Interview with Dr. Debi Silber: Healing the Pain of Betrayal at Its Root

As hostess of the Real Voices Living Beyond Chronic Pain Series, I am delighted to bring you this interview with Dr. Debi Silber on healing the pain of betrayal.

Elizabeth:           Hi, Everyone. This is Elizabeth Kipp, your host for Real Voices Living Beyond Chronic Pain. The definition that we’re using for chronic pain is this: any pain -spiritual, physical, emotional, financial – it’s all the same to the brain, sending a single “it hurts”. Any pain that’s felt for 15 days out of 30, for three months or more is chronic.

      Our guest today is Dr. Debi Silber.

Dr. Debi Silber - Healing the Pain of Betrayal at Its Root

          Dr. Debi Silber is a holistic psychologist, a health mindset and personal development expert, and the author of the bestselling; the number one bestselling book, “The Unshakable Woman, Four Steps to Rebuilding Your Body, Mind, and Life After a Life Crisis”. Her recent Ph.D. study on how women experience betrayal made three groundbreaking discoveries that changes how long it takes to heal. In addition to being on Fox, CBS, The Doctor Oz Show, TEDx and more, she is an award-winning speaker, coach, and author dedicated to helping women move past their betrayals once and for all. Welcome Debi.

Debi:                   Oh, thank you so much. I’m so looking forward to our conversation.

Elizabeth:           Beautiful. Can you tell us a little bit about your story, about how you even got into this?

Debi:                   Sure. As I was saying right before we started, you don’t study something like betrayal unless you need to. And I’ve been a health mindset, personal development, a speaker, author, coach for years. And one thing led to another. So, here I was – I started in health and it seemed that a lot of the health issues were stemming from stress. So, then I became a functional diagnostic nutritionist so I could test people for stress-related issues and disorders. It seemed like a lot of the issues were then tied to lifestyle. I became a whole health coach, which is a health expert trained to show how your lifestyle creates health or wellness or illness and disease. And I had originally thought, well, if you eat well and exercise, that’s really all you need to be healthy and well.

                            And I learned through those different areas of expertise that I was so wrong. A toxic lifestyle, just dysfunctional relationships, and chronic unmanaged stress were really at the root of it. So, I made less changes and I physically healed from a lot. But then I had my own betrayal and I had a family betrayal. You know how the universe works – when we don’t quite learn the lesson, we were meant to learn to get another opportunity. That opportunity was in the form of my husband. And I was blindsided, and that’s the word that usually gets attributed to betrayal. And I just didn’t know what to do with this. It was so overwhelming, so painful.  And I have a need to understand things. When I understand, I can begin to make sense and make meaning out of the experience.

                            So, this may not be what other people choose to do, but the first thing I did was I joined a Ph.D. program. It was in transpersonal psychology, the psychology of transformation and human potential. I had become obsessed with transformation because I was doing it and I didn’t even understand what was happening. My husband was out of the house. My kids were telling me – I have four kids – they were telling me that he was transforming, like at lightning speed, and I just wanted to understand it further. So, while I was there, I did a study and I did a study on how women experienced betrayal. And Elizabeth, I remember going into that study thinking, my Gosh, how we have the stages of grief. If we can somehow, if there could be stages of betrayal, what comfort would that bring to people who were struggling?

                            And sure enough, that was one discovery and there were two others. So, one of the discoveries was while we can stay stuck for years, decades, lifetime, and many of us do – if we’re going to heal, we will move through these five now proven and predictable stages. And what’s even more exciting is now we know what happens physically, mentally, emotionally at every stage. And we know what it takes to move from one to the next.  I mean that was just the most exciting thing ever. And I’ll talk about the two other discoveries afterwards, but it was also during this process that I was really moving through these stages myself. And you know, you mentioned chronic pain and pain being physical and emotional. I can even walk through the five stages and you can see. I’m sure people watching, listening will know exactly what stage they’re in.

                            But you start at this point where everything that has been comfortable, familiar, that you counted on, that you held as real and true – no longer exists. The world as you’ve known it – just doesn’t exist anymore. And that’s a terrifying space. You know, trust, which is foundational to relationships, is shattered.  Relationships rest on a foundation of trust. That’s what gives us our sense of safety and security. And something like betrayal just shatters any of that trust. So, when the people you trust the most prove untrustworthy, who do you trust? When the ones that you’d run to when other people are causing harm, are in fact the ones causing the harm, where do you go? And that’s why something like betrayal is so hard to navigate and to heal from without a plan. Because we trusted and we depended on these people who led us to believe we were safe. And that’s one of the biggest hurdles to overcome.

                             And as far as betrayal, just my definition of it anyway, is when there’s that breaking of a spoken or unspoken rule. So, the more we trusted and the more we depended upon someone, the bigger the betrayal. So, for example, a child who’s completely dependent on their parent, and they do something horrible,

                            Well that’s going to have a bigger impact than let’s say your coworker taking credit for your idea. It’s still a betrayal, just not to the same impact. But it’s, it’s those people who we give our, our heart, our time, our trust, our love – those are the ones that hurt the most.

                             So, that study led to the five stages. It also led to two other discoveries. I had been through disease. I had been through the death of a loved one. Betrayal felt very different to me. But I didn’t want to assume that it was the same for my participants. So, I brought it back out to all of them and I said, “Anybody who’s been through another type of life crisis – death of a loved one, disease, a natural disaster – does betrayal feel different than those life crises to you?” It was unanimous. Every single one said, “It is vastly different”. Now, this isn’t a comparison, like my pain is bigger than your pain. But it felt so different and it’s because it’s personal. You know when you– let’s say someone in my study did.  She lost her house through a fire and she compared (her experience of the fire) to betrayal and she said, “I didn’t take that personally.” Betrayal – you take personally. Or let’s say with the death of a loved one – you don’t question the love. You mourn the loss. You miss them, but you don’t question the love. With betrayal, you question everything. You question, of course, the betrayal. You question yourself. You say, “I’m a bright person. How did I not have any idea around any of this?” And you question life. You question all of it. Also happens with betrayal is there’s the morning, there’s the loss, there’s the rebuilding.

                             But I was originally studying something in my study called post-traumatic growth. If you imagine the upside of trauma. That trauma led to a new awareness, a new perspective, a new insight that you didn’t have before your crisis. And yes, that is very possible with betrayal as well; but you also need to rebuild the self. All those aspects of the self that were destroyed – trust, confidence, worthiness. If it’s a romantic partner – desirability. Confidence, all of that has to be rebuilt. So, it didn’t seem fitting to call it post traumatic growth that needed a new term. So, I coined the term ‘post betrayal transformation’ and that’s the state that you’re in once you’ve healed from betrayal.

                             And then there was a third discovery and that was that there is this collection of symptoms, physical, mental and emotional so common to betrayal that has become known as ‘post betrayal syndrome’. We actually have an assessment on the website, a quiz to see to what extent is someone’s struggling. So, in my instance here, it was absolutely the biggest crisis that ever happened to me. But I looked at it and I said, okay, this is so gut wrenching, soul crushing, so painful to me that at the very least, if I find a way to heal, I’m going to do all I can to just do something good with something really bad.

                            And that’s what happened. And I could share the, the ending of my story, as well, which doesn’t happen with everybody. But, in our case, the beauty of betrayal is that it gives you an opportunity. Everything has crashed and burned. It doesn’t exist anymore. The old relationship, the old rules – none of it exists. Now, you have every right to mourn the loss of what you don’t have anymore. However, if you choose to create something new, it’s based on entirely new you and entirely new them and it can create an entirely new friendship, marriage, partnership, whatever. And in our case, that’s what happened. It was hard to imagine. I said, “Well, is it really possible that he could be so vastly different?”  But I knew I was. But again, with betrayal, I didn’t trust myself and I didn’t trust him.

                            So, I thought, well, I trust in the universe. And I remember seeing an intuitive coach and I said, “Well, you know, she’s got like a direct line. Let’s see what she has to say.” And one of the first things she said was, “Oh, Debi, you have no idea how you planned this.” I’m thinking plan? She said, “The two of you were like in cohorts here. You needed something so huge, so that the relationship that you had would absolutely crash and burn, so that he could wake up and become the father, husband, friend that he signed up to be. And you are going to be writing books and teaching from this deep place of knowing. And you’re going to have this center, and this is going to be your topic.” And I’m thinking, are you crazy?” Well, every single thing she said happened – every single thing.

                            And so, it was based on a new relationship, based on a new me, a new him -we actually got married again. We didn’t renew our vows. We got married again. So definitely not the case with everybody, but it really showed me that healing is not just possible – it’s predictable. What you do at the end of that healing is entirely up to you. My role is helping the betrayed get to their best place physically, mentally, emotionally, psychologically, spiritually. At that point, it’s completely up to them. I’m not the type that says, “Okay, I’m going to do whatever I can to get you both back together.” That relationship may have run its course. And when they’re in a better place, they may look at their partner and say, “I’m not the least bit interested in you.” And that happens a lot.

Debi:                   Or the partner says, “Holy smokes, she’s not playing. I better step up and mean it. To meet who she is now.”  Or sometimes it just fizzles, and that’s just the end of it. But I have seen the strongest, most empowered women who’ve healed. Even going into the study, you’re not supposed to assume as a researcher, you’re supposed to go in without any bias. While I was new to this, so I was trying my best. But I thought that the ones who had the most to overcome would heal the least because they had more to overcome than others. To my estimation, they didn’t have as much to overcome. I was dead wrong. And what I found was there were three groups that did not heal and I’m happy to share this too. But it was truly the ones whether they had the most to overcome or not, but they faced it, they felt it, they went in there and slayed those dragons and did the work. And those were the ones who came out just beautifully.

Elizabeth:           It takes a lot of courage. And discipline – all those things.

Debi:                   Absolutely.

Elizabeth:           Because, there’s no direction.

Debi:                   It’s so easy to numb, distract the void, because this stuff is painful. So that’s what we do. We use food, drugs, alcohol, work, TV, keeping busy, anything so we don’t have to face, or feel. And it’s in doing that, I get it, it’s temporarily a little bit easier. But it’s sort of like everybody has either that drawer or messy room or garage in your space and you avoid it. You’re like, “I just don’t even want to look in there. It’s just a big old mess.” And eventually what happens is it takes a lot of energy to avoid that space. Right?

Elizabeth:           Yes.

Debi:                   And then there’s that day where you’re like, “You know what? Here we go. Okay.” And you roll up your sleeves and you take in all the garbage bags and whatever you do. And if you notice, in the beginning, it actually looks a lot worse. And that’s because you’re getting rid of things. You’re deciding, what am I going to donate? What am I going to throw away? What am I going to fix? What am I going to toss? And all of that. But once you do, and then you’re in the place of rearranging things and putting it back in… you’ve got all those cute little organizing things, and now you look at your space and you can appreciate it. And it’s beautiful. And it’s because we were willing to do that work. And now you have a space that you could feel good about your progress, and even space you enjoy.

                            It’s the same thing with betrayal. There is no getting to that appreciation side until you’ve gone through and you’ve done that work. One of the biggest problems is when people say, “Oh, time heals all wounds.” Or “a new relationship will heal it.” Oh no, it doesn’t. It may soften it temporarily. Healing, heals it because it will follow you. It’ll be a different face. I promise you – it’ll be the same scenario until that lesson is learned.

Elizabeth:           So, what are some of the things that you found were appealing in this space?

Debi:                   Yeah. It really depends on what stage you’re in because it’s a very different healing process depending on where you are. Do you want me to go through…?

Elizabeth:           Do you want to take us through the five stages and then how you heal them? How about that?

Debi:                   Sure. Yeah. I’ll sort of briefly go over them. So, the First Stage, is like a setup stage. And if you can imagine a table and the four legs of a table – the four legs being physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. What I saw with every single woman, me included, there was a real heavy lean on the physical and the mental, and really kind of neglecting the emotional and the spiritual. And picture a table with only two legs…

Elizabeth:           In their own lives or in the relationship, or both?

Debi:                   It was how they lived. Because they were so busy, that the only way they could get everything done was to sort of turn down the feeling/being, and turn up the thinking/doing.

Elizabeth:           Oh, I get it.

Debi:                   So, they were like almost machine-like getting through their day. They didn’t have the, whether you call it the luxury of, to stop and feel. And so, they just had to knock things off their to do lists. I remember me. Here I was running a business, four kids, six dogs. There’s a lot to do in a day. Now, that’s not saying if you’re busy, that’s a set up for betrayal. It’s just what I saw. But also, what was so interesting about this stage was when you’re so busy focused on thinking and doing and not feeling and being, you shut down your intuition. You’ve turned it down. And every woman in my study – not every, almost every said, “Yeah, I kind of thought something wasn’t right, but I was just busy to pay attention. It didn’t feel right. But I turned it off.” You know, and disregarded that wise, inner wisdom.

                            I saw that with everybody. That was really typical. So, now you’re here. That’s sort of the setup. And then Stage Two, here’s where you’re blindsided – and it’s a shock. There’s the breakdown of the body, the mind, the world view. This is by far the scariest stage because your body now is in a state of crisis, absolute crisis. You’ve ignited the stress response. You’re headed for just about every stress related symptom, illness, condition, disease. You are exhausted, overwhelmed. Every emotion, there’s anger, sadness, rage, depression, mentally, there’s such confusion, mental chaos. You cannot wrap your mind around what just happened. None of this makes sense at all. The world view is shattered. Your world view as your mental model – shattered. The mental model is how you do the world. This person safe. This is okay, that’s not okay. Don’t go here. Go here. Shattered in an instant. So, and a new world view hasn’t been formed yet. So, here’s truly where the bottom drops out on you. You know, one of the participants in the study said, “Debi, it’s like every negative emotion you could feel and losing a child in a crowd. It feels like that.” Terrifying?

Elizabeth:           Oh, my goodness.

Debi:                   And horrible and it’s true. And people really explain it as, and I remember feeling this myself, punched in the gut. The wind is knocked out of me. You just can’t wrap your mind around any of it. But think about it. If you were walking down the street and if the bottom dropped out on you, what would you do? You would grab hold of whatever you could to stay safe and stay alive.

                            And that’s Stage Three. Stage Three is: survival instincts emerge. And it’s such a practical stage. It’s like, if you can’t help me, get out of my way. How will I survive this experience? Where will I live? How do I feed my kids? It’s very, very practical. Here’s the challenge though. This is the stage right here I see so many people get stuck in. This is the one.

Elizabeth:           Whoa.

Debi:                   Because your stress response is still ignited. You’re still creating illness, and disease, but you start to become very used to this space. And what happens is, yes, you want to ruminate where you make sense and meaning out of your experience. You don’t want to marinate. And here’s where you stay in it for way too long. When you start staying in it way too long, your ego, the small self, starts getting all kinds of benefits from being here. You get to be right. You get someone to blame. You get self-pity. You get sympathy from other people. You get to justify not doing something. You know, “I can’t do that now, look what I’ve been through.” You know, you, you don’t have to do the hard work of learning to trust again. It’s like, “Do I trust you? Do I trust you?” Or do I… “Just forget it, I’m not trusting anybody.” And you can stay stuck here for a long time.

Elizabeth:           That’s victimization.

Debi:                   Oh, Yeah. And this is exactly where we stay. And we have to give all of that up in order to move to Stage Four.

                            Here’s where you know you have to mourn that loss. You have to realize life is not the same anymore. You cannot undo your betrayal, but you can certainly control how long it takes you to heal.

                            If you’re willing to let go of your story and all the small self-benefits that you’re getting because of it, you can move to Stage Four. One of the biggest things that moves you from Stage Three to Stage Four is writing a coherent narrative. A coherent narrative is where you’ve taken what had become your life story and you’re making it a pivotal chapter of your story. And in the Betrayal to the Breakthrough Program, I ask very strategic questions. But you can’t ask it early on because when I ask things like, “What’s the benefit of your betrayal?” If someone’s in Stage Two, they’re like, “Are you flipping crazy? Benefit?” But you could start to see it. And when you can do some of those things, you can move to Stage Four. Stage Four is finding and adjusting to your new normal.

                            Your old normal doesn’t exist anymore. It’s just not an option, and you need to make peace with that. And when you do, what you’re doing is you’re slowly turning down the stress response. Now, you haven’t turned it way down, but at least you’re not breaking the body down at the speed that you were beforehand. You know, suppressing your immune system, creating accelerated aging, weight issues, all kinds of stuff. But you’re saying, “Okay, well, you know what? This doesn’t feel great yet, but it’s going to be okay.” And that’s enough to say, “Okay, I’m moving onto this new stage right here.” I liken it to if you’ve ever moved to a new house or a condo, apartment, office, anything – you don’t have your stuff in it yet. It doesn’t feel quite cozy, homey yet, but it’s going to be okay.

                            And that signals, the body: “You know what? We don’t need to break down to the level that we were.” When you’ve been there for a while and you feel safe and you feel okay. You can make it your own and your new home. What you do from there, if you’re willing, you slowly move to the fifth most beautiful stage – this is healing, rebirth and a new world view.

                            The body starts to heal. You shut down the stress response. You didn’t have the bandwidth for self-care, self-love, early on. You were all about survival. Now you want to feed yourself a little bit better. Now you want to move. You want to take care of yourself a little bit more. Your body starts to physically heal. Your mind starts to heal. You’re making new rules, setting new boundaries, based on who you’re becoming. And you have a new world view based on everything you’ve been through. That table from the beginning, where we were only focused on the physical and the mental? We are solidly grounded because now we’re paying attention to the emotional and the spiritual, too.

Elizabeth:           Wow. It’s beautiful. I have a question about the stage where your kind of stuck. We get attached to our stories. I’ve actually in my own work around my own stuff. I’ve sat and asked myself, “What is this game?” I’ve done that. But I’ve also asked myself this. It’s an interesting inquiry: “What would it be like to drop the story?” And I even say to myself and to my clients, when I work with them, “I’m not asking you to drop the story. I’m asking you just to imagine what it would be like to drop the story.” And that is enough. If you can engage in that exercise, that’s enough to create a shift and some space to breathe where there wasn’t any before. And then all of a sudden there’s some possibility, because there’s some light, because there’s a little bit of space in there, that there’s a little more possibility and there’s a little bit of light on the subject. Right?

Debi:                   You’re so right. And what I find though is one of the activities that I have someone do before that, is a visioning activity to see who they are at their physical, mental and emotional best. And the reason why I do that is, to drop our own story if we don’t see another picture, we’re not willing to do. Because we don’t want to lose the self. Who are we? So, unless we have a better self that’s waiting, that we can at least have a glimpse of, so often we’re going to be very unwilling to let that go because we don’t know who we are.

Elizabeth:           Yeah, I get it. Yeah. That was why I don’t ask people to drop it. I just asked them to imagine the weight. What would it be like and then, and that is the ultimate question. Who am I without my story? Now, one of the things that I’ve done around betrayal, is that I’ve rewritten the story. It’s kind of like I’ve up-leveled the story, not just what happened to me. It’s a better perspective on the situation, right? It includes some compassion for the other side. That takes some growth to get there, right? You have to go through a bunch of stages to even get there, but that was a really important bit.

Debi:                   It’s one of the most important factors that really brings you to the next stage because exactly what you said. We call it the coherent narrative and there are so many different ways to do it, figuratively or literally, where you are taking what had become your life story and really, sequencing, organizing, really making it make sense where you see almost the gift in it. But if someone says, “Oh, you’re going to be so grateful for that betrayal”, and they say that to you too early, that’s not going to sit well. But like I can look from this perspective and you know, the other side here and say, my gosh, it truly was the best thing.  But if you were to ask me this just a few years ago, I couldn’t even get out of bed.

Elizabeth:           Well, it’s all about perspective. Right? And we have to meet ourselves where we are.

Debi:                   Yeah. And I believe it’s also what you’re willing to do with it. Because I looked at it, saying, “You know, to just be betrayed is so wrong in every, I mean, every, every cell of me felt that it was the most, hurtful, harmful, hateful, unjust thing ever.” So, then I’m looking at it like, well, if I don’t do something with it, it’s like, that was like the slap on one side of my face. And then if you don’t do something with it, you’re giving yourself a slap on the other.

Elizabeth:           Right.

Debi:                   At the very least use that as a launchpad to create something incredible. I remember not knowing where it’s going to lead to, but I remember thinking it can’t just be that I’m here just to get hurt or punished for some reason.

                            There’s got to be a reason. There’s got to be something in this that, that will serve me and others. There has to be. Otherwise, why would we go through something?

Elizabeth:           Beautiful. So, tell me, because you’re basically talking about a process that where someone goes very generally, from victimization to empowerment, right? So, I would like you to describe for us, because that’s pivotal in everybody’s story, right? Describe for us that to pivot point for you in your own experience.

Debi:                   In my own experience. Well for me it went from shock to – and I think I can speak for a lot of people who’ve been betrayed – it’s the shock to the victim – to freedom. And everybody has their own timeline. I know the process now, and so that shortens the learning curve for sure.

                            But if I were to say what were the turning points? It was really a combination of relentless willingness just to keep moving forward at all costs. And sometimes, I just didn’t have the motivation. So, you look, and you say, “Well, what can it be today? Is it my kids?” Sometimes it was just this sort of unknown. I know this experience will help someone. I have no idea who, but I know when I move through this, someone will benefit… This unknown. And, and I invite everybody. Picture whoever your unknown is. And what was so interesting was, before I was willing to share this openly, I was still seeing clients one on one. And I remember, it’s so interesting how it works, it’s like I used to see them for health and then I was seeing them for stress.

                            And then I was seeing them for trauma. And then I was seeing them for betrayal. And I remember one after another, they were coming in, they were medicated or they were anything to numb and they kept saying, how are you doing this? How are you? And I just kept describing these processes I was coming from and things I was learning, because I was just studying this in school now, and things I was observing and things I was seeing. And I think it just grew that I said, “I see the impact that this is having on a one on one and what would it take to, to create a much bigger impact?” And I’ll tell you, that was terrifying because that involved a level of vulnerability that I just…

Elizabeth:           You weren’t comfortable with that.

Debi:                   I was not comfortable with that. Any good coach has a coach and I’ll never forget where, I’m on a group call, and we have everybody on the call. And, I was talking about the study – my study discovered this, and my study showed that, and my study show that – and then my coach just said, “Stop. Stop hiding behind your effing study already.” And I was like, “Woo, that means I have to share?”  And I wasn’t ready. And I remember hearing, I think it was Dr. Joe Dispenza, I think it’s something like wisdom is the experience without the pain. And I said, “I’m waiting for the wisdom. I’m just not ready.”

                             There was just a day and it was, I started with let’s say an audio podcast, someone else’s podcast where I talked about it, but I wasn’t looking at anyone. And then I did, let’s say a video. And then it was the time I was on a stage. And, as terrifying as it was, I just remember thinking, “There will be people who judge.” I used to be that woman who judged someone else saying, “Well, how do you go back to somebody like that?” I said there’ll be people who judge, there’ll be people who have an issue with what I’m talking about – some very personal things here. And it’s not about them. I want to reach the people who need to know they’re not alone, they’re not crazy and there’s a way to heal from all of it. And that just changed the entire game. I think that took me from victim to “let’s do something with this”.

Elizabeth:           This is not a spiritual platform here that I’m putting on, but you don’t have to believe in a Higher Power?

Debi:                   I do.

Elizabeth:           I’m just saying like, where, if it was there for you, where was your Higher Power in all of this?

Debi:                   You know, I felt for a long time… Like if you imagine a plug and a socket, I felt like I was completely unplugged. And when I started seeing that intuitive, that spiritual coach, I needed the help. And it’s interesting because a lot of people in this study, they may have started off being religious and they moved towards the spiritual part of their religion. Or they abandoned their religion completely. Or if they weren’t religious or spiritual, they became spiritual. And that was certainly the case with me. At the time I remember, and I’ve been following a spiritual path for about ten years, never religious, but that felt really right to me. It was so comforting having that under my belt. But I started journaling. I started meditating. I started connecting. And I remember seeing, I mean we’re spiritual group here, so yeah, I feel comfortable sharing that I came in one day to see the spiritual counselor and she was telling me, and I had, envisioned just this being, and I didn’t understand it. But for some reason I felt very comfortable with him. And I felt protected and I felt safe and it felt really good. And I walked in and she sort of looked like, step back and look, “Shit. Oh my gosh, you brought an ascended master in with you today.” And I had no idea what she was talking about, but I was getting lots of guidance from him.

Elizabeth:           So, as you heal, you started hearing and you got less busy, right? You started doing more being. You started listening, that meditation will calm the mind is beautiful.

Debi:                   Oh, those supernatural secrets were being whispered in my ear. And I learned to trust in that more than anything. I noticed with betrayal, it’s such a natural progression because you don’t trust your betrayer. You don’t trust yourself. You trust in something other than you. So, I put my trust in Spirit, in energy and God and it was so comforting. It really helped. And journaling became a really big thing for me. I remember I would start out in a lot of the journal entries, “I, I…” You know, about just how I feel I am. And then all of a sudden, it would turn into “You, you did the… you, you, you.” Which sort of like, I guess things were coming through. But then, my problem was I got so excited. I was like, “What’s happening?” I pulled myself right out of it. That happened a lot. That was so comforting to me to feel like, “I’m not alone here. And this is all going to make sense even if I can’t quite put all the pieces together just yet. What if I believe what she said, that this all was for a bigger purpose and there – the universe is just laughing at how obvious it is and I’m going to get it soon. I’m going to understand it soon, too.” Everything about my ego was saying, “No, no, no. This is a deal breaker. There’s absolutely no moving forward from something this wrong.”

Elizabeth:           You know, this is a great example – betrayal and action, and what we make it mean. And I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with it, I’m just saying that it is like fodder for the ego to run amok. Right? And it does – it takes the body with it. And we’re really in chronic pain. That’s why I wanted to bring this in because it’s more common than, I don’t know what the numbers are, but I think it’s a lot more common than anybody realized until you started doing the work. Do you, do you have any numbers for us?

Debi:                   We’ve had at this point close to 3,000 people who’ve taken the Post Betrayal Syndrome Assessment. We see every single day – and I read every single one of these entries – I see what’s happening and I see how it stops us, as far as our health. We can go to the most well-meaning, amazing, health experts. We’ll go to a gut doctor because very likely we’ll have a gut issue. We’ll go to do something about our weight. We’ll take something to help us sleep. We’ll take something to help us calm down. All these things are tied to an unhealed betrayal. I see it in the business community where, let’s say, if you’re an entrepreneur, you’re worried to partner with somebody because you are so burned by somebody you trusted. The last thing you going to do is trust somebody else in a partnership. Or you’re working for a company within a company, you don’t want to ask for that raise. Why? You don’t have any confidence because it was shuttered from that unhealed betrayal. Of course, with relationships, you were burned and no way anybody’s going to go near your heart again. There was an entry just not ago. She said my betrayal happened 35 years ago and I’m just done with relationships. 35 years.

Elizabeth:           So, let me ask you what might be considered, next level question. Somewhere all this, where do we take responsibility for what happened? Because in a relationship, the way I kind of see it, 50% of the shape of the relationship is mine. You’re saying it’s the other person’s. So, somewhere in there, in that event that took place, there’s some responsibility to be taken. How does that work in your model?

Debi:                   Yeah, absolutely. There’s a place for it. It’s hard to say – and I and I see this with people in the program – “Oh, you, you just have 50% responsibility in your betrayal.” Like somehow, we asked for it. But I look at it and say, on some level I did because look what it’s led to. So, I truly can look and say, “I kind of on some level, set this up before I got here.” But then I can look at that time period, when I go back to that time period, I was very busy. Something did feel off. And I was way too busy. And I remember thinking, oh my gosh, I just wanted him to just, I feel like I’m babysitting. I want them to just grow up already having, no idea. But I was so overwhelmed with all the responsibilities of being a mom to all these kids and all these dogs and this business that I just I blew it off. I guess looking now, if I were to have discovered it back then, because it was years ago, I don’t believe I would have even considered the idea of rebuilding.

                            I don’t know. I mean, I’m not in that position. I think there’s something about the distance in years, that not made it more tolerable, but something about it felt a little bit different. I guess seeing the change in him, and I think on his end. He was the one who told my kids, and looking at your children and they’re looking at you like, “You did what to our mom?” If anything’s going to have you wake up and realize what’s important, it’s probably having your kids look at you with that look. But yeah, certainly. I’m sure I was responsible on that end, being busy or whatever. But so, my responsibility is to that. And then, I’m a big believer in, before I got here, I must have said, I want to learn forgiveness and resilience or something.

Elizabeth:           Well, you also did the work to heal. I have another question that I’d kind of like to wrap up on this.  You’ve come back again and again to, “I don’t trust myself” and you’ve seen that in your studies and, I know this area myself, so I would love for you talk to us about how you healed that and where you are today with that practice.

Debi:                   Yeah, trust – I look at it like a brick wall. It can take decades to build brick by brick, by brick. That’s how it’s built. It gets shattered in a moment. How does it get rebuilt brick, by brick, by brick? I actually have a process and it helped me rebuild trust and it’s what I teach. It’s this four-step process. And the first is, where you trust in just the simplest aspects of life: the sun will rise and I believe the sun will rise and you see it rise like, okay. Sun will set. And you know, gravity. If I throw something up, it’s going to come down. The most basic things. And then when you see it happen, you say, “Okay, you know what? Okay, the way the world works, I can count on those things. I can trust that.” And it’s a very small level. It sort of establishes again that world view. Like, “I know the sun is going to rise. I know the sun is going to set. I know if I throw something up, it’s coming down” and, so on. From there you learn to trust yourself again. “I’m going to go to the supermarket today” and then you do. “I won’t eat those potato chips”, and then you don’t.  Whatever it is. You start to build trust in yourself. “You know what? My word means something. I trust myself.” There’s a level of safety, a level of comfort. The next level is you start trusting in your intuition again. I call that your own B.S. meter. You start to trust in your intuition. If my intuition has given me a sense that this person a is saying one thing but meaning some something else, trust that. If I get a sense this food isn’t good for me, trust that. And you’re building up a sense of safety, a sense of security, a sense of strength. And you feel like you have that support. You have like your team that you need. And once you’ve built up a sense of trust in the world, in yourself, in your Higher Power, in your intuition, then you can go ahead and cautiously start to trust in others again.

Elizabeth:           Beautiful.

Debi:                   That’s what I did.

Elizabeth:           That’s a lot of work. Did you do any physical exercise? I mean you talked about meditation. Did you do any physical exercise to help move that negative energy?

Debi:                   Yeah, that’s really important. When you do it too early, you are so deep, so often, in adrenal fatigue, that something like running would be terrible because that’s going to just deplete your cortisol even more. So, you have to be careful at what stage you’re doing different things. Yoga is wonderful, but then again, depends on the type of yoga.

Elizabeth:           Of course.

Debi:                   So many things you need to do at different levels, but yet you can’t – there’s so much stuck energy there that you just need to move. And sometimes, you know, how intuitively just feel that need to stretch the, the need to straighten, the need to walk, the need to just move your body. Follow that, because it’s very real. I worked out as best I could.  There were days I could really barely function and there were days where I could do a more rigorous workout. Speaking of yoga, I’ll never forget I had done this process, I guess it sort of moves energy, whatever. And then I went to yoga and 15 minutes in, I don’t know what the heck was happening, but I said, I have to get out of here. I feel like I’m going to pass out. I don’t know what this is. And I learned it was a purge. Where you’re just purging this energy. I could barely drive home. I was a mess, got into bed, cried my eyes out. It was like this massive release of stuck energy.  I didn’t go back to that yoga class, but it wasn’t her. She was wonderful. It was just I didn’t want to experience that again and I didn’t want to pass out in class. I was like, “I need to know I’m okay”.

Elizabeth:           I teach Kundalini Yoga and we work with locks in the body. There are three locks that we work with, so that when we do the practice, the energy gets directed in a very specific way. And, we do have a, what we call Kundalini releases, but I’ve never actually heard of anybody talk about something like you’re talking about. However, we talk about the locks – that’s very basic. We have to make sure to have those because it actually directs the energy, so it moves up and out in a safe way.

Debi:                   This did not feel safe. This felt terrifying. It really did. I mean my body was releasing just some massive energy. And speaking of that, there was another experience I remember – probably the first year. I didn’t tell anybody. I was so humiliated, embarrassed. It puts you in a club you never wanted to be in. I was really withdrawn. I didn’t really see my friends much. Of course, they would’ve supported me, but they loved him, and I didn’t want their judgment, pity, whatever. And so, I would seek coaching clients, or speak with coaching clients, deal with the kids and crash. Clients, kids, crash. That was it. I was wrapping up a call with a client mustering up all this strength that I could to be on that call. And towards the end I felt really, really weak and everything started kind of going black. And before I knew what I was sitting on my office floor. My daughter found me and raced me to the emergency room. I thought it was having a heart attack because I actually felt constriction. I just felt this pain. And I remember thinking, because it had been a few days of that pain. I said, “Well, you know what, just imagine that you had a broken heart and that’s what it feels as it’s healing and that’ll help.”  But I also was saying, “Be careful what you say”, because I was saying “My heart hurts. My heart hurts. My heart hurts.” Of course, I was talking emotionally and then sure enough, my heart really was hurting… raced me to the emergency room. Thought it was a heart attack. Turns out it was a panic attack. I had never had one. I didn’t know.

Debi:                   And I’m laying there with all these tubes and wires and I said, “Oh my gosh, this is for sick people. This place; I got to get out of here.” And, that was really a big day because I said, “This will kill me…”

Elizabeth:           That was another turning point. Yeah.

Debi:                   Yeah. I better do something with this because this will take me down.

Elizabeth:           Well, you seem like a woman of action, if anything. How can people get a hold of you?

Debi:                   Thank you.  You know, really what I invite everyone to do is take that quiz. PBT, as in, Post Betrayal Transformation. https://pbtinstitute.com/quiz/

Elizabeth:           Beautiful. Well, I sure appreciate you coming and sharing with us today. I think our viewers are going to get a lot out of this and, I hope they’ll come and take your assessment and all the very best to you in your work.

Debi:                   Thank you so much. Bye now.

Elizabeth:           Bye.

Real Voices Living Beyond Chronic Pain Series