facebook-pixel The Best Resources For Personal Empowerment & Healing
The Best Resources For Personal Empowerment & Healing

Personal empowerment is essential on the road to recovery from intimate betrayal. Dr. Sheri Keffer is back on The BTR.ORG Podcast.

Google Podcasts

This episode is Part Two of Anne’s interview with Dr. Sheri Keffer.
Part One: Intimate Deception: How To Begin Your Healing Journey
Part Two: The Best Resources For Personal Empowerment & Healing

It’s difficult to feel empowered in the aftermath of intimate deception and betrayal – but Dr. Sheri Keffer explains that it’s actually the key to finding healing.

Tune in and read the full transcript below for more.

Resources for Your Journey to Personal Empowerment

In this episode, Dr. Sheri and Anne discuss ways that betrayed women have used Dr. Sheri’s Empowerment Wheel to establish emotional safety in the face of gaslighting, manipulation, and sexual betrayal.

Information, support, and validation are essential in your journey to healing. Here at BTR, we want to make sure that you have all the tools you need to establish emotional safety for yourself. You can find the resources discussed in this episode here:

Full Transcript:

Anne (00:00):
I have Dr. Sheri Keffer on the podcast again today. I had such a good time with her last time and I’m so grateful for the work that she does. Welcome back, Sheri.

Dr. Sheri Keffer (00:09):
I have to tell you, you know how when you spend time with someone, how that time together and conversations together prompts you to change your thinking, open yourself up to what’s right in front of you and has been staring at you and you are one of those change agents. I’m grateful for you as an advocate and I’m grateful for you in light of your passion and no tolerance for harm that’s caused and I’d love that about you. I appreciate that. Always you have that in the forefront.

“Love doesn’t let abuse happen”

That’s what I really want to help to communicate to those that are listening because there is so much harm and so much abuse in what is happening. It’s not okay. It’s not okay yesterday. It’s not okay today and it’s not okay tomorrow. Stories of women that we’ve heard take our breath away because we hear abuse that we’ve been tolerating. Some of us may even call that love and it’s not love. Love doesn’t let abuse happen. Trying to figure out what we need to do in order to confront abusive, harmful behavior is what we want to offer those that are listening when I’m just grateful that you’ve allowed me to be here with you today.

Learning, Growing, Progressing

Anne (01:33):
Thank you so much, Sheri. I’m so glad that you’re back. That’s interesting. I feel like I’m just along for the ride. I feel like I’m learning and growing every week and every person that I interview, so I really appreciate you and all of your work as well. I think we’re all progressing together.

Dr. Sheri Keffer (01:50):
You’re so funny as you said that, you know what? I saw all of us on a crazy bus that went off a cliff. This ride that we’re on is not a ride that we chose. We didn’t consent to this. It’s such a feeling of helplessness when those things happen. We do learn from each other along the way. We become wiser when we listen and really define what it is we’re looking at, and I think you’re one of those advocates that is helping people define what’s happening right in front of their face.

Is Lying Abusive?

Anne (02:24):
For all of us, we go through this period where we don’t see what’s right in front of our face. We are trying to figure out what’s going on and we can’t see it for what it really is until we have some type of epiphany or we listen to a podcast like this or we read Sheri’s book or some external thing might happen to us when we start realizing, wait a minute, I don’t think my reality is what I thought it was. Sheri came on today to talk about the empowerment wheel that she created, which is a tool to help women get out of that helpless mode and when we first talked, we talked a little bit about how lying can be abusive. So Sheri, I want you first of all to talk about how lying causes harm and how the empowerment wheel can help victims of lies.

How Does the Empowerment Wheel Help Betrayal Victims?

Dr. Sheri Keffer (03:11):
I have so many women now that have copied it and are taking it in their purse. They have taken pictures of it and have it on their phone so they can guide themselves when they get in that crazy making because someone is deceiving you. Let me start with a story. This is what she said. The issue is with my husband and pornography. The problem is he denies that he looks at it. Even when I show him the evidence to this day, he swears he was pulling up those websites to see if I was checking on him, how can I move forward and trust him when I feel in my gut that he’s lying? I have literally begged him sobbing. Please tell me the truth and take this burden off of me. It was at that point that he came up with the story of going to the websites on purpose to see if I would say anything.

Crushed & Stupefied

This whole experience is very new for me. He gets angry when I mention it and he tries to turn the argument around so that I’m the one who’s doing something wrong. It’s infuriating and I literally feel crushed and stupefied by it all. I don’t know what to do. I don’t know if I should stay or forgive him or if I’m justified by wanting to leave. I just literally can’t think about anything else right now. And then she said, she ordered my book. Guess what that is gaslighting that is abusive. She found some evidence on his computer that he was looking at porn as an abusive act of lying. He lied, so now he’s lying about his lie. Seriously, that is cray. But what did you hear in her voice, in her tone? I don’t know what to do. I’m helpless, I’m sobbing, I’m crying, I’m begging.

Identifying Where We Are On the Empowerment Wheel

I’m pleading, and that is a position that so many of us go to, so let me identify what that is. First truth be told, like you and I, Anne on this bus going off the cliff, we are victims of somebody else’s sexual deception. That’s a fact. When you go through a traumatic event, there’s a negative belief that gets wired in at the crime scene and it’s a negative belief about ourselves. Let me tell you why the brain does that is because it wants to protect you. It wants to guarantee your survival. It sounds something like this. I’m helpless. I’m not in control. I’m weak. I can’t do anything. These are the negative beliefs that get wired in at the crime scene. So now if I believe that if my brain is going along with that program, am I going to do anything if I feel like I’m weak or am I going to do anything if I’m going to feel like I’m out of control?

The Victim Position on the Empowerment Wheel

No. While we have been wounded victims, what happens is we remain stuck in this one down position on my empowerment wheel. There’s a spin cycle in the center of it and then there’s two different sides. They’re the side that’s called respond, and then there’s the side that’s called react. Let’s start with the victim position. The victim position is always a one down position. I’m helpless, I’m weak, I’m not in control. I can’t do anything about it, which makes us feel powerless and helpless. We often feel like there’s nothing we can do about it to the right. You’ll notice there are three other positions. There’s the rescuer position and this is the position where someone enables to fix or controls. Basically what the catchphrase for this is, I’ll try to manage your issue to reduce my fear, concern or anxiety. That is a one up position.

What Is “The Victim Position”?

When I say one up, it’s really a false way of us trying to get power instead of being one down powerless and helpless. I don’t like that seat. I want to get out of that seat as quickly as I can, so I go to the one up position, which is the rescuer position. There’s another position, it’s called the offender, and this person is someone who uses anger or inflicts harm and don’t you think pornography is harm? Yes, yes, I do. Yeah. Pornography is abusive. It causes harm. It hurts us. It hurts our family, the women that are a part of it in situations that are abusive. When I think of offending like this woman said that every time I try to bring it up to him, he gets angry. When she brings it up to him, guess what? He feels for a moment powerless and helpless, so he goes down into that victim position, but he doesn’t like how it feels there, so he bops right up into anger to try to get his power back, but it is a reactive and unhelpful form of power and an abusive form of power as well.

The “Offending” Position

I’ll resort to any means necessary to get what I want. Gaslighting rage, men that are verbally abusive, physically abusive, all that is under that offending category. Then there’s another seed which is entitlement, and this is somebody who moves to self-absorbed usury or self-righteousness. They’re like, I’m better than you, and so that’s a person that says, I’ll tell you what I want and how to do it. You owe me. All these four positions are not healthy positions for getting out of whatever it is that we’re in. If I believe that I’m powerless and helpless and I don’t do anything with that feeling in that, I’m going to choose a path. Now, some people, it’s a gut reaction. We’re going down a rabbit hole and our brain goes to mush in that moment and we just may all of a sudden say something mean to somebody as a reaction. Sometimes our choice doesn’t catch up with us in that millisecond, but ultimately we do make decisions about how we react.

“They can choose the healthy thing to do or they can choose the unhealthy thing to do.”

Anne (09:18):
They can choose the healthy thing to do or they can choose the unhealthy thing to do, but it’s their choice that causes it not their shame because I could feel shame and still choose humility or I could feel shame and still choose to collaborate.

Dr. Sheri Keffer (09:31):
This is the deal. In my book I talk about this word which is called sah. Sah is a Hebrew word, which means pause, like stop for a moment. Think about what just happened. Look for what’s around the bend. When I’m working with partners and I’m trying to help them move from this victim position to a healthier place of response, many times what I find Anne is they do need to stop and think about it because many of them don’t even know when they’re feeling helpless.

Does 12-Step Empower or Disempower Victims of Betrayal?

Anne (10:06):
I have a question here about the 12 steps. Step one is admit that I’m powerless. What is your thought about that in terms of the empowerment wheel?

Dr. Sheri Keffer (10:18):
I’ve got some folks that aren’t in 12 Step that are actually using it and having success without having to surrender for weeks. They’re actually able to start getting in touch with their body and their gut and know that I am feeling helpless right now. They’ll give me an example. I just had a conversation with a woman on the east coast. She has three kids, one’s seven, one’s five, one’s two. She’s found out a year ago that her husband has been having sex with a woman. He is having an affair. He’s also staying home and being a dad and being a husband and she’s also involved with him. I said, what does it feel like to knowingly know that he’s with you and he’s with another woman? She said, he hasn’t really made the decision yet whether he wants to stay in our marriage or whether he wants to be with this other woman.

“The Path ‘Up’ Is Responsibility”

I paused her. You just told me about what he wants to do, but what do you need? The tears came and she said, I don’t know what I need. I just don’t know how to stop him, and then I said, where are you at on the empowerment wheel? I want you to find yourself, and she said, well, I’m in that powerless, helpless place. I said, so do you want to stay there? And she’s like, no. The path up is responsibility. I need to take responsibility for my life. I have a voice and I can consider my needs. I can make choices. I have been in 12 step myself. I’m going to be honest and I’m probably going to offend some folks here. I have seen where some 12 step programs have actually disempowered people to allow the crazy to stay crazy.

Understanding How to Accept Personal Responsibility

Anne (12:16):
I agree with you actually in my own working of 12 Step, I have witnessed that as I’ve gone to meetings, they’re surrendering and surrendering working on their side of the street while they’re allowing their abuser to run across the street from his side and punch them over and over. They’re like, okay, I’m just staying on my side of the street. He keeps coming over here and punching me, but I’m just going to focus on my side of the street and I’m like, hello. I was always in the one up position myself. I was always either a rescuer or an offender or the entitlement positions as I look at your wheel, I never ever saw myself as a victim, not ever, so I couldn’t even comprehend what was happening and I could not perceive of myself as an abuse victim. I found step one to be so appealing for me because I realized, whoa, I am literally powerless here.

The “Rescue” Position on the Empowerment Wheel

Yes, I have been trying to rescue, I have been trying to make him do this. I’ve been saying, look, you made these promises to me. You told me these things you owe me. When I could finally really do step one and live in step one, which was I am completely powerless over the situation. It was actually for me a real step forward and then I realized, okay, I am powerless or helpless over his behavior but not over my behavior. That is where I think they step from victim right to responsibility, and I think that what you’re talking about as you move from that place where you recognize that you’re powerless and helpless to where you can take responsibility for yourself and your own choices,

“Our house is not a revolving door”

Dr. Sheri Keffer (14:01):
Totally. That is it what you just said. Anne is the secret sauce because we can stay in this waiting, wanting, telling. We can get mad, right? We can do a whole lot of things just like you did, but if you go back to that moment where somebody has acted out and like this woman, every time her husband comes home late and she knows he’s out having sex with somebody until she gets to the place and where you moved, which is this is not okay. Our house is not a revolving door. I am not a concubine. I am not okay having you have sex with somebody else and I need to put a boundary down. If this is what you’re going to do, I may need to separate, and we talked about it and said, well, the reason I’m not putting down a hard boundary right now is because I’ve got three kids. That’s a reality, but it’s also a reality that her husband is having sex with somebody else. She was frozen in her victim position and it’s hurting her and her kids at the same time drawing a line, which might mean having to separate temporarily until his behavior stops or maybe permanently. I don’t know what he’s going to choose. We don’t really know, but she’s got to get to a point that she’s willing to take the risk that it takes.

“I chose safety, but it doesn’t mean things were easy.”

Anne (15:27):
It’s hard in her same situation in terms of little kids, when my ex was arrested, my kids were six, three and 11 months old. It was like, do I remove the new not contact order so that he can talk to me and come back in our house and continue to harm me or do I hold this and have a safe home, but a very stressful, difficult single mom of three tiny kids? How do I pay the bills? Those were the two things I was weighing and they’re both very difficult situations. I chose safety, but it didn’t mean that things were easy. I mean they were still super difficult. Let’s talk about the harm that can be caused from the offending position and the entitlement positions. Most

What Is “Collaboration”?

Dr. Sheri Keffer (16:08):
People, when they find out their entitlement, they don’t want to stay there. It’s not our best self. When we find out that we’re offending or even when we find out we’re a victim, people are like, no, I want to be over on the other side. The other side of rescuer is collaboration. That means shared consideration. Let’s work on this together. You do your part and I’ll do mine. That’s what we all long for. The other side of offender, this guy that’s sleeping with another woman, he’s offending. Their tagline is I’ll resort to any means necessary to get what I want. The path out is options. You don’t have to sexually act out. It is a choice and at the forefront is what do I need to do to protect and advocate? I’ll look at my choices and I need to think about how they impact you.

When Does Offending & Entitlement Become Abusive?

So let me tell you where offending an entitlement become abusive. When somebody gets to a point that they feel entitled to sexually act out, they feel justified. I was doing a radio show the other day and a woman called me after the show and she said, I’ve been married for 32 years or something like that and I’ve found my husband looking at porn. She’ll say, I’m uncomfortable with you watching porn on the tv. He goes, so what? She said, I’m really uncomfortable with it. Can you stop? And he’s like, shut up. I don’t need to stop. He’s in the entitlement position. Not only is he offending, but he’s moved to abusive acts of entitlement like, no, I can do what I want to do. That is harmful. She needs to find out what she needs to do in order to take responsibility for herself when he’s in entitlement and offending at the same time.

What Is DARVO?

I wrote in my book about DARVO. This is when somebody uses entitlement offending roles in order to cover up what they’re doing. It’s more than gaslighting. DARVO is a way that people combine manipulation, denial, lying, blame, projection, and gaslighting. It’s a term used to explain how somebody tries to rearrange your reality by placing themselves in the victim position in order to avoid being accountable for what they’re doing. D-A-R-V-O stands for deny the behavior. A stands for attack. The individual who’s doing the confronting, and oftentimes it’s us r reverse the victim and the offender role.

They basically make us sound like we’re the one doing the wrong thing and they’re all of a sudden the victim. That is another form of abuse and it’s called vo. I’ll educate a wife and say, sometimes when somebody is covering up their sexual acting out as a way of covering that up, they’ll basically deny they’re doing it, get mad at you, attack you, and you’re the one that confronting, and then they basically put themselves in the evictor and all of a sudden make you wrong and bad. It’s that crazy abuse cycle that harms so many of us and it’s not okay, but when we start to see it, we don’t have to take the bait just because they’re trying to rearrange our reality. We can disagree holding our voice, staying in our story, considering what we need, and then choosing to take care of ourselves. Our big steps.

How Anne Became Empowered

Anne (19:35):
I think one of the reasons I was so traumatized was because I had a very strong voice throughout the whole ordeal. He would deny and he would attack and he would turn the tables on me all the time and I would say, no, no, no. So my voice was always very strong, but what I found was my desire to be heard kept me in the abuse cycle. I finally had to set a boundary of no contact and it was so painful for me because I thought I want to be heard, but I have been saying the same thing for seven years. I’ve been saying it loudly. I’ve been saying it well, and I can’t say it any louder, so now the only option that I have to get out of this abuse cycle, because every time I would do that I would just get abused even more is to do a no contact boundary. So that is what I chose at that time. For me, owning my voice was maybe different or maybe not from other women. I had to say, I hear myself. I am going to give myself what I need. I don’t need to talk to him anymore because no matter how loud I talk, he can’t hear me. So that’s how I moved from victim responsibility was actually by saying, I’m not talking to you anymore.

When YOU Are Living in Empowerment, but THEY are not

Dr. Sheri Keffer (20:49):
Totally get that. The million dollar question is, on the empowerment wheel where was he? You were coming to him with your voice, so you were trying to be responsible, right? You were moving a responsibility, but where was he on the wheel?

Anne (21:06):
He was the victim and the offender and the entitlement. All three of those things,

Dr. Sheri Keffer (21:12):
Their ear portals work. They don’t have cotton in their ears. He was hearing you, but you know what? He was in entitlement in those moments. I don’t have to hear you. I don’t have to do what you say. So that is offending and entitlement. Realizing what you did was so brilliant as far as your recovery was concerned because you unplugged, you unhooked. You said, I don’t have to have the last word. I don’t have to scream. Well,

“Even when an abuser loses, he wins”

Anne (21:42):
And I had had the last word for seven years because I’m really articulate, so it’s not like I didn’t win all the arguments I did. I won every single one of them because I’m logical and I am articulate, and I would face to face confront everything he said and debunk it easily with facts. I was on the debate team in high school. I’m a really good debater.

Dr. Sheri Keffer (22:06):
Are we all surprised? No, but

Anne (22:08):
I realize that is not helping me. Even when an abuser loses, he wins.

Dr. Sheri Keffer (22:13):
I totally get it. What do you long for Anne in your voice in sharing your opinion and wanting to be seen and heard?

Can an abuser truly “see & hear” you?

Anne (22:21):
It’s interesting because I’m very seen and heard. Now we’ve got over 50,000 women who listen to the podcast. I run an organization. I still have this little part of me that’s like, I wish he could see me. I wish he could hear me. Now, I don’t do this podcast for him. I don’t think he listens to it. I don’t even think he knows I’m doing it. I use a pseudonym. That’s not why I do the podcast, but I would love to be heard and be seen by him, but I don’t think that’s a possibility. I just don’t even think that’s an option. So I have to move forward in be seen and heard in a place that’s safe for me, and now I’m more interested in being seen and heard in a safe place than I am by being seen and heard by someone who’s incapable of seeing and hearing me.

“If I don’t hear you, then I don’t have to say I’m wrong.”

Dr. Sheri Keffer (23:05):
Totally. It is really complex and I do hear your longing. That would be great. From my work with those who are in entitlement, I got a husband right now who I’m working with, there has been some infidelity. He’s in this justified position and underneath entitlement. It’s kind of counterintuitive because really they’re people that feel like if somebody knew the truth, somebody knew who they really were, they would see them as rejectable or they would see them as imperfect or they would see them as needy or incapable, and they are so defended against their own shame corps. They end being in this position and choosing to stay there. It’s like trying to break through cement. The bottom line is it’s defense. If I don’t hear you, then I don’t have to say I’m wrong. If I don’t hear you, then I don’t have to acknowledge how I’ve hurt you. If I don’t hear you, then I don’t have to own what I’ve done and take responsibility for all the damage. I stay in entitlement. Yap, yap. And I don’t go there. But it’s still a choice not to go there because any one of us can pumble down. That’s how we learn and grow and heal and move forward. But some folks don’t want to go to that place of humility.

Anne (24:27):
They either cannot or will not.

Choosing empowerment & safety in the face of manipulation & gaslighting

Dr. Sheri Keffer (24:31):
Yeah. And many times it won’t. I don’t want to and they’ll say I can’t. And usually I say, okay, can I just change one word in your phrase? I can’t. It’s really I won’t. And what’s keeping you from that? Usually they start blaming and then they go back in the victim role, getting people to start moving around this wheel and usually people end up not liking to stay on the reactive side and like you made a decision. You said, you know what? This isn’t working. I’m not going to stay in harm’s way and I can’t even try to appeal to your wiser self, right? You had to get safe

Anne (25:06):
And that was my only option. I remember praying and asking God, is he going to stay? Is he going to go? What is he going to do during this time? And God answered and said, he’s already gone, which I thought was really interesting. You can’t get to him. You just walk away because there’s nothing that you could say or do that he would be able to comprehend. He’s just past that. He’s past feeling. He’s past logic. Sad to see that. My son said, mom, dad doesn’t know the truth. He tells people these weird stories about you and we know they’re not true. And then my other son said, yep, they don’t make any sense. And I thought, okay, so they hear what he’s saying to other people and they know that it’s not true and they come home and say, we don’t know what his problem is.

Can the Empowerment Wheel Help YOU?

I love this empowerment wheel. It does not surprise me that women are keeping it in their purses or having a picture on their phone so that they can look at the situation, figure out where they are and move to the place of power. And sometimes it might look like staying silent, even though that sounds counterintuitive. It depends on your situation, what that might look like. But for those women who are working 12 step, maybe working step one, and they’re really trying to accept their powerlessness, the powerlessness you’re trying to accept is not your own powerlessness. It’s the powerlessness that you have over making someone else do something.

“I cannot fix somebody else.”

Dr. Sheri Keffer (26:30):
I cannot fix somebody else. So this idea of I need to stay on my side of the street. How do you do that when someone’s running you over with their car? That is recovery. I can choose to get what I need. I can choose to get to safety because if I don’t, then the craziness, the spin cycle, it makes our body sick. It makes our brains sick, it makes our families sick. It’s not good for us. There’s a way out. There’s always a choice. Anne, as you found in your own life, there’s always a choice out. It may mean you need to leave your home, you may need to call the police. You may need to face your fear because a lot of people go, but I’m scared. I don’t know how to do this. But scared doesn’t always mean stop. Sometimes scared means I need to press through this fear until I get to safety. We champion ourselves and those we love.

Anne (27:22):
In closing, Sheri, I would like you to tell me from your experience how a woman knows when she is moving in her strength and choices from victim to responsibility.

How can you know when you’ve moved from victim to responsibility?

Dr. Sheri Keffer (27:34):
I had a woman come in to see me recently. She had gotten stuck in an offending role. She’s so frustrated, there’s so much betrayal, and she’d gone to rage, rage, rage. She moved into a position of starting to feel her helplessness and then noticed that pause. She began to advocate for what she needed. She hadn’t been putting words to it. Unlike you, Ann, she would get mad, but she didn’t have the words. She didn’t really want to bring her vulnerable needs. She didn’t want to express what she wanted, but she was good at getting mad. She high-fived me. She said, you’re going to be so proud of me. And she took out the wheel and she told me exactly what happened when she didn’t go to rage. Guess who did? Her husband did. He got mad. But this is the cool thing. She could see it.

Empowerment Feels Better

She felt empowered. She felt proud of herself. She got out of that crazy cycle and then he had to take responsibility for what he had done in the first place. When we start to see changes in our life that start reflecting better ways of being in relationship and then it really leaves our husbands or boyfriends, it leaves them in a position where they have to do what they need to do. If they want to keep your marriage, if they want to keep the relationship, if they want to keep their home and their reputations and we end up growing stronger. So I see women who are empowered, they’re stronger, they’re better advocates. They end up patting themselves on the shoulder and saying, go me. It might be scary to do what you’re going to do, but when you do, you actually feel better.

Anne (29:19):
I would like to recommend Sheri’s empowerment wheel to all you listeners.

Dr. Sheri Keffer (29:23):
Thank you for your hard work. I know you’re a mom of three. And I go, how is she doing this? It’s a lot of work. What is so redemptive about that is it’s the very place that you’re wounded. So my marriage failed, but I am a huge advocate to help people. It’s come out of my wish that I could have had, right? I didn’t get the prize, but you know what? Just like you didn’t get heard. Look at where you are. Girl. That’s like a motivator in a good way. My marriage was a casualty, but I’m telling you, my life has been anything but that out of our pain. We have become powerhouses and I’m proud of you. Thank

Anne (30:05):
You so much for all you do. You have really made headway with all of the victims of this, so thank you.

recovering from betrayal trauma
Have you been lied to? Manipulated?

Discovered porn or inappropriate texts on your husband's phone?
Are you baffled by illogical conversations with him?

Here's What To Do Next

Get the steps we wish EVERY woman had!

Check your inbox for Your Next 3 Steps to emotional peace. Taking these steps can change your life! We'll be with you every step of the way.

Get the Podcast Straight to Your Inbox Every Week

Get the Podcast Straight to Your
Inbox Every Week

Welcome to the BTR Podcast! Keep an eye out for our first email!