An Exercise To Quiet Your Self-Defeating Inner Dialogue

I’m Coach Rae, one of the APSATS certified partner coaches here at Betrayal Trauma Recovery. I’m also a certified professional life coach, couples relationship coach, and divorce recovery coach. I want to share with you one of my favorite tools for helping women who are just too hard on themselves. I don’t know about you, but I don’t meet too many women who do not struggle with this to one degree or perhaps in a specific area of their lives. The belief is that they aren’t good enough; my best isn’t good enough; I’m screwing everything up; I can’t hack this; I must be a failure.

Self Care When Triggered By Betrayal Trauma

As a coach, nothing makes me want to cry more than watching these amazing, brave, beautiful, smart women reeling from betrayal trauma, trying to heal while holding all the rest of their lives together, beating themselves up for not doing better, for not doing as well as they think they should, for not being perfect, for having a learning curve when it comes to all of this.  Whenever I speak to women on this topic I have to add a little bit of a clarification that this sense of self-condemnation is not one more thing you are doing right.  It is actually a sign that you are able to observe what is happening and it gives you some leverage and momentum in terms of being able to turn the tables or shift and re-frame things in a way that instead of being self critical you can actually be self compassionate and self supportive.

Here is the exercise.  I recommend listening through as I describe it here first, before actually sitting down to do the exercise for yourself in real time.  This will increase you chances of making this a meaningful and genuine distraction-free exercise at your own pace and in your comfort zone.  

The first thing to do is to get as calm as possible.  This usually means taking a few deep breaths and shaking off some of the voices or gremlins we have been talking about here.  From this place of calm, picture as clearing as possible in your mind a woman whom you love dearly.  This can be a friend, a sister, a mother, a daughter or maybe someone who has helped you through your experience of betrayal trauma.  From this place of clarity, picture this woman carrying on her body`–on her shoulders or arms or back–all of the collective weight, the cumulative stress that you have been carrying in your own life.  For some women it is easy to think about what has been stressing them out today or what they have been carrying this week.  

For other women, it is helpful to telescope it out further – what has happened in the past month or year – and envision the bulk of this weighing on the shoulders or back or crowding the arms of your dear friend.  Imagine what it would feel like for her to go through everything you yourself is going through.  Imagine that you catch her out of the corner of your eye and you turn to face her as you think about the things that you would and would not say to this woman.  Chances are if this is someone you love you would not say things to her like, “You’re a failure,” or “You just can’t cut it,” or “You’re pathetic,” or “You did it again.  Look where you got yourself.  This is all your fault.”

How To Quiet Self Defeating Thoughts

Instead, think about–and some women find it helpful to write down the things you would say to her instead of those things.  Maybe you would say to her, “I see you and I see your burdens and I see your hurts.”  Maybe you tell her, “I care about you.  I’m on your side.  I have your back and you don’t have to do any of this alone.”  Maybe you would tell her, “Let me share some of this burden for awhile so you can catch your breath.  When you are ready, you can take it back and deal with it then.”  Maybe you tell her, “I believe in you.  I won’t give up on you.  You are so strong.”  Maybe it’s, “You don’t have to be strong forever.  You don’t need to be perfect.  I’m going to love you no matter how this whole things shakes out.”  Maybe you say, “Let’s not talk about this stuff for a little while.  Let’s take a minute to set it aside and give ourselves a self-care break and laugh about something completely meaningless or silly.”  

Whatever messages you come up with for your friend, try to make them as meaningful, as personal, as substantive as possible.  Ultimately, these messages you are crafting for your friend typically reflect exactly the things you need to hear in your own soul, given that you are the one actually carrying all of this weight upon your own body and your own soul.  

When you are doing this exercise, take a few more deep breaths and just sit with the reality of this and how it impacts you to think about everything you are carrying and everything inside that you are deeply craving and wanting and needing to hear.  As the final step in this exercise, speak out loud (it may feel hokey; it does for me!) with your own voice what you need to hear with your own ears and absorb with your own soul.  See if you experience some kind of shift–a sense of well being that perhaps you are doing better than you are giving yourself credit for.  Maybe you have everything it takes to get through this experience in a far better and more successful way than you think you can.  

Even though I don’t have a lot of time to talk about it right now,  I would love to continue this conversation with you.  You can leave me a comment or email me at  Let me know if this works for you.  Are you facing any unexpected roadblocks with the process?  Or maybe you are being hard on yourself in ways that an exercise like this just does not conquer.  If you prefer a more personal dialogue on this topic, schedule a free 30-minute consultation with myself or any of the other BTR coaches.  We can get really specific and strategize some solutions for your specific kinds of self-condemnation and the things that might be sabotaging your attempts to heal from betrayal trauma.

As I wrap up, let me say thank you for giving me a voice in this forum and inviting me into this part of your life and your healing process.  I really do hope it has been helpful.  I feel like I have done my job today if you are taking away a little bit more hope than you had before, a little more self confidence that maybe you can start talking back to all of these voices and giving them a different tone and a different role and a different kind of input into your life and recovery.

I believe you can do it!  I hope you believe you can do it.  Most importantly, i hope you know that you do not have to do any of this by yourself.  That is what support is for.  This is why we all need support along this journey.  This is my desire for you as you continue healing from betrayal trauma.

For more assistance learning recovery tools, schedule a call with Coach Rae or any one of our APSATS coaches.

I’m Broken. I’m Exhausted. And I Don’t Know What to Do.

Sometimes, even the most heroic of women finds herself hitting that dreaded “rock bottom.”  You know the one—that moment where our best attempts at healing have flat-out FAILED, hope is at an all-time LOW, and we’re hijacked somewhere between desperate (“Please throw me a life vest!”) and dead inside (“I honestly don’t care anymore.”) Life as we’ve known it implodes or explodes, and we truly don’t know how to salvage ourselves from beneath the wreckage. 

All we really DO know is this: SOMETHING. MUST. CHANGE. 

The survival of our hearts and souls depend upon it.

So, Then What?

For women reeling from the trauma of sex addiction, “rock bottom” can be the darkest, most horrific moment of our lives. Yet for those of us who survive that moment of despair? It can morph, with breathtaking momentum, into a life we honestly didn’t even know was ours for the taking.

Because I don’t believe in gracious little soundbites (at least not without the guts to back them up), here’s a little glimpse into my own “rock bottom” story. I wrote this in my journal two years ago, on the eve my 9-year recovery “birthday.” It’s an intimate little piece of my most private experience, but honored to share it here with my BTR sisters… even though I still can’t read it without crying. 

July 21, 2015

Before recovery, I thought I understood the concept of “hitting bottom.” At the very least, I’d watched it happen to addicts on television. Wasn’t “hitting bottom” the point where addicts lost their grip on everything that mattered, when life no longer felt worth living?

As the partner of a recovering sex addict, it took two years of excruciating efforts for me to reach my very own “rock bottom” moment. By the time I did, I desperately needed to STOP banging my head against a concrete wall, one emblazoned with slogans like “Please be honest,” and “Just say no!” I needed to stop bruising my hands black-and-blue, trying to squeeze water from a granite rock, one inscribed with seductive phrases like “I wish you would,” and “If only you could.” And just as addicts need to get desperate enough to fight for their recovery, willing to do anything it takes to get sober, that’s precisely what I needed, too: I needed to get desperate for my own healing, willing to do anything it took to change the way I was living.

After two years of forcing my marriage (unsuccessfully) to become what I wanted, I finally released my iron grip (no joke) and whispered these words to into the universe:

“Okay. You win. I’m done. I give up. I’m willing to stop trying to fix this marriage, my-way-or-no-way, against prevailing odds. I’m scared to death about whatever comes next, but I’m going to let go and let You take over. I’ll work with whatever marriage You have in mind for me, not the one I’ve been fighting so hard to make happen. I’m even willing to leave this marriage, (God, this is killing me), if that’s the ultimate solution to this mess that I’m living. In the meantime, I’m a wreck. I’m broken. I’m exhausted. And I really, really, really don’t know what to do.”

With that whispered prayer, I confronted my deepest fears about the war I’d been waging: I faced my dread that somehow, despite my best efforts, I could end up with another divorce on my record, withering at the end of a second failed marriage.

That was my bottom. Yes, it was awful. And no, I honestly DIDN’T know what would happen next.

Years later, as I look back on that day, I’m choking back tears all over again. I pause for a moment to honor the guts I poured into those whispered words, the vulnerability I scraped from the deepest part of my little-girl soul.

That night, seven years ago, I cried because I thought my marriage was over. 

Tonight, I’m crying because it wasn’t.

I’m minutes away from midnight, on the eve of my recovery birthday. I’m feeling more emotional than usual, as a decade of memories hover around the glow of my laptop. It feels good to write about recovery on this occasion, wrapped within the comfort of hindsight and reflection. Here in the dark, amidst this chorus of crickets, I realize that I’m waiting for the clock to strike twelve. This may sound silly, but I want to be the first person to wish me “Happy Birthday.” It might not seem like a big deal to anyone else, but I WANT that meaningful moment to remember, just between me, myself and I.

Because, after all, who else really understands what it took to get here?

Are you hitting your own rock bottom? 
You’re not alone, sister! Most of us need HELP to rise from that moment of meltdown—to stare down the darkness, talk back to the trauma, and overcome the fear that’s been holding us hostage. For us as women, seeking support is NOT a sign of failure or weakness—it’s actually one of the most beautiful, courageous and empowering steps we can take.

Here at BTR, our coaches understand the “guts and grace” reality of hitting rock bottom, and we strive to help you make this pain COUNT.

Have you already risen from your own rock bottom? Click here to schedule a support call

I’d love to hear more! Please share your story in the comments below, or email me at

Gaslighting: Manipulated Love Isn’t Love

Gaslighting In Relationships

Our APSATS coaches will help you discover your husband’s gaslighting and how to deal with it. Coach Sarah is APSATS trained and an expert in helping women find safety in when faced with gaslighting in their relationships. Click here to register for her group Detecting & Confronting Gaslighting.

I’m realizing how early I am in my recovery, and how much I don’t understand about betrayal trauma and all the complexities of recovery. I’m grateful that you have been with me as I’ve shared my recovery process with you in real time. Sometimes I feel peace and have hope, and other times I’m upset and hopeless. Good days are beginning to outnumber the bad days.

Luckily, I get to associate with the Betrayal Trauma Recovery APSATS coaches regularly, and I learn so much from them!

If you are struggling with gaslighting in your relationship, you can schedule a free consultation with one of our coaches.

What Is Gaslighting?

I interviewed Coach Sarah about examples of gaslighting in the podcast. 

Coach Sarah: Gaslighting definition: anytime someone attempts to manipulate your perception of reality, your beliefs, your thoughts, your feelings. Someone who is gaslighting is going to try and convince you that your feelings and thoughts are invalid. To truly understand what gaslighting is, we need to look past what is happening to us and focus on how we feel. Gaslighting is what we experience, so the experience of gaslighting is being confused, the inability to understand the truth, a lack of clarity.

Examples Of Gaslighting

Confusion is a big red flag of gaslighting. One example of gaslighting is that when we try to describe our reality, a gaslighter will redirect – so if you accuse your gaslighter of something, the gaslighter will turn around and accuse you of the exact same thing. There’s two reasons why:

1. If someone isn’t in active recovery, they turn things around to hide their compulsive sexual behaviors or they want to get your attention off of themselves so they don’t have to be accountable for their actions.
2. If someone is in active recovery, they might gaslight when their shame is triggered.

If someone is still exhibiting gaslighting behaviors after a year or two of recovery – something is wrong. They may have a personality disorder, like narcissism, or they may be lying about their recovery.

What Does Gaslighting Mean?

Anne: I’ve started to realize that being focused on the reason WHY the gaslighting was happening, isn’t as important as learning to recognize the gaslighting and establish boundaries to keep myself safe. But in a nutshell, if you are experiencing gaslighting tactics in your marriage, you are not safe – and that means that you need to get help to know what boundaries to set to keep yourself safe.

To schedule an appointment to talk to Coach Sarah or any of our other APSATS coaches about the gaslighting in your relationship, click here.

More About Unmanageability – Are You A Codependent Trying To Help A Narcissist?

Material from this post is taken from the S-Anon Blue Book, Copyright by S-Anon International Family Groups, P.O. Box 17294, Nashville, TN 37217, (615) 833-3152; reprinted with permission.

Is This Gaslighting? How Can We Figure This Out?

Last week, I talked about Matthew 9:18 and how I prayed that Jesus could bring my spiritually dead husband back to life.

Another woman going 12 Step Scriptures posted Matthew 8:22 on social media, responding to my prayer.

In Matthew 8:19, a scribe approaches Jesus and says, “Master, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest.” And in verse 21, “And another of his disciples said unto him, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father.”

To me this sounds like a reasonable request. “Hold on while I do this super important thing, then I’ll follow you.”

But Jesus says to him in verse 22, “Follow me; and let the dead bury their dead.”

I’ve been pondering this verse ever since. What does this mean?

If I see this as a metaphor, and that in this case, death is spiritual death, is Christ telling me, “Follow me; let the spiritually dead people focus on other spiritually dead people”?

Or in other words, “Follow me; let the spiritually dead worry about the spiritually dead?”

Or “If you continue to fret over this spiritually dead person, you too will be come spiritually dead.”

I don’t know exactly what it means, but I intend to ponder on this more. If anyone has insights, please comment on this post below. You can comment anonymously, and I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Step 1: We Admitted We Were Powerless Over Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Abuse, and Pornography Addiction & That Our Lives Had Become Unmanageable

The S-Anon Blue Book gives us some incredible insights into unmanageability. It reads, “We are concerned with two principles in Step One: that we cannot control the sexaholic or his or her sexual behavior, and that because of our attempts to do so our lives have become unmanageable” (S-Anon, 1).

I am convinced that pornography addicts exhibit similar behaviors to those with narcissistic personality disorder. The more we attempt to uncover the truth, the more our own reality unravels. Even those of us who are not naturally codependent, find ourselves in a confusing world of drama, attempting to sort out what is really happening and why.

“Accepting our powerlessness is our first admission that we “give up.” This may feel defeating and very frightening at first. In the past, we depended upon ourselves to get through every crisis or difficulty. We relied on our intellects, our theologies, our past experiences and on new schemes and strategies we developed. We felt sure that each new strategy would work, and even when it didn’t, we just bounced back with even more self-sufficiency and determination to succeed the next time. Our natural impulses were to take over, to force the issue, to make changes. We perceived ourselves to be more competent that the sexaholic and felt sure that being “strong” was the answer” (S-Anon, 1).

“We slowly started to come out of of our denial and isolation, we were able to admit that there was something wrong in our homes and our relationships. We could no longer try to right those wrongs ourselves, so we came for help. Only through this utter surrender do we find strength. Our human will power cannot break the bonds of compulsive behavior, but our admission of powerlessness lays a firm foundation upon which to build our lives” (S-Anon, 3).

Does My Husband Act This Way Because He’s Narcissistic?

When I first observed my husband’s abusive behaviors before our marriage, I responded by trying to figure out what was happening. I could describe my entire philosophy of life as, “Let’s get to the root of this. Together we can solve anything.”

The S-Anon Blue book states, “We experienced anger, disbelief, humiliation, betrayal, fear anxiety, depression, hopelessness, guilt, and numbness to name just a few. In Step One, we saw that our attempts to control or deny, so often driven by these powerful emotions, resulted in unmanageability in virtually every aspect of our lives” (S-Anon, 11).

Whether you’re a codependent, or whether your behaviors stem from trauma really isn’t the issue. I wanted labels for everything when I first started. But now, the labels don’t matter as much.
“It was difficult for most of us to make the transition from focusing on the behavior of the sexaholic to focusing on the ways in which our reactions to the sexaholism contributed to the unmanageability of our lives” (S-Anon, 11).

“Many of us had to ask our Higher Power to help us cultivate attitudes of honesty, open-mindedness and willingness to admit that our efforts to cope with sexaholism had failed” (S-Anon, 12).

My efforts to cope with my husband’s behaviors failed. I completely failed. I tried for years to come up with a name for it: borderline personality disorder, gaslighting, narcissism . . . thinking that defining it would help me resolve it.

But all my efforts failed. And then I was left with the wreckage of my desperate attempts, catastrophic financial loss, anxiety, fear for my children – the the wreckage itself is unmanageable.
That’s the beauty of Step 1. All I had to do was admit that. That’s it. All I had to do was finally come to grips with the reality of my situation and tell the truth: it’s really bad, it’s beyond repair, it’s completely unmanageable.

And I return to this place of honesty frequently.

If the podcast is helpful to you please rate us on iTunes. Each rating helps more women find us.

If you want one-on-one help, please schedule a support call with one of our coaches. Our coaches are specifically trained to help you see the signs of cheating and navigate your husband’s gaslighting.