Rebuilding Our Intuition After Betrayal - An Interview with Dr. Piper Grant
Today I have Dr. Piper Grant. She's a Licensed Clinical Psychologist, Sex Therapist, Certified Sex Addiction Therapist. She's also the founder of Numi Psychology. She specializes in working with individuals and couples on issues related to sex, intimacy, and trauma.
As a CSAT and Sex Therapist, Dr. Grant has extensive experience working with individuals throughout their healing process from sexual betrayal. Although based in Los Angeles, California, Dr. Grant seeks to reach individuals and couples internationally in recovery from sex addiction and healing from sexual betrayal by hosting retreats in Bali for women who have experienced sexual betrayal trauma and couples in recovery from sex addiction. These are the only retreats hosted in Bali that are tailored to help couples and partners on issues related to sexual betrayal and facilitated by a Psychologist and CSAT.
Welcome Piper! We are so happy to have you!
Piper: Thank you! I'm so excited to be here today!
Intuition and Gut Instinct Are Warning Signs, Both Negative And Positive
Anne: We are going to talk today about women's intuition, getting in touch with ourselves and reconnecting to ourselves after betrayal or even in the midst of it in order to figure out what we need to do. I'm not going to call you Dr. Grant today, I'm going to call you Piper because I love the name Piper. What is gut instinct and why is it so important for women?
Piper: It's such a gift as women that we have this gut instinct and innate ability to have these signals throughout our life. It is the first warning signals about something, both negative and positive. I say both negative and positive because you can have somebody say something along the lines of, 'I just knew that's what I needed to do!' Especially when we're talking about partner recovery. We often will say something along the lines of, ‘I just felt like something was off.’, or that something was wrong or not right. So it helps us judge. It's a warning signal.
Intuition Is Felt in Body and Mind
The thing that is interesting about our gut instinct and the way it works is that it works as an unconscious process. It's something that we aren't even always aware is going on. What happens is our conscious brain is looking at things and we're making sense of them but our unconscious brain is working almost like a jigsaw puzzle. It's putting pieces together. When pieces don't fit together it's like, 'Something is wrong. Something is different here.' It sends a warning signal.
Studies have shown that when this happens and something doesn't fit, there's actually a surge of dopamine in the brain. You know when we say, 'In my body it just didn't feel right?' That's actually true. There's not only a psychological process happening but there's actually a physiological process as well. Your brain and your body are saying, 'Something is different here'. Let's be aware of this. Whether it's good or bad, let's be aware of this. A few years back in my work I would be like, 'There's this unique gift that women have.' and then I would kind of say, 'Well men have it too.' But women have it so much stronger.
Intuition Is A Gift In Betrayal Trauma
I intrinsically feel that women have this gift given to us. I started looking into it because I thought, 'Is it true or do I just feel that women have it stronger than men do?'
There's this belief that through evolution women actually have a stronger ability to make intuitive decisions or have intuitive guides within them. What is believed is that over time our female ancestors had to quickly evaluate a situation because they had to protect themselves and their children. They had to tune into their environment, make sense of their environment, see if things were off or on. Therefore, our brains as women evolved to have a larger ability to organize chunks of information much quicker. Giving us this edge of ability to read people and situations, quickly making decisions if something is good or bad for us.
Anne: That ‘quickly make decisions’ part is where I got tripped up in my betrayal trauma journey. I remember the sense of intense dread, like someone's going to die. Something really, really bad is going to happen. I just thought, 'I must be crazy!" I even remember telling my husband at the time, and he didn't say anything but if I could go back in time and read his mind he might be like, 'just lay very still and she won't know what I'm doing right now', right?
Betrayal Trauma Can Hinder Your Intuition
Piper: I think that is how betrayal trauma can rob us women of our gut instinct. Not rob us but negatively impact and sometimes hinder it for a while. I have partners I work with that are like, 'I had no idea. There was nothing that was off to me'. I just want to put that out there because I want all women to know that it's not to say there's always a red flag.
Yes, in our work together when we start going back and unpacking things they might say, 'Ohhh that was a red flag and I chose to ignore it.’ Or, 'There was that time that my body was like umm something is off and I chose to ignore it.'
So betrayal trauma can really impact our relationship with our gut instinct. It breaks our relationship with the gut instinct.
When I am looking at betrayal trauma and the impact of sex addiction, there's not only a betrayal of trust by the addict but actually a betrayal of trust with self. This is where it can become really complex sometimes for partner recovery.
The betrayal of trust with self is betrayal with their gut instincts. If we ignore it, ignore it and ignore it, we're betraying trust with ourself! We're saying this isn't true, this isn't happening.
That's the impact of gas-lighting. When we're a victim of gaslighting that's what happens.
Anne: Right. Had he told me the truth in that moment. If I had I said, ‘something really bad is going to happen’, and he said, ‘yea because I'm having an affair’. Or whatever it was. I still don't know to this day what it was about but had he told me the truth in that moment I would have thought, "oh, I'm not crazy!"
Piper: So you and your body are kind of in war, you and your gut instinct. That's the crazy thing. Because there is this betrayal of self or gut instinct then there’s a distrust in your reality.
Sit Back And Watch, Wait For The Red Flags To Fly
This can be difficult in partner recovery, trying to re-establish your relationship with gut instinct and experiencing a trigger, and your gut instinct is sending off these red flares that something is going on, the question then is, 'Is there ongoing trauma that you're having this gut instinct reaction to, or is it a trigger from the past?’
That's where it can be hard sometimes in recovery and re-establishing your relationship with gut instinct.
Anne: Absolutely! Especially when you've been lied to, right? A million times!
So now the red flags are going off and your husband is saying again, 'Oh everything is fine!' and you're thinking, 'Well, do I believe him now or not?' Like, ‘Where am I in this process?’ Here at Betrayal Trauma Recovery we try to help women understand the related behaviors so that you can watch what he's doing and not necessarily have to trust his words.
Piper: You guys do practice what you preach. Just from listening to your podcasts, as well as from knowing from clients who have worked with you. It's not just about the words. It's the actions as well.
An Addict's Actions Speak Much Louder Than His Words
Also, just how does it feel in your body as a partner as well. Does it feel right or wrong? I give this example sometimes. I live in L.A. We have bad traffic So the spouse can come home and he's 5-10 minutes late and the partner can be like, 'okay, he's late, it feels off.’ The schedule is off pattern and it can be hard. Am I being triggered by something that is happening in this present moment or is this a reminder of something that has happened in the past? And it's really difficult.
Anne: Yes, it is very complex. This recovery thing is no fun. And then it's also fun. There's these two parts of it. It's hard!
Piper: And it's on going and it's one of these things that I think changes with the environment and people around you. Forever modifying and changing.
Anne: In thinking about my recovery and talking with a colleague yesterday I said, ‘I haven't been angry at all! Just so sad.’ I'm finally becoming angry and it's weird! Because it's way late. This anger has been welling up inside of me and I'm not really a yeller. Well lately I have been a yeller but it's not something that's natural to me.
Finally I thought, ‘okay, wow like this has got to be the trauma coming out.’ So I told my kids, There's this thing inside of me and I'm trying to work through it and I'm really sorry.’ I said, 'When I'm feeling it I think I'm going to raise my hands high above my head and I'm going to clinch my fists and I'm going to say, ‘Agnes, Amos, Jehoshaphat!’ They were like, 'okay, that's funny!'.
And so I've been doing that when I feel it well up they just look at me and then they start laughing! I think wow, here's a new phase for me! I don't really know where I am and how to explore it. I think it's the same with our gut instinct. It's like, here I am I'm working through it and I don't really know how to do this! I hope I can learn! Making an effort to explore it I think is the key.
Piper: Yes, I love what you say! They're owning it and just being in the moment and not necessarily understanding what's going on or what it is. You're just like, ‘I'm going to feel it and embrace it in a safe and effective way.’ That's what this is about, like you said. Just working through it and just being with it moment to moment. And maybe not always making sense of it.
Anne: Yea, because I think about the women who feel in their gut that everything is fine, for example. By the way, I don't want this podcast to freak everybody out. This has happened where women have said to me after I give a speech and they say, 'That was so impactful and I'm so grateful that I don't deal with this issue! I just trust my husband and I just love my family!’, or whatever they say.
And then I get a letter like 6 months later saying, ‘I didn't know!’ And their gut was telling them at the time that things were good! That's what makes us go crazy. At least with me. I thought well, ‘I can't trust my gut because I thought things were fine and then they weren't.’
So how can a partner re-establish trust within herself?
Gaslighting Makes It Difficult To See The Red Flags
Piper: What you're saying is actually a really classic thing. That's why I was saying in the beginning that some women will say, ‘I had no idea! I didn't have those red flags and flares go off!’
So after there's discovery it really starts with love and kindness with self. Because I do think about this break down with gut instinct as a betrayal. Or as a breakdown with trust itself. It just starts first with loving kindness towards self. Sometimes as women we want to be hard on ourselves. We are like, 'Why didn't I see that? " Or, 'Why didn't I know?"', Or ' Why did I ignore that red flag?" Or whatever the list is that can be read to ourselves.
When you think about actually being in a relationship with somebody else, if there's been a break in trust, you have to rebuild that trust. There's a process of rebuilding that trust. I think about that same thing in a relationship with ourself . We need to rebuild that relationship of trust with ourself. Especially if a women is one that says, 'I had no idea! I didn't have any red flags and this just came completely out of left field!’
There's probably been some gaslighting going on. And especially then you're just like, ‘Woah where is my radar? What just happened?’
So starting with love and kindness towards self and rebuilding a relationship with the voice within you. I start with little exercises.
While your showering, bathing or standing in the grocery line for instance, just integrate it into your schedule. Just check in with yourself.
Check in with the voice of your body. So what is your heart saying to you in that moment? What is your body saying to you in that moment? What is your mind saying?
What's your experience of where you are in your environment? While you're bathing are you noticing the soap on your body?
Hello Anxiety, I See You!
Or while you're standing in line do you notice yourself wanting to get out and get on with your errands? Or are you dreading something that's coming up at the end of the day? So what ever it is, start in conversation with your body.
Why I say conversation is because specifically I'm looking at bringing that voice of your gut instinct of what your body is telling you and bringing that to the surface.
There's a woman, Anne Cornell, who teaches in her practice with mindfulness to welcome the feeling, whatever it is. Like, saying hello to that feeling. So if you're feeling anxious you say 'oh, I'm feeling anxious!' and I say hello to that.
Anne: Hello anxiety!
Piper: Yea! Hello anxiety! I think this is so important because, especially when we're talking about gaslighting or breakdown in gut instinct.
What's happened is that your reality has been denied. So if you're feeling anxious and you're like, 'I'm not anxious, I'm not anxious!' Or 'Nope, get past that!
I was thinking, 'Piper, you're not anxious! Get over it!' I'm actually denying that I'm feeling anxiety at that time.
So instead if I'm like, 'Okay I'm feeling anxious. Hello anxiety!' Even if you don't know the feeling, 'I'm feeling some feelings. Hello feelings!'
Accepting Our Own Reality Provides Validation For Ourselves
I'm actually validating my body and my mind, spirit, whole being and what you're experiencing in that moment. And that actually is little moments of re-establishing trust with your mind and your body and gut instinct.
Then start to test yourself with just little things like taking a walk to the right rather than going left today. And if you walk right instead of left, notice. Does it work out okay for you? Does everything work out fine?
And if it does say, 'Okay I'm listening to my inner voice and guide.' And those are little things.
Then when we get to the big things where you're like, ‘Nope, something is off here' you're able to to say okay, 'I've already established trust with my inner voice and I know that my inner voice has guided me with little things. I can trust it now. I can follow it.
It's starting with loving kindness towards self, rebuilding a relationship with that voice, welcoming what ever feelings that you're having so You’re not denying your own reality within yourself. And then moving forward with little tests of that gut instinct.
Rebuild Confidence By Trusting YOU Again
Anne: I like that. Why is it so important to acknowledge this and work towards it? Why do women need to re-establish trust with themselves rather than just, 'okay, now I'm going to just pick the most logical thing or I'm just going to ask my best friend!' Or I've got to make a therapy appointment every ten minutes!
Piper: Sometimes doesn't that seem easier though?
Anne: To just say, 'Someone else tell me, what's the right thing to do?", right?
Piper: The truth is that it's a guide! It's this innate gift that we have. If we're talking about whole recovery, that is a piece of us.
As a partner, whether or not you are staying in a relationship with the addict, you're going to have other intimate relationships in your life. That should be part of recovery. I mean intimate in that it doesn't have to be sexual. I'm talking about friends, family, whatever that might be.
In order to trust in others we need to have a trust in ourself. That we're actually choosing good relationships for ourself and making good decisions. So that's what this gut instinct is about.
It's re-establishing trust with self so that we know that we're moving forward with decisions that are in alignment with ourself. So even if things go awry again we can say, ‘But you know what, I know that I made the best decision for myself in that moment.’
It also helps with rebuilding feelings of self worth. So often after discovery what we can see is that feeling of the ramifications of gaslighting.
With a victim of gaslighting there can be low feelings of self worth, confidence or trust of self. And what it does is rebuild feelings of self worth and confidence in self. This allows you to be free maybe of needing to call your therapist every ten minutes or always relying on your friend!
I Thought He Was Great And That We Would Be Happy...
Anne: So true. Thinking of the question, 'Is it really possible to trust yourself again after sexual betrayal and trauma?"
For me, personally the jury is still out on this one. I'm still working through this. It's almost like I have to see if the things that I choose end up being good for me and that takes time.
My life before when I met my husband I thought he was amazing and fantastic. I told everyone how great he was and how happy I was. And then we got married and things weren't like that.
Now I think if I met someone I would be like, 'I'm getting married. I'm not sure how it's going to go.’ I think I would like hedge all my bets! I think I'd be like, 'He seems really great and all of these things seem to be working but I don't know if I can trust myself.'
The jury is still out on me. I don't know how I would know, ‘Okay I really can trust myself again!’ Literally until maybe I got married and like sixty years later! I'd be like, ‘Yes, that was the right thing to do.’ It feels like I can only trust myself in hindsight now instead of trusting myself in the future.
Piper: I love what you're saying! I'm literally jumping out of my chair because this is what always makes it difficult!
Recognize The Little Things, The Good Decisions You Make Every Day
And I say look at the small decisions every single day! You're probably making decisions whether it be with your children, with yourself, your work or whatever. It starts with the little things. Because then as you said, what is the limit? If you were to get remarried, is it after ten years that you say, ‘It's okay! Thirty years! That was a good decision!’
You could hit thirty years and be like, 'Umm nope still, I don't know!' I think this is where it becomes so complex! What is the end goal? I always say let's come down and look at the present. That's why I mentioned the example of walking. I know it sounds so little but it starts with those little things.
Just every single day you make a decision, give yourself a pat on the back and be like, 'You know what? That was a good decision! I followed myself on that decision. I should have gotten those Oreos for myself.’ That's a funny example!
Anne: Yes, you should have! I agree!
Maybe You Made The Right Decision But It Was Hijacked By Another's Choices
Piper: I hear what you're saying and that's the difficult thing. How do I define when I have re-established trust with myself? I think we need to be kinder to ourselves and look at the little successes. And know that yea, we're not ever going to know the future but we also need to give ourself the little successes.
Anne: I think there's one other issue. It could be that you are making the right decision. You are doing the right thing for you and maybe something else happened. Someone else makes a different choice. Someone else does something here or there and then it doesn't go the way that you wanted or the way that you planned.
That doesn't necessarily mean that you didn't do the right thing for you just because someone else chose something else. Those things are part of why I think I struggle a little bit. Because I thought this was supposed to turn out well for me and it didn't. But the reason why it didn't turn out well wasn't necessarily because of my decision. It was maybe because of someone else's choice.
Give The Gift Of Trusting Yourself And Reconnect With Your Intuition
Piper: Right! And so you made the best decision for yourself. And that is a gift you can give to yourself and help remind yourself of. That is where it starts! Trusting and knowing that you made the best decision. Not just you, but any of us that we made the best decision for ourself in that moment with what we had.
Anne: Piper, you are delightful! Thank you so much for coming on the podcast today!
Piper: Thank you! It was a pleasure! I'm so happy to!
Anne: We'll have to have you on again talking about some other fun topic, like masturbation or something!
Piper: Or you can visit me in Bali and we can do a podcast in Bali!
Anne: Oh, that would be awesome! Piper's site is www.NumiPsychology.com
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