is exactly where you belong. Then there’s that whole “misery loves company” club so you’re part of that too. Then because you’re here longer than you need to be, this happens next.

Because you don’t like it, but you don’t know there’s anything better, right here is where you resign yourself. You’re like; “I guess I have to find a way to make this work. It’s terrible. I’m not happy, but I don’t know there’s anything better.” So right here is where you start using food, and drugs and alcohol and work and TV and keeping busy and anything you can do to numb/avoid/distract yourself from what’s really painful to feel her face.

So think about it. You do this for a day, a week, a month and now it’s a habit. Five years, 10 years, 20 years and more. I can see someone 20 years out and say; “That emotional eating you’re doing or that drinking you’re doing or that nothing in front of the TV you’re doing. Do you think that has anything to do with your betrayal?’ They’d look at me like I’m crazy, and they would say; “Oh my gosh that happened 20 years ago!” It doesn’t matter, they got stuck in that Stage Three.

Stage Three is very action oriented. You’re figuring out how to survive your experience, it’s all about the thinking and the doing and we get in that mode of thinking and doing. It’s very head based not heart based. The feeling and being is the heart, the thinking and doing is the head. It’s like we turn down the feeling and being, and we ramp up the thinking and the doing. It’s almost like we cut ourselves off from the neck down. We’re just in that place of thinking and doing; not paying attention to how we feel, not connecting. We’re in this action oriented mode. And because we’ve cut ourselves off like this, it doesn’t feel good, it doesn’t feel safe. It doesn’t feel rewarding. It just kind of is.

So the reason why I really wanted to talk about this today is, there’s a really good chance that you or someone you know is stuck in Stage Three. There’s so much waiting for you when you let go of those “small self” benefits. When you say; “Okay well, I have my story, but if I let my story go I can have a way better story, and I can be the hero or the heroine of my story.” When you stop hanging on to your story, you can physically heal, you can boost your immune system, stop that accelerated aging, I mean it’s incredible what happens when you let when you let that stuff go. Opportunities show up. It’s like a 500 pound boulder of pain, and you put that down, you see things that are available to you now that you never would have had access to, because you were blocking that view. Your arms were busy carrying this heavy burden.

What I would recommend is take a look and ask yourself; “Am I stuck?” Because, if you’re stuck, first of all, you’re not alone and you’re not crazy. You were doing the best you knew how to do based on where you are. But there’s so much waiting for you. When you decide that; “You know what? Yes I’m receiving those ‘small self’ benefits,” but I promise you, when you give those up for real benefits, a version of you shows up in the process that will blow your mind.

So of course, if we can help you with that, be sure to check out The PBT Institute because that’s what we do in there. We have different levels of membership based on your needs, your budget, but there truly is nothing like it. I mean we have certified coaches and practitioners who each specialize in their own topic. Topics like chronic pain, addiction, we have coaches who specialize in narcissism, in reconciliation in self-betrayal. It’s endless. I mean we have just the most incredible coaches and they teach live daily classes. The way it works is for one month, within the community, it’s less expensive than one session with a therapist. And we have therapists. One of our practitioners has been a therapist for 37 years, his specialty is cognitive behavioral therapy.

It’s just incredible what goes on in there. It’s not just the live daily classes either. We have our programs, which you have 24/7access to which will literally walk you through The Five Stages of Betrayal to Breakthrough. I’m in there doing open Q&A every week (we call them Coffee Chats). Everything is recorded by the way if you can’t catch it live. We have master classes where we bring in the most incredible experts, and it’s the right type of community, you know it’s not the “Ain’t awful club” where someone’s like; “Well, this (really bad thing) happened to me” and then someone chimes in with; “Oh, you think that’s bad? This (worse thing) is what happened to me!” No, it’s all about lifting and inspiring. It’s people moving forward and then our members see that from other members they’re like; “Wow! You sound different than you sounded just a week ago!” Or, “Wow those boundaries that you were just talking about you didn’t have that a couple weeks ago. How did you do that?”

So it’s all about lifting and inspiring. We’re like the training wheels until you just don’t need them anymore. You’re not meant to be there for a long time, you’re just meant to be there to get your job done. So you can love again, trust again, feel safe again. If that can support you, go to The PBT Institute/join.

We have the proof, staying stuck is now a choice. Do not stay stuck. The hardest part is over, you owe it to yourself to heal. So thanks so much for listening and I’ll see you next time.


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215: Releasing Childhood Trauma to Heal Autoimmune Disease w/ Debbie Emick