I was recently working with a member from The PBT Institute who was really struggling with the betrayal of her partner. Early in a betrayal, it’s important to ask ourselves lots of questions. It’s one of the ways we work to process, make sense, and eventually make meaning out of our experience. We’re going over the experience, replaying it, looking at it from as many angles as we can to try and understand it. That’s all part of the process needed to heal.
We ask questions like: “Why did this happen?” “Why did they do that?” At first, we’re trying to understand. However, at some point, no matter how many times we’ve asked ourselves those questions, we don’t come out it any better than when we dove in. In fact, at some point, the only thing we know for sure is this; that line of questioning only brings us down a rabbit hole filled with pain, uncertainty, sadness and frustration.
So why do we keep doing it?
We’re asking those questions in the beginning as a way to help us understand. But over time, that questioning and the physiological response those questions create within us becomes hard wired. It’s slowly becomes a well-worn path bringing us no where we want to go but because it’s so familiar, that’s the path we keep taking.
So I asked our community member how many times since she learned about the betrayal does she think she’s asked the question; “Why did this happen?” Or, “Why did they do that?” Did she ask herself the question 10, 100, 1,000, 10,000, 100,000 times or even more?
Then, I asked her if she’s come up with anything different from the last few hundred times she’s asked herself those questions.
Here’s the point. We can’t possibly understand why someone does what they do, ay what they say, or behave the way they do. We can assume we know the answer but when it comes to betrayal, it’s nearly impossible to know for sure. That person’s decision is based on their unique set of beliefs, experiences, personality, character, level of awareness, consciousness and so much more.
Let’s be clear. That doesn’t excuse the behavior at all.
However, I hope it sheds light on the idea that just because something like betrayal may be the absolute furthest idea from your mind, it doesn’t mean everyone else feels the same way. It doesn’t mean the other person abides by the same rules, or agrees to the spoken or unspoken rules within a relationship either. So, to allow that person to continue to impact you long after the experience is over, that’s not fair to you.
So what can you do?
If you’re finding that you’re constantly asking yourself questions that you’re unable to find answers to, the first step is realizing that it’s taking away from your healing, your confidence, you’re self-esteem, well-being and your sanity. That awareness is powerful because when we realize that on top of the betrayal, now we’re continuing to let that person’s actions cause us further pain, along with physical, mental and emotional symptoms, that may be the motivation needed to work towards ending that line of questioning.
The next step is to assess how much of your energy was going towards “why” (which you can’t answer anyway). Has it been 10, 20, 30, 40 percent or more of your daily energy and thoughts? If so, you only have the remainder to use towards your healing, your daily activities, your health, work, relationships, family and more. That may not be enough at all to carry you through your busy day, let alone heal from your experience.
Once you’ve determined how much of your energy is being spent on why something happened, it’s time to decide how much of that energy you’re ready and willing to take back.
Even 1 percent is better than nothing.
So let’s imagine that you’ve decided to take just 1 percent of the time and energy you were devoting to an unanswerable question that was only hurting you. Now you have an extra 1 percent that can be used for your healing and recovery. Sure it’s only 1 percent. But that can mean an extra few moments to breathe deeply, think of something or someone you love, or take a moment to appreciate the stillness of nature outside.
If 1 percent can do that, imagine harnessing 10 percent, 20 percent or more? The more you take back that energy to use towards you and your healing, the more quickly you move through the Five Stages from Betrayal to Breakthrough. You’ve been through the worst of it already, you owe it to yourself to see the version of you waiting to be revealed.
Founder and CEO, The PBT (Post Betrayal Transformation) Institute