If the significant wound of betrayal happens in relationship (and betrayal is always relational), then it makes sense that our healing and restoration must also happen in relationship. The impact of betrayal is always felt most profoundly in our sense of relational disconnection. We feel disconnected from ourselves and who we knew ourselves to be, from our significant other and who we thought he or she was, from friends and family who we suddenly feel alienated from as we struggle with deep pain and sadness, and from our Higher Power who can suddenly seem unsafe and unpredictable.
This disconnection can only truly be healed one way. Through the restoration of relational connection. Relational connection to ourselves, others, and our Higher Power. This is what I call Relational Recovery. I define Relational Recovery as:
Relational Recovery is the imperfect, courageous, and vulnerable act of allowing ourselves to know and be known in relationship with others in a way that heals past wounds, changes us, matures us, and ripens us into the authentic self we were created to be.
Relational Recovery is an aspiration. We never fully arrive or get there in our relationships. But if we are willing to extend ourselves into the process of relational healing, we get moments and stretches of time where we get to experience a wonderful sense of connection and relational wholeness in our lives.
This can feel very far away when we are reeling from betrayal trauma. It can feel impossible. We are in the throes of profound disconnection and the resulting mistrust and shut-down that often happens in the aftermath of betrayal. How will connection possibly be part of our healing when we can barely stand to get out of bed? How will we ever trust again?
We are going to get into that topic next week, so I’m not going to give it away here. What I do want to say here is that our healing comes through experiences that directly counter the experience of betrayal. Experiences of being cared for, being able to rely on others, having our trust returned to us whole. Experiences of being offered comfort, empathy, and support in response to our tears and sadness. Experiences of being able to laugh with a friend even when our life is in the crapper. To heal, we must experience something different: dependency, vulnerability, and trust that are safe, reliable, and reasonably consistent (no one is perfect). It is these experiences of connection that heal the experience of disconnection at the heart of betrayal.