Tag Archive: Trauma



“I love you but I don’t trust you”. Does that sound familiar to you at all? If so, you’ve come to the right place to find some answers to resolving the issue of trust in your relationship. Can a relationship survive without trust? Do you want it to? Do you feel conflicted about whether you should stay or should you go?

I’m sure we’ve all been there at some point in our lives… whether it is as severe as a gambling problem that has depleted your financial stability, or as nasty as an affair can cripple a marriage, a severe addiction that your loved one is involved in that is affecting you as a by-product, abuse, or a betrayal by a friend… there are many ways in which trust is broken, and different levels of severity to be sure… but the types of broken trust I hope to address today are the ones that cause you to ask difficult questions about whether the relationship is salvageable, or better yet, hope for total restoration!

I read a book by the title of my opening statement: “I love you, but I don’t trust you”, written by Mira Kirshenbaum, who has some great advice and much wisdom on the subject. I would highly recommend this book as it is a great read for anyone wrestling with complicated trust issues. Today, I hope to briefly review some of her recommendations that I believe are full of wisdom!

From the back cover of the book, it grips the reader with compelling questions such as:

Is my relationship worth saving?
Will the trust ever come back?
How can things ever be good between us again?

As a quick overview, some of the most important messages I pulled out of her book where most often questions that left you thinking… but help to pull you out of the vicious trust cycle of “should I stay or should I go.”

Asking the following questions should help you not only sort out the answer to that question, but help to answer the question of “Can trust be restored once it is broken?”, once you’ve made up your mind to stay.

Try asking yourselves these questions:

1. Would you want this relationship if trust could be restored?
“Guideline #1: If you didn’t think this was a good relationship before the betrayal… then why would you want to stay in it now? But if the relationship was a good one, why wouldn’t you want to try to salvage it?

2. Does the fact that this betrayal happened ruin everything for you?
“Guideline #2: If the betrayal has changed who the other person is for you so thoroughly that you can’t imagine wanting to be with him – not even after your anger has died down, not even if you knew for sure he’d never betray you again – then trust isn’t the issue and you’ll be better off ending the relationship.”

3. Can I imagine the possibility of forgiveness?
“Guideline #3: If you can see your lack of forgiveness as a self-destructive act, if you can see forgiving as a life-affirming act, and if you can sense the realistic possibility that one day you might be able to forgive, it makes sense to work at healing this relationship. Otherwise, not.”

4. Does the person you mistrust care about how you feel?
“Guideline #4: If the other person doesn’t care about how you feel in the sense that he consistently hasn’t gone out of his way to do things to show his caring, then he will not be able to work with you during the trust-restoring process, and so it’s not likely to happen. Why bother trying?”

I need to insert something I have personally observed in this stage of restoring trust: It is far easier to fixate on the problem (broken trust) than to actually notice and take into account the other person’s caring actions. Be careful in this stage to pay attention to the internal messages you are taking in. Is everything coming through the broken trust filter, or are you able to cognitively reason instead of looking through an all-or-nothing point of view? Can you intentionally give credit to the other person when they ‘go out of their way to show they care?’ If they are unwilling to rebuild trust… you will know it.

5. Can the other person work on your relationship with you?
“Guideline #5: A good way to tell if the other person is willing to work on the relationship is this. What happens if you attack less and listen more? If that makes the other person more willing to work on things with you, then you’re in good shape. If it doesn’t make a difference, or if you can’t bring yourself to attack less and listen more, then you may not be able to go through the process of rebuilding trust.”

Broken trust CAN heal. We were hardwired to trust. It’s in our DNA. “We want to trust. We need to trust. We’re designed by nature to be trusting creatures.” As Mira says in her book.

The reality is, as I mentioned in my previous blog on trust, when we stop trusting, we lock our hearts up in a cave, impenetrable. We become hardened, and isolated, and we lack ability to sustain caring and attached relationships because something inside of us has been altered by broken trust. Our sense of safety has been dismantled… our belief that there is good in the world turns into suspicion of every person we meet…

“Our thinking goes something like this: If HE could hurt me the way he did, than ANYTHING could go wrong, EVERYTHING has the potential to blow up in my face. I can’t even trust myself.”

I know. I’ve been there too. It’s like you no longer csn trust yourself to make good judgments. But again, if we turn it into an all-or nothing belief, we will completely discredit ourselves because we did something perfectly normal, perfectly human: we chose to trust someone with our heart and they disappointed our hope.

In closing, I will share this great quote from another favorite author of mine, that really helped me to understand why just because you trust, it doesn’t necessarily equal that someone else will be trustworthy in response:

“If you are a responsible and loving person, you might assume other people are like you – responsible and loving… You do the right thing by taking responsibility for yourself, for your mistakes, for your work, and care about other people and how your actions affect those people. You have concern about how what you do affects others. Doesn’t it make sense that everyone else would be like you and really care?”

Unfortunately, if you were to read further, you would realize that this simply isn’t the case. But just because it is not the case, does not mean that we automatically suspect everyone as a person who is self centered and out to get you.

Eventually, we must come to a point where we reach out and risk again, despite how unsafe it feels. Check out my blog on “Safe People” for tips on learning what qualities need to be in place for you to believe it is worth taking the leap of faith and trusting again!

And don’t be too hard on yourself. It is a process, and as they say, time heals all wounds…

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broken trust

Nothing seems more difficult to recover from then when someone whom you have trusted suddenly, and without warning, does something you did not expect that is life altering or affects the safety of your relationship with that person. The shock of the betrayal of trust from someone whom you expect to be trustworthy, whether it be your parents, a friend, a lover, an abusive encounter, whatever the case may be, when trust is broken, something deep inside of us is altered. And at the time, it feels like permanent damage to our souls.
 
We are internally wired to trust, to believe, to hope for goodness from other human beings with whom we are in relationship with. There is something almost naïve in all of us that assumes that other people will treat us with common courtesy and goodness, loyalty and essentially be trustworthy people in our lives. We were hard wired to trust. Now you may be questioning the truth of these statements as with almost complete certainty, you have at least one, if not two or more stories coming into your mind right now that has proved otherwise that people are genuinely trustworthy. If this is the case, then you have learned the hard lesson through a betrayal that has happened in your life that caused you to challenge this inherent sense of need to trust. The reason for this, is simply this: broken trust has altered you.
 
Before we experience a trauma of any kind, we expect things to be generally good. After a trauma, our sense of personal safety is now the major focus of our life.
 
A simple personal example I will share of something I experienced as a natural phenomenon,  occurred a few months after the major quake in Haiti a few years back. My husband and I were vacationing in the Dominican Republic, and while we were there, we experienced an aftershock earthquake where the ground was literally moving beneath our feet. Now for those of you who live in areas of the world where earthquakes happen more on a regular basis, you would have adapted to the experience and even the expectation of it. But for those of us who do not live in earthquake zones, it can be a little upsetting and shakes your confidence in the earth’s structural integrity. You grow up expecting the earth beneath you to be solid and stable and give little thought to earthquakes in general. So after experiencing an earthquake… suddenly, what once seemed so safe and predictable, has now been called into question. Going through a major experience of an earthquake is enough to alter your expectations. You start looking for it, fearing it, wondering when the next one will happen…. are you safe? This is what I am referring to when I say that we become ‘altered’ by experiences where something we once trusted in completely, has changed, thereby changing our expectations. We begin to believe everyone around us is untrustworthy, and our constant focus becomes protecting ourselves and asking the ever present question: Am I safe? Is this safe? What is safe? We begin to project our expectations of a lack of feeling safe onto everyone in our lives. We expect once trust has been broken that everyone else will be exactly the same as the one who broke our trust. Our confidence in safety has been shaken. Our focus now revolves around the issue of safety. However true or untrue this view of reality is, it becomes the focus of our life post-trauma. We become pre-occupied with the concept of safety, something we barely gave our attention to before we experienced a trust injury. This altered state becomes our new reality, becoming suspicious of everyone and everything, incapable of attaching and making new deep connections with others, because OBVIOUSLY, we are no longer safe with anyone. EVERYONE is no longer trustworthy because of one experience that caused damage to our souls and even self esteem. We begin to doubt  and question whether we are even able to judge or discern who is trustworthy and a seed of self doubt is formed in our psyche. This is just a portion of the damage that broken trust does in our lives.
 
So now that we know that the hardwiring in our brain has been altered as a result of broken trust, the bigger question remains: Can I ever trust again? And what happens if I can’t? broken heart stitched up>
 
In the words of C.S. Lewis, author of the Chronicles of Narnia, and colleague and good friends with the author of the well known movie trilogy series “The Lord of The Rings,” has this to say on the subject of life without trust:
 
“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully around with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable..”
 
In other words, our hearts become hardened, our lives locked up in isolation, intimacy always held at bay. The problem with living in this state is that we lose the ability to feel anything warm at all. We become distant, removed, disconnected. Safe from harm, yes, maybe… but at great personal cost to our souls.
 If you are currently in this state of isolation, depending how long you’ve been there will exhibit different symptoms. If you have been disconnected for a long time, you may no longer even feel any desire to attach and bond to other people, but you likely feel disconnected and alone. You may feel that you don’t even care, but if you were to be really honest, you feel trapped. Part of you wants to no longer be so alone and disconnected, the other part afraid of being hurt again.
 
I would bet that most of you who are reading this article from a search engine are searching for answers because you are in a different state than the completely walled off person mentioned above. You are likely feeling like you hate how disconnected you feel and want to connect or trust again, but the fear is overwhelming…. the desire to risk and trust again wavering back and forth between a yes to trusting again and a “No! it’s not safe” happening in your heart. You are likely looking for information to know how to take baby steps toward trusting again. What you want to know is: Is it possible to trust again after there has been a major trust violation in your life. You may even be thinking, “how can I trust your blog…. experiencing a minor earthquake is nothing like the major betrayal of someone close to you in your life… what do you know about it?” Actually, that is precisely why I’m writing this blog. I’m exactly where you are. I have endured major betrayals on more than one occasion in my life, and lived to tell about it. I wish I didn’t have so much experience in this area. The purpose of this blog for me is to offer to you, the same information I was looking for, in order to heal, to repair, and stop living in the fear of the unknown, of being rejected, abandoned, betrayed, broken hearted all over again.
 
My goal is to share some useful information to pass onto you about whether it is possible to ever trust again. And the answer is a resounding YES!
 
How to heal after a major betrayal
 
If you’ve been betrayed in a major way by someone you have trusted that has seriously called into question whether you can ever trust them again, I’m sure you are asking the following questions whether you are consciously aware of it or not.
  1. How will I ever cope with this?
  2. Does the other person really care about me?
  3. Can the other person really see me and understand how his/her betrayal hurt me?
  4. Can our relationship survive?
  5. Can we make things safer and better between us?
  6. Can I FORGIVE him or her?
 
The answers to these questions are the beginning process to knowing whether trust can be restored with the person who broke trust with you.
 
Think about these questions for the next few days, and then tune in to my next blog which will be a part 2 to this blog, and also doubling as a book review for a book I read that really helped me. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in a more intensive look at the concept of broken trust and how to heal from it. The book is called “I love you but I don’t trust you” by Mira Kirshenbaum. I would also recommend checking out my trauma program on my life coaching website at http://www.freedomlifelove.com which is a six month program to walk you through the stages that occur when a major betrayal or breach of trust has occurred and has broken down a relationship that was important to you. It helps you anticipate what to expect, how to cope, with or without the person who was involved in the trauma you currently are facing.
self esteem hierarchy of needs
 
For today, I merely want to pass on some hope: YES, IT CAN HEAL. YES! YOU CAN TRUST AGAIN… Perhaps you can even learn to trust again the person who caused the trust injury. That will all depend of course, on how much responsibility they are willing to take for their actions and whether they are willing to do what it takes to make amends by becoming a safer person in your life. If they are willing to walk through the long process of becoming more trustworthy and are willing to earn your trust again, there is hope for reconciliation and restoration. Without these ingredients, there is little hope for trust to be restored in that relationship. I encourage you to take a look at an article I wrote last year on finding safe people and the characteristics they possess. Even an untrustworthy person now, over time, can make changes and become a safer, more trustworthy person.
 
 

Dealing with emotional trauma can be very distressing, and in some instances, very severe. When one has experienced a major traumatic life event – from surviving an abusive relationship, to losing friends or family members to a drunk driver or a hit and run, suicide, to combat, or a terrible break-up, deception, manipulation or mind control, discovering that one’s partner has been unfaithful, or being conned and taken advantage of, hearing painful news of an illness that is debilitating or life-threatening – Anything that leaves a person feeling like the floor has been taken out from under them, and are experiencing a loss of personal power, like their whole world has just spiraled out of control… These people know what trauma is.

My intention is to do a series not so much on the trauma itself and identifying it, but rather to offer some self care tips, advice on grief and grieving, forgiveness, re-establishing safety after one has experienced a betrayal of trust, or how to face the places and things that you avoid that serve as triggers for anxiety and out of control feelings due to a traumatic life event – how to face those situations and re-build safety slowly. When it comes to relationship trauma, it is important to have tools to rebuild trust and I will touch on that as well.

Today I just want to give you a sense of normalcy if you are experiencing the residual effects of a traumatic situation. I personally find that sometimes it helps to know what to expect as you go through the stages of healing to help yourself feel like what you are experiencing is normal for the situation you are going through. I find it helps bring a small measure of stability to an otherwise overwhelming sense of powerlessness over the situation, and the loss of control that causes you to feel like your foundation has been ripped from underneath you. Having a roadmap of what to expect is sort of the first step to laying a new foundation.

It may sound kind of silly at first, but identifying the trauma is a good first step – now some of you may think it is quite obvious to pinpoint, the reality is, sometimes it’s not. For instance, part of experiencing something traumatic often involves some of the same stages of grief, so denial is a normal process, not wanting to, or being unable to accept what is happening is actually normal. Sometimes the shock of what the body, mind or emotions are experiencing that a person simply goes numb and cannot comprehend the reality of the situation immediately. I think this stage of being anesthetized from the initial blow is a little of God’s kindness to shield us from taking in too much all at once. Another good example of why identifying trauma can be difficult is working through your own childhood trauma. Children cannot identify trauma as readily as an adult can. But even as adults who endured trauma as a child, you may not see your childhood as traumatic. If you were constantly exposed to abuse, you may have taken in cues that this is ‘normal’ behavior because it is all you were exposed to. So, identifying what the trauma is, is actually a pretty significant feat for some!

Once you have identified your traumatic injury, or experience, it is important to talk about it with someone you can trust – a supportive friend, a therapist, a support group, because part of the healing process is being able to share our deepest feelings to give them a voice. Sometimes it is helpful just to talk as it allows yourself the opportunity to problem solve, bring awareness to the situation, bring understanding, bring the roots of the problem out into the light to help promote self-awareness or a sense of understanding. It helps you get in touch with the emotions surrounding the trauma.

Some people also find it helpful to write about it to help sort through their thoughts and emotions about the experience. Some people organize their thoughts better through writing than verbally. The most important thing is that you are processing it in order to feel it, rather than avoid. Avoidance is normal too, but studies suggest that avoidance can increase rather than decrease the stress and anxiety, fear and anger surrounding the situation, which can lead to further emotional injury down the road, or even lead to physical health problems.

Taking inventory of what happened and how it affected you is very important, but perhaps been more important than that is moving to the next stage of repair, involving FEELING the pain, sadness, anger, hurt etc that has come up as a result of the trauma. It is common to experience shock, anxiety and depression as well – also stages in the grief cycle. The feelings will take their time to pass, each person is different, but embracing them rather than repressing them will eventually lead to subside the intensity of the emotions. Note of caution: For those experiencing intense anger, this is not code for unleash all your fury, but rather to acknowledge it and try to determine what is beneath the anger, as anger is a powerful protective emotion usually covering over something far deeper -like sadness, pain or grief. If you have trouble knowing how to effectively deal with your anger in healthy ways, you should seek out an anger management group or see a counselor for additional help.

To move forward from the initial process of identifying and feeling the effects of trauma, the stage of acceptance inevitably comes. We must at some point accept what happened. This does not mean agreeing with what happened and somehow ‘making it ok’, rather it involves a willingness to live with the outcome, recognizing that what’s done is done and we cannot change the past, and choosing to go forward acknowledging what has happened. This is a HARD step. But it is essential to begin feeling better.

Forgiveness is almost always necessary for experiencing trauma of some kind. If you lost your son to war, you may need to forgive the man who killed your son, or the political regimes that brought on the war, or perhaps your own son for willingly joining the army.

If you were in a serious car accident that was not your fault and have to live with serious physical consequences as a result, you may need to forgive the person who hit your car.

If your child was abducted or kidnapped, raped or murdered, forgiveness may seem damn near impossible! Forgiveness is one of the hardest things to do. And forgiveness does not mean you have to have a relationship with the person who injured you or someone you love, but it does mean that at some point you let go of your hatred and anger and bitterness.

I have heard it said that unforgiveness is like drinking a poison you want someone else to drink. Un-forgiveness does us more damage to us than the person who hurt us. They have already caused damage. We cause ourselves further damage by holding onto hatred and bitterness that just fills our souls and consumes us, sending us spiraling down a deep, dark hole of despair, self pity, anger, vengeance, etc. anything and everything that robs us of the opportunity to live life free, full of life and love and hope for the future. But forgiveness takes time. And that’s ok.

Sometimes it is important to confront the situation in order to deal with our anger or to release someone through forgiveness. Sometimes it is ok to address the person face to face or write a letter. At other times, especially when processing your more hostile feelings of anger, it may prove more beneficial to write a letter you don’t send, or deal with those feelings in therapy, until you can face the person without being volatile, being able to say what you need to say constructively. Some people may feel they never have to face the person directly, and walk through that process on their own or with a support group or counselor.

Letting go…. Is just as hard as acceptance, and forgiveness. But letting go of the burden and walking away and moving on are the final stages in the process of healing from trauma. They have identified the truth about the trauma and faced it head on, worked through it through talking, writing about it, finding healthy and effective ways of dealing with anger and confrontation, accepted what cannot be changed, forgiven those involved, and now they must find the courage to move on toward the next phase of life. They must learn to live in the present and let the past stay in the past.

Healing will be easier if you are able to look on the bright side. If you are able to accept the bad, but not only see the bad but look for the good as well. Most people or situations are not “all bad”. If you can find a way to merge the good and the bad, so as not to over-amplify the negative reality, you will begin to see things in a more balanced perspective. You can begin to see alternate ways of looking at the negative experience as well – not to minimize what was done, but to bring balance to your own perspective. If you cannot see anything good other than the trauma, begin to loom for what you have learned from the experience, what wisdom or coping skills you have developed to endure painful and trying times in your future.

Walking through these stages will help minimize your tendency to Medicare or turn to addictive substances to avoid or anesthetize your experience, and help you come out stronger!


Last night I wrote a poem that I wanted to share on an issue that is relatively a big deal – Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Originally, it was thought that PTSD was something only military personnel experience coming back from experiencing the trauma of the horrors of war. Now while this is most certainly the case, and very true, in more recent years, the condition of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder has been enlarged to any traumatic experience people go through, experiencing the same types of symptoms common to PTSD.

Anything from a major car crash, to being robbed, molested or raped, experiencing a natural disaster of some kind, major relationship betrayals or abuse, finding out your partner has been having an affair… On and on it goes. The only qualification is that the symptoms of PTSD MUST be present for more than one month.

I will not get into the symptoms in this blog, except for those which are mentioned in the poem I am about to share with you, but you can google the symptoms, or check back with me and ask, as I will eventually get to a whole series on PTSD at some point in the future. I think I have it slotted for November at this point in my Friday blogs! In the meantime, enjoy the poem I wrote just yesterday on the subject.

Locked In

My life just crashed
And fell apart.
Left for broke
I was on my own,
Locked in a cage
Of isolation & fear.
No hope of rescue.
Despair consumed me.
Out of the depths I cried out:
My God, My God
Why hast thou forsaken me?
Locked in a cyclone Of turbulence
Between anger, fear, rage
Forgiveness, hope, despair,
Comfort, isolation, disorientation
Numb, aching, anxious,
Sad, depressed and alone.
Longing for intimacy in private moments,
Guarded from everyone
Not letting a single soul in.
Locked in a cycle of sabotage,
Of self, relationships and love.
Alone, at risk for injury,
Despairing of life, hopeless, anxious
Avoiding, crying, numb again.
Who have I become?
Where did I go?
Why can I no longer feel love?
This is the face of PTSD.
Trauma destroys, demoralizes,
Shreds apart hope for normalcy.
Am I safe?
Can I trust?
Can I risk again?
Flashbacks, nightmares,
Coping mechanisms.
How do I accept this tragic event
That tore from under my feet
The last shreds of belief
That the world was relatively safe
And love was good?
Irresponsible, reckless, wish to die
How can I hide from this awful terror,
This darkest night of my soul?
I awake to relive it over and over again
And wonder will it ever be over?
Will I ever be whole?
Will I be forever changed by it?
Transformed to this new being
So dissociated from life and
All that is around me.
Nurture… Will I ever feel it?
Loved… Will I ever truly believe it?
Disillusioned again by
This whole cycle of life,
Will I ever recover enough to truly sing
‘this could really be a good life’?
“Wake up!” I yell inside myself
Facing a shell that dulls the sounds around me, locking me in a cage alone
Shell shocked and distanced from what is around me
I live, but do not truly live.
I am a shadow on a wall,
Where did I go?
Who am I?
Locked in my cage alone.
Balls drop, nothing is normal.
The new normal is anxiety at little things that are not a threat,
But the threat feels real.
It interferes with my waking hours, my work life, my social life,
All activities.
Can’t seem to keep everything functioning as it did before.
And I don’t even care.
Deadlines, call backs, follow through… Responsibility eludes me.
Trauma consumes me.
Somebody please, reach out and grab hold of me before I fall
Into a pit of darkness
And forever fall into oblivion.
God help me, God help us all.
Reach out and save me,
Breathe life
Into this broken, dying, empty shell.
Bring hope.

If you identify with this, I’ve developed a Trauma Recovery Program for training on tools to help cope with past trauma.  I’d love to hear from you!

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If you have any questions on today’s blog or would like help on taking steps forward, I’d love to hear from you!  Post a comment below or visit my website and register for your Complimentary Strategy Session to discuss your situation in more detail.

Katie Meilleur – Certified Life Coach

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