One of the questions that we are frequently asked at BTR is, “Is healing from betrayal trauma and domestic abuse even possible?”
Yes, absolutely, yes.
Andrea Hipps, author and guest on the BTR podcast, is here to share her incredible insight into how living in reality is key to beginning your journey to healing. Listen to the free BTR podcast and read the full transcript below for more.
Live In Reality: He Is Who He Is
There’s a tremendous amount of grief involved in letting someone become the miserable mess that they are.Andrea Hipps, Author
Many women in the BTR Group Sessions share their difficulty in accepting that the abuser in their life is choosing his behaviors. Societally, we make just about every excuse for abuse rather than holding abusers accountable.
When you can live in reality – that this person is choosing to behave the way they do, and allow them to experience the consequences of their own behaviors, you are opening the doorway for your own healing to occur.
Begin Healing When You Accept That Grooming Is Part of the Abuse Cycle
[Grooming] is a manufactured fantasy, on purpose, that he created to keep her sort of in the fog of abuse. She’s the good person. And she wants to see people in a good light and he has preyed on that and manufactured things and lied and deceived and manipulated using those grooming type words and situations. And it’s really hard to just let go of that and know that it was never true. That’s really hard.Anne Blythe, founder of BTR.ORG
One of the most difficult aspects of reality to accept is that his “nice” times were part of the abuse cycle.
Sometimes these periods of “good” behavior are referred to as:
- Love bombing
- The honeymoon period
- Manipulative kindness
Rather than living in a false reality that he’s a nice person who sometimes slips into abusive behaviors, healing can happen when women accept that the “nice” times were simply an effective grooming mechanism to attempt to convince the victim and her support system that the abuser was a kind, loving person – in order to keep her in the relationship.
Live In Reality: Trust Patterns, Not Potential
Power truly comes in aligning yourself with what is.Andrea Hipps, Author
Many abusive men make promises to change. Often, they’ll follow through on these promises for a period of time.
This can lead victims to investing in the abuser’s potential, rather than believing and making decisions based on the abuser’s current patterns.
As Andrea explains, personal power lies in aligning yourself with what is. Not what could be. Not what he promised he will be at some point. Not what clergy, therapists, parents, or others have told you can be.
BTR Is Here For You
At BTR, we know how difficult it is to live in reality when reality feels bleak.
A strong support system is a must.
Join the BTR Group Sessions today and find the community that you deserve as you begin your journey to healing.
Welcome to BTR. This is Anne. On this week’s episode, we are talking with Andrea Hipps again, I introduced her last week. So if you did not hear that interview, please go back to last week’s episode and then join us here. We were talking about how Andrea has a theory, that healing means aligning yourself with reality. So we’re gonna talk more about that concept today. And we’re gonna jump right in. Let’s talk about realistic healing. When you talk about aligning yourself with reality, I love that that’s such a hard thing to do. So you mentioned that part of it, but what do you think realistic healing looks like in a practical level?
What I see most often in my practice is that people live in what’s called the expectation gap. So your former partner has already given you years, sometimes decades of evidence of their predictable behavior, which is typically poor predictable behavior. And yet we go into communications or understandings about how the kids are gonna be handled with an expectation that is higher than what has been delivered, right? So if they promise they’re gonna be an absolute jerk, there seems to be an impulse in us to still go, but maybe this time when we communicate, it’ll be a little bit better. If I use these words, it’ll happen a little bit better. We leave reality. The reality is, he’s a jerk. He’s gonna talk like a jerk and he is not gonna be cooperative. We leave reality to create this expectation, which honestly is born of hope.
The Concept of Realistic Healing
So it’s a beautiful part of you that has this hope, that drives the expectation higher. Then the expectation doesn’t get met, right? And you crash down the space between who he promises to be and who you hoped he would be. That’s your space. He never promised to go up there. He never showed evidence that even could go up there, right? But when we bring that expectation, the pain is gonna be there, right? But the suffering is optional. We create that space of suffering. And so when we talk about realistic healing, it’s really being able to come back again and again and again to the reality. And we text to that reality and we email to that reality and we anticipate that reality instead of anticipating the, the sort of fabricated hopeful thing that our hearts wants to keep kicking out for us –
Which is really just a fantasy.
Yeah. And I always tell people to be general with that because it is the part of you that’s hopeful. And it’s a really beautiful thing that you have big hopes for people and for the world to change and to become more beautiful. I love that part of you, your story with a divorce happening as a result of abuse is a hard story. Don’t be the person who makes it harder by expecting something out of your former partner that they never promised that they could be. And they’ve clearly given no evidence that they’re interested in becoming now, how do I text to that person?
“All Of Those Behaviors Are Grooming”
Yeah. I think you just hit on something. They actually did promise it in so many of these situations, right? They promised they would do better. They groom quite a bit. And so the grooming part feels like they can be reasonable. And so, because there’s these periods of promising, they’ll be reasonable and promising, they’ll be understanding and oh, I will always take care of you. And I’ll always take care of the kids. And you know, that kind of stuff, knowing that all of those behaviors are grooming is really, really a hard mental shift for so many victims to realize that the words that this person says don’t mean anything. And the thing that I need to shape my perception of him that is reality is watching his actions, and actions are the only thing that I can trust or believe or see. And when we make that shift, then we can live in reality because they have created this world through words.
That is the fantasy also. It’s not just that it’s the fantasy in her mind because she’s a hopeful person. It’s also a manufactured fantasy on purpose that he did to keep her sort of in the fog of abuse, right? So there’s both of those things going on. She’s the good person. And she wants to see people in a good light and he has preyed on that and manufactured things and lied and deceived and manipulated using those grooming type words. And it’s really hard to just let go of that and know that it was never true. That’s really hard.
“There’s Grief In Letting Someone Become the Miserable Mess That They Are”
Yeah. There’s a tremendous amount of grief involved in letting someone become the miserable mess that they are. That’s really hard. What, you know, you can count on is, I will get words and then I will get opposite actions based on that reality. I now know that those words are not something I need to give attention to. They’re irrelevant to the conversation.
Absolutely. So when we’re thinking about divorce, the whole process of divorce and healing from divorce, what trips people up the most?
You know, I think on the front end and as people go through it, wherever you are in that stage of divorce and even frankly, years out and past it, the thing that trips people up is the inability to say yes to the life you didn’t expect. You know, when we say, no, it shouldn’t be this way. No, I can’t do this. No, I won’t do this. No, it’s not fair. When we put that no out there, that is the limit of where we can grow. And so when we start to say tentatively, scared, maybe even in a panicked way, okay, I’m gonna start to heal. I’m gonna start aligning myself with reality. I then open up to be able to say yes to the life I didn’t expect, which you know, from a faith based-perspective is everything. We had a plan and that plan didn’t line up with where the divine was gonna lead our lives. And when we sit and throw a very understandable, very sympathetic tantrum about not getting it that way, that is the thing that trips us up. Instead of being able to say, this is my life, there’s a lot of things about it that I would have be different, but they’re not. And as a result, here’s who I’m going to be in them. Here’s what I’m gonna offer in it. And here’s the boundaries I’m gonna set up in order to have the most maximum experience of health that I can have in it.
I did that for a long time.
“Power Truly Comes In Aligning Yourself With What Is”
I did too. It’s part of the process. You know, when you talk about the things you wanna circumvent a big part of it is kicking on that door and just going, no, no, no. You think if I get loud enough or if I get rowdy enough, I’ll somehow get some power in that. But the power truly comes in aligning yourself with what is, which can sound on the front end can sound very weak, but there is power and a surrendering to the way that it’s gonna be. There is a strength in that, that I think most people don’t find on the initially, but they warm too. And we talk about, you know, the best, worst time of your life. It’s this idea of, it doesn’t matter. What’s happening outside of me. What I know is I can be the person who can handle whatever is happening. And I didn’t know that before my divorce, I couldn’t trust that before my divorce, but now I can. And that means life can look very different and very free in a very different way, as a result of who I’ve become now,
Mm-hmm , I think that who I’ve become now part is super interesting because you don’t know, you’re becoming that person in the process of it. It’s like one day you wake up and you feel good and the sun is out and you’re not crying and then you look back and you’re like, oh wow, I’ve changed. But you don’t know you’re changing while you’re changing. You can only recognize it sort of looking backward. I love that. I love looking back and realizing, wow, I’m stronger. I have changed. I did grow from this experience, but it’s only kind of looking back that I think we get a really good view of that.
Growing into A New You Through This Process
Yeah. And part of the thing that makes it hard on the front end is this idea of fixed identity. Our brains naturally think that who we are now is who we’re always gonna be. So when we project into the future, I’m like, I gotta raise kids with this person for 10 years. I’m going to fall apart. There’s no way I can do that. What we don’t realize is the person you’re gonna become a year from now, two years from now, 10 years from now, who’s actually much different than the person you are right now. I think you and I both can look back and go, even in the last year, we’ve become different people.
But I think once you have an experience of it, like you have, and like I have you start to go, oh wait, there’s little something secret sauce going on behind the scenes here. That’s actually growing me into something. I think we also expect that those growths are gonna be leaps. They’re gonna be like big. Oh, uh, oh, I finally get it right. Like a big, oh right. Instead what it ends up being, at least in my experience. And the experience of my clients is a thousand little ahas built on the back of daily, small decisions to move from we, to me to rise above, to figure out those values things to hire the person to get the Christmas lights, right? It’s those little things that compound into the big, whoa, look at me. I am totally different. And I actually do like me better now.
Trauma Mama Husband Drama
I’m gonna take a break here for just a second to talk about my book, Trauma Mama Husband Drama. You can find it on our books page which has a curated list of all of the books that we recommend. My book Trauma Mama Husband Drama is a picture book for adults. So it is the easiest way for you to explain what’s going on to someone who might not understand it. It’s also just a good reference for yourself because it shows what’s happening with very telling and emotional illustrations, as well as infographics at the back.
The Light at the End of the Tunnel
So for those of you listening to this and you’re thinking, no, no, no, no, that’s not gonna happen. There’s not gonna be a day where I’m gonna wake up and feel good. It’s just bad. And it’s gonna be bad. I wanna validate that because I lived in that for a very long time. And so we’re also here to just sit in that place with you for a while. And then I also wanna just say there is a light at the end of the tunnel. There really is. And if you can’t see that right now, or if you don’t feel that or if that is just too painful to think about it’s okay, it’s okay. We will stand at the end of the tunnel and we will be waiting for you and greet you gently when you get there. It’s okay to have those times of despair, hopelessness and those emotions that we’ve all felt. So I just wanna acknowledge that because I remember when I was in that stage and I would hear people talk about the light at the end of the tunnel, which is, I feel like I’m arrived there now, which is great. But I remember back then being very angry and not believing it. And so I just wanna kind of leave a space there for people if they’re in that stage right now.
Yeah. I had this idea that we’ll hold the hope for you until you can hold it yourself.
For Those Considering Divorce & At the Beginning of the Divorce Process
Yeah, yeah, exactly. For women who right now are either considering divorce or starting the divorce process, who probably have a lot of heavy and scared emotions, right. And they’re working through this, what do you think they most need to know?
You know, one of the first things that I encourage my clients to do on the front end of considering a divorce obviously is to do just the logistical 360 of all of the different ways that divorce is gonna impact their life, right? When they need to be considering their children, their household, their community engagement, their work, their finances, right. There needs to be sort of a full 360 assessment of the impact that this, you know, sort of bomb going off in your life is gonna have. But bigger than that, beyond that, I really encourage people to start to build that realistic profile of their former partner and really writing down. This is what I can predictably count on almost every day from this person, they will ignore me. They will berate me. They will hit me, whatever it is, getting very, very clear about who it is that you are about to divorce so that you don’t start ramping into that hopeful spot.
Root Yourself In Reality
You don’t start believing the false promises. Like you mentioned, you really go, this is the person that I’m divorcing now. And I, I feel like again, I’m always trying to root people in reality. So when we do that 360, we’re really looking at this is gonna have big impacts. It’s gonna really affect my finances, how much I probably should look at a resource that will help me do that. When I look at the impact that my community’s gonna have, I’m gonna look at who are the people that I can count on. We start going around that. And then we start moving into who is this person I’m gonna be divorcing. It really gives us a really great baseline from which to stay very tethered to reality, which again, I would say is the most important thing for you to do as you’re moving through it. And I get the desire to wanna shut down reality, to wanna escape from reality, to wanna sugarcoat reality. I understand all those things, but it ultimately just serves to postpone the healing that you’re most trying to figure out.
The Patched Hole on Anne’s Wall
I love that. I love that I had a patch that was obvious. It was obviously patched from a hole in the wall. And whenever I’d think, am I crazy? Is it me? What happened? I would go down and just feel that patch. And it would help ground me back in reality and different women are gonna have different things like a log of the things that had happened. Like you’re saying, journal entries could be a positive STD test that they received. It could be any number of reality checks that when you feel yourself kind of becoming unmoored a little bit and wondering what reality is that you can maybe feel something tangible or touch something like your journal or whatever it is that can help ground you into reality, because reality really is the way to healing.
And then on the heels of that, once you’ve really touched that reality in a repeated way, it’s also to be able to journal in a repeated way. I will become the person who can get through this because your brain will tell you, you can’t get through it. And it might on some level be right when you can start telling your brain you’re right, but I will figure it out. It puts your brain on the search for how it could figure it out. When you just throw in the towel, your brain’s like sweet. All I wanted was safety and staying put seems to me to be the best idea, right? Cuz our brain’s always looking to conserve energy. When you’re gonna take a big leap, like moving through divorce, your brain’s going to push back on you with resistance. And one of the most important things you can do is learn to start talking to yourself in a way that invites change.
“I N G” Words
And the way we do that in the beginning, believably, not sort of in a toxic positivity kind of way is just to say, I’m scared and I’m gonna learn to become the person who has some courage to do this. I’m willing to not know right now on my way to knowing soon having those. And I call ’em just, I N G words, anytime we can be learning, willing, figuring those are the things that put us in motion to start looking for the ways that we can become the person we need to be, as opposed to just feeling like, well, crap, I didn’t get the courage gene. So I’m screwed or I’ll never know what to do. I’m not bold enough. And instead going, I may not be bold enough right now. I may not be courageous enough right now, but I am very willing to become the person who can do this.
Yeah, that’s awesome. I love that. Knowing that you can. I remember thinking I’m not a super person. I can’t do all of these things. I just felt so overwhelmed by the amount of things to do and the complexity of everything like single parenting, plus all the divorce documents plus mowing the lawn and you know, all of the things all at once. And so, and one other thing I’m thinking right now is you are on your way to becoming that person that can do it. And in the meantime, there were so many times where I just needed to ask someone for help and they were there ready to help me. And I have found that so many victims just do not want to ask for help. It’s embarrassing, it’s humiliating. Um, and maybe sometimes they don’t feel like they even have someone they can ask.
“You Don’t Have to Do It By Yourself”
I just wanna throw it out there that sometimes you can even ask a neighbor who you’re not that close to or you know, other various people. And sometimes the asking for help is what helps you get that support network that you need. It’s a way to make friends. It’s a way to interact and con connect with people. And the worst case scenario is that they’ll say, no, they were saying no before, when you didn’t ask them. So you’re not losing anything. It feels risky, but they weren’t helping before and they’re not helping. No, they say no, I do wanna throw that out there because it just feels so overwhelming and you don’t have to do it by yourself. You can ask people. And a lot of times they’ll say yes.
And you can say it to yourself: I’m becoming the person who’s learning to ask people to help. If you’re not that person yet you just put out there like, I desire to become that person. And I’m willing to figure out how I do that.
That’s awesome. Thank you for saying that. cause I’m like, ask people for help and you’re right. People listening might be like, but I can’t, I can’t.
“How Do I Align Myself With Reality Today?”
Well asking for help is also aligning yourself with reality to be able to say to somebody I need help because this is the reality I live in. Yikes. That pulls it right out of the dark and into the light where everybody can see it and I get why you might wanna shy away from that. So it does make perfect sense.
Cause we are not super people. We’re just regular people who are through the process of this actually becoming super people, which is awesome.
If there’s one message from it, it’s how do I figure out how to align myself with reality today? I may not be able to align myself with the reality five years from now, but today aligning myself with reality, looks like this and I’m willing to try this in service of getting more aligned with that reality.
Reality and Truth
I think that’s awesome. And the purpose of BTR or the podcast is to help women sort out what reality is. That’s part of the abuse problem is that, you know, women might be happy to align themselves with reality or at least they think they are, but then trying to figure out what is reality is a process. And then once, you know, then it’s like, oh, this is the answer. Wow. And then aligning yourself to that. And it’s the continual process of aligning yourself with reality and knowing what reality is. And I think the other word here that a lot of victims really appreciate is truth. We’re using the words reality and truth synonymously. And I think that anyone who has truth or reality as their goal, they will get there one step at a time, one action at a time working toward it as a woman of faith. I just feel like God really, really cares about that. And if that is your intent and that’s where your heart is, you will get there and He will help you get there. And it is kind of a long road, but it’s awesome for women like Andrea and me who are farther out, it does feel good. And there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
Support the BTR Podcast
Thank you so much, Andrea, for coming on today’s episode; we appreciate you.
I’m so grateful to be with your people and just wanna send a lot of courage into the space of the people who are listening right now, because reality is a very scary thing. At times. Truth can be a very scary thing and I just wanna send a blessing on the path.
Thank you so much. If this podcast is helpful to you, please support it. And until next week stay safe out there.