How to Rebuild After Betrayal

Suppose someone is telling you a story about how their business partner, whom they’ve known for a long time and trusted, has been stealing from the business. They’ve stolen hundreds of thousands of dollars over several decades. The person telling you this story is understandably hurt, distraught, and unsure of how to move forward. 

You may think to yourself that this person should have known better. They should’ve noticed that much money was missing. They shouldn’t have turned the money responsibility over to someone else even if they trusted them or at least they should have checked in frequently. 

You may think that something like this could never happen to you because you would see the red flags and pick up on the vibes that something was wrong.

Now pretend that it wasn’t money that was taken. It was time, energy, or even a reputation.  Now I bet you can see yourself in this person. Many of us can relate to having someone we trusted take something from us. When you’ve been robbed or cheated in any way, it’s common to go back in your mind and realize there were signs all along. You may also remember yourself overriding your gut instincts. This backtracking can be harmful if you use it to victimize yourself again by berating yourself for being stupid, too trusting, naive, or flawed in some way. 

Remember the “you of today” has the advantage of hindsight. It’s easy to see things once they’ve already happened. It’s important to remember this when you start to beat yourself up for not knowing what you couldn’t have known when it was happening. 

A few years ago, I was hit by a truck while driving to work on a snowy day in February. A few days after the accident, when reality had begun to set in that I wouldn’t be able to work for a while, exercise, or even leave my house, I phoned my psychiatrist friend. I told him I couldn’t bear the loss of mind and body, my ability to work, or the hassles of the lawsuit. I felt totally defeated and scared. He told me that I had to decide immediately if I was a victim or not. That decision would be what determined my fate. 

It took me days to get my mind around what he was suggesting. The accident happened. I was hit by a truck and therefore by definition I was a victim. To suggest otherwise felt like denial. I thought about what the opposite of “victim” was and the best I could come up with was “creator.”

When something shitty happens, you don’t have to deny it to move forward and create something good for yourself. You don’t have to beat yourself up when you’re acknowledging your mistakes. Even if they’re mistakes like trusting someone you shouldn’t have trusted or turning over your finances when they’re your responsibility, or not listening to your intuition. We all make mistakes.  Learn from them and make the necessary changes. Maybe you did nothing wrong. Maybe you were like me that February morning, in the wrong place at the wrong time. You still have to decide if you’re a victim or a creator. Decide that in spite of what happened, you can create something good from it.  This way you’re in the power position and you’ll have a better outcome.

When I heard a similar story to the one in the first paragraph of this post, I drew a medicine card to help me find words of comfort for this person. Moose is about self-esteem and recognizing that wisdom has been used in a situation and appreciation is in order.* 

After a loss, take stock of things you love about yourself and be grateful for the progress you’ve made in your life. After my accident, I appreciated the fact that I took good care of myself. This baseline gave me a good chance of a full recovery. I realized I have the ability to build a healthy body. In the business example, this person can realize that he had the skills and talent to build a business. He can rebuild and if he learns from his mistakes, it will be an even more successful business.

Choosing to be a creator and not a victim doesn’t mean that you deny what happened to you. Accept what happened, learn from your mistakes, and make changes. This is what healing is and it happens one step at a time and not all at once. That’s ok because once you decide to be a creator all the steps after that will lead you to a better place. 

*from the book Medicine Cards by Jamie Sams and David Carson

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