Your family is the soil in which you were planted, weeds and all. It’s where your roots are and whether you like what’s growing there or not, there’s no denying that from that soil came everything! Whether your family was close to you or not, as you were growing up they were the first people who helped to create who you are today. Our families are our very foundations. Foundations that when cracked leave us feeling vulnerable, concerned and mistrusting. Because of these simple truths, family betrayal hurts so very deeply.
Whether your family bond is negative or positive, deep or non existent, it just seems to hold so much more weight than many of the other connection you’ll ever have in life. And when you feel betrayed by someone who you’re bonded to, someone you possibly share deep memories with, it’s a cut that leaves a deep scar.
You share traits together, you sound alike, look alike, sometimes even walk alike. Family is something that you simply can’t ever completely disconnect from.
So, what can you do when they’ve turned their backs to you? How should you feel when your family betrays that bond?
Sometimes at this point it can feel like your family is broken. But you never stop being family. Just like you never stop sharing the same blood, the same lineage, and often the same memories. My point isn’t to say, “Well just forgive them, family is family.” Not at all… It’s simply a fact. We can not separate from family as completely as we can separate from other people who have hurt us. You may think, “If I move far away, I sure can.” Of course, we can create distance, but we always know that familial connection still exists.
What’s worse is that sometimes the memories that bind you are pleasant and loving and it hurts that much more to know that they were capable of betraying you anyway. It’s natural to feel conflicted about your love for them existing along with your anger and sadness towards them.
But betrayal isn’t as simple as the common anger and sadness you feel occasionally when you have conflict within your family. It’s much deeper somehow.
When I think of my family, under all the dysfunction and family drama, I think of one sacred contract between us. My contract says, that no matter what comes between us, there will always be love there. We can be close or apart, but deep down, we know that we are bonded by the Universe.
That’s pretty deep I’d say!
The meaning that you tie to the bonds in your family directly links to how deeply hurt you will feel if they ever break that inherent connection.
When a deep rift appeared in my sacred contract with my family, it meant that I questioned how they could love me as family, yet treat me like I wasn’t. How can you honor a bond or contract rooted in being family, if your behaviors and actions are incongruous to what family is.
Family betrayal is more than occasionally treating a family member in a mean or maybe unloving way. It’s more than being emotionally distant. It’s more than the normal family dysfunction.
It’s often a malicious act that creates an undeniable rift in your bond. And sometimes it may not be intentional. Nonetheless, the fact that they continue to turn on you or refuse to make amends/apologize, despite knowing the painful consequences, is a betrayal. The bottom line usually is that your trust in them to behave decently was betrayed. And with so many strangers in our world so willing to behave without conscience and take advantage, decency is the least you expect from family.
To deal with this kind of betrayal, it helps to recognize the emotional stages that you will likely experience when your trust is betrayed. Each stage can lead to a range of reactions. And it’s these reactions that truly impact the course of your life.
Below I will guide you towards healing step by step through each stage. This process has been helping me in my own time of family betrayal.
But it’s important to remember that healing tends to be an ongoing process that lacks a set time that indicates complete recovery. So as your wounds begin to heal, there may be times when they reopen or are irritated or sensitive to future injury. Sounds pretty similar to a physical wound, but unfortunately we haven’t made Neosporin for emotional pain…yet. That would be pretty awesome and simple! I’d buy that!!!
This can be simple too! I truly believe that taking simple steps, one at a time, helps when you feel the pressure to get past something difficult. And I know just how difficult this can be. Experiencing family betrayal can feel like having a broken heart. It can feel infuriating, devastating, bewildering and just so very sad.
The reason to use this guide is to avoid creating even worse consequences for your self. The sadness and shock of family betrayal can cause so much pain that it can lead to lasting negative changes within and without. It can change how you feel about trust, your decision to start your own family, your sense of feeling connected to others or feeling alone. It can even leave you feeling bitter and vengeful.
I encourage you to use this guide instead of wallowing in anger or turning inward and becoming removed or sullen. Remembering to love yourself during this time is so important, because now is the time that you’ll feel like you’ve lost love.
If you notice that you’re going over and over in your mind trying to figure out what happened and wondering how they could turn on you, it’s time to practice self love and create positive perspectives!
As you use the guide to cope with the stage that you’re in, it’s okay to notice some negative feelings as long as you also notice that your focus returns to these positive perspectives and acts of self love. Practice returning to the positive perspective each time you notice a negative perspective or thought creeping into your mind. This will require some self awareness.
Giving your self time for self awareness is very self loving. It allows you to answer a very loving question. One that can open up a world of positive perspectives.
How can I grow from this? You grow with Positive Perspectives and Self Love.
Positive Perspective & Self Love Guide
How the Positive Perspective and Self love Guide Works:
- Identify which Negative perspective/Thought you relate to. Each time you have that thought, replace it in your mind out loud with the positive perspective/Thought.
- Follow up with the Self loving act on a daily basis until you feel a positive emotional/mental shift.
Stage 1- Shock
Sometimes there are signs that a family member does not have your best interest in mind. There are sometimes signs that show you a part of their character that isn’t loving and may be selfish. But when they finally commit that single act that is undeniably a betrayal, it can be as shocking as if there were no signs at all.
Negative Perspective/Thought: I had no idea they could do this, they’re awful!
Positive Perspective/Thought: I saw the best in them when I could because i’m a positive loving person.
Negative Perspective/ Thought: How could I let this happen, I should have seen this coming.
Positive Perspective/Thought: I can’t know everything. But I’ll be more aware next time when I see signs.
Self Loving Act: Look in the mirror and say ” I love you, you will get through this.” Hug yourself and vent your feelings through writing.
Stage 2- Confusion
In my own experience, after the initial shock that a family member was actively betraying my trust, I couldn’t quite get past the point of wondering why. Why did it happen? Was it necessary? What gave them the right? And where was their conscience? You may be wondering the same and more at this stage. It’s a very frustrating stage because often there aren’t very clear answers. And if you’re prone to negative thinking, you may be filling in the gaps with your own negative answers.
Negative Perspective/Thought: They did this because I hurt them. Somehow maybe this is my fault. What did I do to deserve this?
Positive Perspective/Thought: I don’t control their behavior. I am responsible for my actions, no one else’s.
Negative Perspective/Thought: How could they love me and do this to me? I can’t move on if I don’t understand.
Positive Perspective/Thought: Even if I understood, I may not agree. It probably won’t change anything unless I chose to empathize for them. Maybe there’s something I’m missing or maybe what they did will be wrong regardless of my understanding. When I self reflect, I am at peace with my own behaviors.
Self Loving Act: Write down all the times you had your own back. Think of the signs you saw or missed and forgive your self if necessary. Send them loving energy knowing that only someone hurting, afraid, and lost could hurt you like this.
Stage 3- Anger/Disgust
This stage may actually take place before confusion sets in, but it’s often constantly present or mingling with the other stages. Who can blame you? When you experience family betrayal, it’s like a slap in the face and it’s a rude awakening to a likely ugly side of your family. It’s natural to be furious that your own family could treat you so poorly. This is especially true if you’ve been good and decent to them for the most part. That anger fuels angry thoughts. Is that really what you need right now? It’s natural to experience this stage, but it’s vital to move forward positively from this point. Anger tends to have a destructive nature and is a huge distraction from self love. It can consume and lead to petty behavior.
Negative Perspective/Thought: They don’t deserve good in their lives. They’re terrible people. I hate them. They’re beneath me.
Positive Perspective/Thought: I can never truly hate my family. Hate will only weigh down my heart. I wish them well on their paths.
Negative Perspective/Thought: If they can screw me then I can screw them. I should get them back for this.
Positive Perspective/Thought: Karma is its own force. Life will teach them their lessons one way or another.
Self Loving Act: Let that anger out into a pillow with punches and screams and crying. Wash off and imagine that disgust and anger draining away from you until you really feel cleansed. Repeat if necessary.
Stage 4- Sadness/Acceptance
This is both the most potentially saddest and relieving stage. I’ve found that although I began to accept what happened, the sadness still lingered. That’s often the case when there’s no apology. When there is an apology, there can be another stage of mistrust. This will be in another article that covers mistrust in general. For now, sadness and acceptance can go hand in hand. And this is the time for the most self love. You need and deserve to replenish loving energy at this stage.
Negative Perspective/Thought: They must hate me deep down. Did they ever really love me? Maybe they were right to do this to me, I deserved this.
Positive Perspective/Thought: Know that you deserve good in your life, why not? It isn’t wise to assume that we understand the negative feelings of others. If you ever felt loved, you were and that love probably still exists in some form.
Negative Perspective/Thought: I can’t forgive this. The family is broken, it’s done. I’m alone.
Positive Perspective/Thought: If you need space, take it. If it doesn’t feel like family, know that family comes in all different forms. We form tribes/ bonds with friends, animals, even plants, you are not alone. Embrace the new and deeper bonds you will make in the future.
Self Loving Act: Adopt a pet, spend time with friends, vow to bring about the feeling of a family in a different way. Meditate on acceptance. Mentally send kind words to the souls of your family member who hurt you. Wish them inner peace and self awareness.