If you’ve experienced betrayal, you know the intense and unimaginable feeling of shock, loss, pain, anguish, fury, sadness, terror, rejection, confusion, abandonment and more…all at the same time. You feel like the bottom drops out from under you, and in one earth shattering moment of realization, you slowly come to learn that life as you’ve known it no longer exists.

Anyone who’s been through it understands this mind blowing shock to the body, mind and heart. The shock is so severe because this was the very person you trusted, felt safe with, and believed in. Trust is absolutely essential to our sense of safety and security. So when the person you trusted the most is the one to completely shatter that sense of safety and security, it’s traumatic. We feel abandoned, alone, brokenhearted.

Without a clear understanding of the severity of betrayal, you can think you’re crazy. You struggle with thinking you’re overreacting, you can’t explain where the physical, mental and emotional symptoms are coming from, you’re experiencing a wild range of intense emotions, you’re in a fog, exhausted, and you don’t understand why you’re having such a hard time healing from this particular type of trauma.

There’s a good reason for it.

The trauma from betrayal (infidelity for example) can even physically impact the brain. The good news? You can heal from all of it.


Don’t count on time or even a new relationship to heal it. In fact, that’s a recipe for repeat betrayals. The healing needs to be deliberate and intentional as you move through The 5 Stages from Betrayal to Breakthrough. But let’s get started with Post Betrayal Transformation. What is it?

What is Post Betrayal Transformation?

It was one of the three discoveries that were made during my PhD study on betrayal. Specifically, the study was on what holds us back, what helps us heal, and what happens to us physically, mentally and emotionally when the people closest to us lie, cheat and deceive. Originally I was studying something called post traumatic growth which is a transformation after a traumatic event such as the death of a loved one, disease, natural disaster, etc. This type of transformation was discovered by researchers Tedeschi and Calhoun and involves change in these areas:

1: Appreciation of life

2: Relationships with others

3: New possibilities in life

4: Personal strength

5: Spiritual change

Changes within these areas leaves you with a new awareness, insight, perspective that you didn’t have before the trauma. For example, the death of a loved one may have you realize you’re stronger than you think, everything happens for a reason, and it may inspire a new appreciation for those you love. Moving through a frightening diagnosis may inspire a greater love and appreciation for life now that you see how fragile it can be. While a disastrous flood may have destroyed your belongings, your awareness of what really matters most may be the most precious belonging that the flood didn’t take from you.

While I’d been through death of a loved one and I’d been through a disease, betrayal felt like a completely different type of trauma. Not wanting to assume that every study participant felt the same way, I asked this question to each participant: “If you’ve been through other traumas, besides betrayal, does it feel different for you?” Unanimously, they all agreed that betrayal feels so different and here’s why.

Because it feels so intentional, we take it so personally.

With betrayal, the entire self is shattered. There’s a feeling of rejection, abandonment, belonging, a reduction in our level of confidence, our worthiness, a destruction trust. And the shattering of trust goes beyond the person who betrayed you. We lose trust in ourselves as well as we think thoughts like: “I’m a bright person, how did I not know?” “How did I not see?”

Let’s compare betrayal to other traumas. If you lose someone you love for example, you grieve, you’re sad, you mourn the loss. Life will never be the same. But you don’t question your sanity, you don’t lose your ability to trust, you may not necessarily feel rejected.

Betrayal is a complete and total shattering of the self. So it didn’t quite qualify as post traumatic growth. While after betrayal, you need to rebuild your life, you also need to rebuild the self. Those aspects of the self that were destroyed not only have an opportunity to be rebuilt, they’re able to be deliberately and intentionally rebuilt better than they were before.

With that discovery, a new term was coined which is Post Betrayal Transformation® (PBT), that’s the complete and total rebuild of your life AND yourself after an experience with betrayal.

So is it different from other types of traumas? Yes, it is. That’s not to say what’s better or what’s worse; all traumas are challenging for a number of reasons. But betrayal gives you the opportunity to create a version of you that never would have had the opportunity to exist and be created had that experience not happen.

When you create that version of you, that’s trauma well served.

Dr. Debi
Founder and CEO, The PBT (Post Betrayal Transformation) Institute

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