Betrayal and Shattered Trust: A Unique Trauma and the Path to Healing – Unpacking Three Groundbreaking Findings and How it Impacts the Workplace

Betrayal is often considered a breach of trust, a stab in the back, an unexpected twist in our story that can leave us staggering. I did a PhD study on betrayal that shed light on its profound impact on individuals, revealing insights that could transform how we understand and address this unique type of trauma. Here’s a deep dive into the study’s significant discoveries.

The Unique Nature of Betrayal Trauma

The first study discovery is that betrayal differs from other types of trauma, so it needs a different way to heal. This finding challenges conventional wisdom that bundles all traumas into a one-size-fits-all recovery process. Instead, betrayal stands out as a distinct injury that affects our sense of trust, safety and security at a fundamental level. Rejection, abandonment, belonging, confidence, worthiness and more are impacted by betrayal. That’s why healing from betrayal and shattered trust, requires a specialized approach tailored to its unique characteristics.

Post Betrayal Syndrome®: A Collection of Physical, Mental and Emotional Symptoms

The study’s second discovery introduces the concept of Post Betrayal Syndrome®, a constellation of physical, mental, and emotional symptoms that frequently accompany experiences of betrayal. These symptoms are so common among those who have been betrayed. Recognizing Post Betrayal Syndrome® is crucial in validating the experiences of those affected and in guiding them toward appropriate support and treatment.

The Five Stages from Betrayal to Breakthrough

The third and perhaps most exciting discovery of the study is the identification of five proven and predictable Stages that lead from the depths of betrayal to the heights of personal breakthrough. This discovery not only brings hope to those struggling in the aftermath of betrayal but also offers a clear roadmap for healing. Knowing the physical, mental, and emotional landmarks at each stage, and understanding what is required to transition to the next, makes the healing journey from betrayal not just hopeful but entirely predictable.

The Sticking Point: Why Stage Three Holds Many Hostage

Despite the clarity of these Stages, the study found (and what we see from members joining us within The PBT® Institute) is that most people find themselves stuck in Stage three. This Stage, characterized by a sense of being “stuck,” is where the greatest costs are incurred, both by individuals and by companies. Health care costs, low engagement, poor morale, high turnover, absenteeism, and diminished capacity are most prevalent here.

Here’s where employees are also worried that their employer will discover their compromised state, which only adds to the burden of this Stage. Finally, this is also where we experience the most symptoms of Post Betrayal Syndrome®, where we experience either repeat betrayals or keep people at a distance, and where we see the symptoms impacting our health, work and relationships.

Impact of Betrayal at Work: A Closer Look at the Statistics

Here are just a few of the most common symptoms of shattered trust and betrayal, showing how it impacts people in the workplace:

  • Inability to Trust (84%): This leads to impaired team collaboration, resistance to feedback, and increased workplace conflict.
  • Extreme Sadness (88%): It results in lowered motivation, withdrawal, and diminished creativity.
  • Weight Changes and Digestive Issues (47%): These contribute to poorer physical health and job performance.
  • Stress and Anxiety (80%): This causes decision paralysis, stress related symptoms/illnesses and burnout.
  • Loss of Personal Power (81%): It leads to decreased productivity and difficulties in collaboration and decision-making.

These statistics underscore the profound impact that betrayal can have on a person’s professional life, affecting everything from trust and collaboration to health and productivity.

From Betrayal to Breakthrough: The Imperative for Companies and Individuals

The study makes a compelling case for the need to navigate through the Five Stages from Betrayal to Breakthrough.

For companies, facilitating this journey means unlocking the full potential of their workforce.

For individuals, it means the opportunity to look, feel, and perform better.

Acknowledging and addressing the effects of betrayal isn’t just about healing; it’s about enabling a transformation that can lead to unprecedented personal and professional growth.

Let’s Wrap it Up

To wrap this up, the study was more than an academic exercise; it’s a call to action for both individuals and organizations to recognize the specific challenges posed by betrayal and to commit to a structured path to recovery. By doing so, we can turn the tide on the far-reaching consequences of betrayal and forge a path to a stronger, more resilient workforce and future.


Dr. Debi-A Trusted Resource in an Untrusting Niche

Dr. Debi Silber, Founder and CEO of The PBT (Post Betrayal Transformation) Institute and  National Forgiveness Day is a WBENC-Certified WBE (Women’s Business Enterprise), an award-winning speaker, bestselling author, holistic psychologist, a health, mindset and personal development expert who helps (along with her incredibly gifted Certified PBT-Post Betrayal Transformation Coaches and Practitioners) a predictable, proven multi-pronged approach to help people heal (physically, mentally and emotionally) from the trauma of shattered trust and betrayal.

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