Betrayal
Trauma
Recovery

Self-Care For Betrayal Victims

by | Abuse Literacy

Betrayal Trauma: The Beginners’ Guide To Great Self-Care

When women discover their partner’s secret pornography use, they experience betrayal trauma.

Loss, devastation, terror, fury, grief, numbness… are all manifestations of betrayal trauma, and each emotion can be debilitating.

VIctims of betrayal can take small steps to begin practicing self-care, which is the only way to truly process and ultimately heal from betrayal trauma.

Trish White, a coach and counselor, meets with Anne on the free BTR podcast to empower victims to begin their own self-care regimen right away, which will empower them to begin their own journeys to healing. Listen to the free BTR podcast and read the full transcript below for more.

Self-Care Feels Wrong To Victims of Betrayal

Abusive men, including pornography users, condition victims to ignore their own needs. For many women, this means that they have forgotten how to practice self-care and when they do initiate self-care practices, they feel like they are doing something wrong.

When victims of betrayal begin practicing self-care, they often feel:

  • Guilt
  • Shame
  • Embarrassment
  • Gluttonous
  • Selfish
  • Silly

Victims can become empowered by understanding that these negative emotions are a product of their abuser’s behavior – they are not reality. Self-care is not selfish and women who practice it are practicing self-love.

Self-Care Is A Process For Victims of Betrayal

Practicing self-care isn’t a destination, it’s a journey. Self-care needs may change over time. What women need now may be different several months or years into the healing process.

When women practice self-compassion and give themselves time to try new methods of self-care, they may find more freedom and joy in the process. As Anne explains:

If we’re committed to self-care and we’re willing to be honest with ourselves and gentle with ourselves, we’ll see what’s working and what isn’t. The cool thing about being committed to self-care is that it can be an experiment.

Anne Blythe, founder of Betrayal Trauma Recovery

Self-Care For Victims of Betrayal Includes Four Components

For some victims of betrayal, self-care seems confusing and overwhelming. They wonder how to actually practice self-care in real life.

Every victim’s self-care will be specific to her needs at any given time. However, effective self-care is built on these four components that Trish White shares on the free BTR podcast:

  1. Soothing
  2. Nurturing
  3. Discipline
  4. Compassion

When women use these four components as a guide in their self-care decisions, they are better able to meet their own needs as they work through betrayal trauma.

Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group Supports Victims of Betrayal

At BTR we know how difficult it can be to implement self-care after discovering betrayal.

The intense and relentless emotional waves that seem to bury victims alive can be so overwhelming that self-care feels out of the question.

However, at BTR, we believe that self-care is the foundation for healing and thriving after betrayal and abuse.

The Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group meets daily in multiple time zones and offers women a safe place to process trauma, ask questions, express difficult emotions, and connect with other victims who get it.

Join today and make the Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group an integral piece of your self-care.

Full Transcript:

Welcome to Betrayal Trauma Recovery, this is Anne.

I’m continuing last week’s conversation with Trish White. I read her bio last week, so if you did not hear the first part of this interview please go to last week’s episode to listen to that before you come here.

Before we get to that, Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group is such an amazing community of women you can talk to live, online, on a daily basis. When you join our group, you get unlimited live sessions monthly, weekly, whatever you need. You can attend as many sessions as you want. Join today.

Self-Care Is Self-Compassion

Now to continue my conversation with Trish.

Anne: The cool thing about being committed to self-care is that it can be an experiment. Once I got on the anti-depressant and I could get off the couch, I’d be like, “You know what, when I sit on the couch my neck hurts.”

About three months ago, I moved that couch to a different area, and guess what I replaced it with? A treadmill. That has made a big difference, but that has been an evolution.

Now, when I want to relax, I walk on that treadmill rather than sit on the couch. If we’re committed to self-care and we’re willing to be honest with ourselves and gentle with ourselves, we’ll see what’s working and what isn’t.

Self-Care Can Be Experimental and Gradual

When I sat on that couch, I ended up gaining 30 pounds, which was not great from me, physically, emotionally or mentally. Do I feel bad about it? Not really, it’s fine. I started realizing it wasn’t really working for me, but it was a coping skill that I had used.

Unless your intention is self-care, I don’t think that evolution of “What is going to really bring me peace and happiness?” is going to happen. I think the experimentation is okay. Am I making any sense?

Trish: Yes. “Am I getting to know myself?” I think that is the biggest gift of this journey. I have self-care broken down into four different aspects because there’s self-soothing and then there’s self-nurturing. Those are the two main ones.

Self-Soothing Is Self-Care

Self-soothing is, “What calms me down? What do I need at this moment because my system is activated, I’m not able to think or concentrate? What do I need at this moment to calm myself down?”

Really experimenting with yourself, looking at your senses, finding two or three go-to’s that you just really know work when you’re triggered. Often, we want to get rid of the triggers, but the triggers are simply a sign that we need more self-care and attention and more healing. Let this send you to “What are ways I can calm myself down?”

We have self-soothing and self-nurturing. We’ll get back to self-nurturing. It’s like the wings on your airplane. It’s the things that balance you. It’s self-compassion versus self-discipline.

Self-Care Can Happen Anywhere

It seems harsh to introduce self-discipline because everything else seems cozy and warm, and when we think of self-discipline, we think of a drill sergeant. That’s why it’s balanced with self-compassion. When you’re practicing self-care there are tons of opportunities to practice your self-compassion.

Yes, you want to eat a bag of Oreos. Self-discipline says, “I’m probably going to feel sick tomorrow if I do, but I’m going to eat some.” The thing with self-discipline is that it comes.

I like what you’re saying, that there is a progression. This doesn’t all happen right on Day One. Self-discipline is more about keeping our promises to ourselves.

I know there are women that would never break a promise to anyone else. They will always keep their responsibilities and, yet, we renege on our commitments to ourselves all the time. 

Self-Discipline With Compassion Is Self-Care

If all I’m committing to today is to just get up out of bed and do something for myself, putting some healthy food, or something, in myself, that’s self-discipline. At the end of the day, you can say, “Okay, I did it.” There’s something that builds self-esteem in that, when you keep your promises to yourself. Does that make sense?

Anne: Yeah, your self-esteem is so fragile when you’re so traumatized. There is something to be said for that momentary comfort. I think there’s something to be said if an entire bag of Oreos, or whatever, is helpful to you, then go for it. You absolutely do it. Then, as you get a little bit stronger, then you can add limits, because guilt, at this point or worrying about anything other than just survival, is not going to help.

Trish: Yeah, and that whole self-compassion piece is different than self-pity. Self-pity says, “This is too hard for me, I can’t handle it.” Self-compassion says, “Yes, this is hard and I’m going to look after you. I’ll get you through this.”

Women Can Practice Self-Care By Showing Themselves Compassion

Being able to talk to our self with that more nurturing voice, I had to develop and learn that. It’s a learning curve to be able to get rid of that inner critic because, often, that beats us up and makes us feel guilty about everything.

Anne: It’s coming to me that I think the most important thing is the intention. Being intentional about it. If you’re going to say, “Right now, my alarms are going off and I know if I eat this or if I go do this thing, that this is going to help. I also know the consequences of this, but this is what I’m going to choose right now because my pain is too intense.”

I remember one day when I went into the closet and I put a really soft blanket over my head and I just laid in the closet and just cried and cried and cried, but that was an intentional choice. I think intentionality is really the thing that we’re looking for, in the beginning.

Self-Nurturing Is Key To Self-Care

Trish: Yeah, that whole just learning to have compassion for yourself and take care of yourself, that brings us to that last part, which is the self-nurturing. Self-nurturing is like the rhythms of life.

When these crises happen, we are down to ground-zero of what we are able to do but, if we think through what a baby needs to survive, they need predictable sleep, food at regular intervals, some sort of loving relationship, and they need some sort of movement or stimulation. If we can just break down that last to the very basics so that you’re just, “Am I putting something in my body? Am I drinking some water? Am I making sure I’m doing what I can so I can sleep?”

That’s the whole self-nurturing part, and that, I think, is where the growth takes place because it’s pretty bare-bones, to begin with. We can always up our self-nurture game for years.

Self-Care Helps Trauma Survivors Process Emotions

Anne: Altogether, I want you to repeat those four components and how they interact with each other.

Trish: Okay, so self-soothing is what we do when we find ourselves triggered and we know we need to bring our system down. Quite often, it happens with trauma, our systems get stuck in overdrive. We need to find ways to slowly calm it down, and it takes time. Self-soothing is finding two or three things that calm and soothe you, heading to your senses for what works to calm yourself down.

Self-nurturing is the rhythms of the day. Am I putting something good in my body? Am I making sure I’m looking after my sleep patterns? Do I have loving people I can connect with? That’s a hard one, but we always need safe people, and that may even be a coach or a counselor, if your family system is really broken down.

Anne: Or like Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group, our online group, might be an option.

Loving Relationships Can Help Victims Practice Self-Care

Trish: And holding onto your children. There you have self-soothing and self-nurture at the same time. There is nothing better than a baby fresh from the bath, right? Loving relationships. Some sort of stimulation, just like you would with a baby, getting outside or mental stimulation, watching something, doing something so that you’re moved out of just curling up and crying all the time. Self-nurture, and those expand.

Then, down the road, you’ve decided you’re now eating regular meals, but you recognize, “I need to be eating more vegetables so I’m going to start putting vegetables in my smoothie.” You can up your self-care game, almost endlessly.

That’s self-soothing, self-nurturing, and then balancing them out with self-compassion and self-discipline. Today I need to get something done so we’re going on self-discipline but when I started, I’m in tears and can’t do it so then self-compassion says, “Hey, it’s okay. Just work at it for 15 minutes and then call it quits.”

Self-Care Becomes a Healing Habit Over Time

Anne: Yeah, that’s perfect. At the beginning, I asked you for a really simple one, like my suggestion was to go outside and yours was to look out the window with a hot drink. That was perfect, I loved that.

I want everyone to know that, four years out, I’m doing yoga almost every day. I am back to weightlifting. I’m skiing again and paddle boarding. I love outdoor sports. I’m feeling more and more like myself every day.

If you’re listening and you’re like, “This seems impossible” or “I can’t do this,” I want to give you some hope that, it might take a while. But four years out, five years out, ten years out or whatever it is, that things will get better.

I know when people told me that, I wanted to shake them and be like, “You don’t know how bad it is. It’s so bad.” Now, it feels good. Life is really good, so let’s go back to more of those simple tips for women who are in intense trauma right now because I’d say that’s the bulk of our listeners.

Practical Tips for Self-Care

Why don’t we leave our listeners with one more practical self-care tip? A tip that any woman, no matter what stage of trauma she’s in, especially the women who are in intense trauma right now, could implement today.

Trish: Safety is so important in the first while, right? Finding that safe place, and so one suggestion, quite often, we end up being hooked to our phones, and so I recommend putting together a photo file of people you love and places you love.

If you love the beach, have beach pictures on there. If you’re like me and half your world turns white and cold, I have pictures of summer so that I can remember that life does come back to this barren planet. Put those in a file of places I’ve walked, beaches I’ve been on, and when I need to just give my brain a break I head there and flip through.

Scatter them with pictures of people, your children, learn to just sit and focus on some of those and remind yourself that there are some good things. There are great places in the world. We will get back there.

Deleting Social Media Accounts May Be Healing Self-Care For Victims

Anne: Yeah, that’s a great tip. I just thought of one that I did that really helped a lot, and when I say this most women gasp. They’re like, “You didn’t?!?” I deleted all of my social media accounts.

I found that very helpful because I wasn’t like, “If I post this what will he think? Will it look like I’m doing well? Or do I want to look like I’m doing well or like I’m not doing well?” I didn’t want to have any of those conversations in my head.

That was part of my critical-systems-only phase. I thought it was really important to just focus on myself and how I was feeling in the moment and not worrying about how other people were perceiving me or what type of image I was projecting to the world.

Self-Care Is Vital For Healing

I highly recommend it, if women can, and then I never did it again. My Anne Blythe Facebook profile is the only one that I have. I don’t have any personal accounts on Twitter or Instagram or anything. I have the BTR stuff to run, but I don’t have any personal stuff. I really love that.

I don’t know if women want to do that, but anything that works for you is going to be the right thing. Also, you can try something and then see, “Oh, this isn’t working,” then you can try something else. It’s not like any one of these tips or these things needs to be this permanent installation that you then have to do every day for the rest of your life.

Slowing Down is Powerful Self-Care

Trish: That’s right. My favorite one has been, and it goes under discipline for me, forcing myself to take 24 hours off every week. The truth is, this may be a little crude, but we’re going to die with things on our to-do list. Taking 24 hours off each week gets you practiced for that, that it can be left undone.

The laundry can wait. Stuff can wait. I don’t have to be busy all the time. I just fill that day with things that I enjoy. It doesn’t always work, but it’s a goal.

Anne: Thank you so much, Trish, for coming on today’s episode and sharing your insights with us.

Trish: This has been good. Thank you.

Support the Betrayal Trauma Recovery Podcast

Anne: If this podcast is helpful to you, we really appreciate your monthly support.

I appreciate every one of your comments on these articles, as well as your reviews on iTunes or other podcasting apps. I love reading those and appreciate those, so if you’re so inclined, please leave a review. That helps isolated women find us.

If you are listening and you have a desire to share your story or to come to talk with me on the podcast, of course, it will be anonymous, please email my assistant Kari at kari@btr.org. I absolutely love hearing your stories. 

Until next week, stay safe out there.

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