After discovering betrayal, most partners often experience a period of time where they go into shock. Shock is the brain’s effort to protect us from what seems too overwhelming to deal with.
A person who suddenly loses a loved one will often go into shock. A protective cloud will envelop them, numbing their feelings, holding all the implications of their loved one’s death at bay until they can absorb what has happened. This type of protective fog lets them get up, shower and get dressed, answer questions about funeral arrangements, attend the funeral and interact with family and friends. It helps them to function when otherwise they might collapse. This same type of protective shock often envelops partners when they initially learn about the betrayal.
Shock can last from a couple of weeks to a few months depending on the person and the circumstances. The feeling of being lost in a fog can come and go at the beginning with some days feeling emotionally cloudier and other days feeling more clear. In addition, shock can create a sense of being gone from your body. One of my clients talked about not knowing how they got their daughter to the bus stop or how they got to the grocery store. They were going through the motions of life but were not present or aware.
When shock begins to wear off, there is a thawing of emotions as feelings start to be felt and processed. You may notice that instead of your grief, anger, and pain feeling slightly separate from you or a bit fuzzy, they are suddenly engulfing you and are now being felt in vivid color. Tears that perhaps felt stuck or unable to fully flow before may suddenly show up in unpredictable torrents. The feeling of walking around half asleep or on auto-pilot may be replaced by feeling highly charged, disorganized, and hyper-vigilant. These are all signs that the protective fog of shock is receding.
You may recognize your version of shock and wonder, ‘what do I do about this?’ The answer is, nothing. Shock is your body’s way of protecting you and will eventually begin to diminish, allowing you to more fully connect to and process your new reality. If, after several weeks or months, you continue to feel like you are stuck in shock, talk with your therapist. A therapist well-trained in working with betrayal trauma can introduce tools and interventions to help you slowly and gently build your internal capacity for handling your new reality. You will be able to emerge from your numbed state of shock and feel more present and connected.