When the World Crumbles
by Jill Call, LMFT
Trauma shakes the very foundation on which you’ve built your life. Trauma is defined as a life-threatening event and, with betrayal trauma, it threatens the life you’ve built together. Your world can start to crumble when suddenly you discover your partner isn’t someone you know anymore.
As women, we mostly define ourselves in relation to others. “I am a wife. I am a mother. I am a sister. I am a friend.” Because we define ourselves by our relationships with others, betrayal trauma can have life-altering effects.
For example, you might think to yourself, “If my partner isn’t who I thought he was, then the life we’ve built together may not be real, and what about me is true anymore?” Or perhaps this one, “I don’t know him anymore. I don’t know myself anymore. And I don’t know my life anymore.” You can see the life-changing implications of such thoughts.
Trauma causes a myriad of symptoms. If your life has been threatened by betrayal trauma, you may experience fear, racing heart, anxiety, hyper vigilance, depression, loss of appetite, increase in appetite, apathy, low tolerance threshold, anger, sadness, impatience, losing your temper, crying, shaking, and other effects. You may begin to examine your life and fear that anything familiar cannot be trusted. That is one of the effects of betrayal trauma. It’s an earthquake that shakes the very foundation of the life you’ve built and trusted.
When betrayal trauma shakes the foundation of your life you may start to wonder if everything you’ve built has been right. You may start to question or even reject parts of your life that have always been your solid ground. This starts to create a crisis of belief and further shakes your foundation. The lyrics to a song by Parachute describe this well, “and I lost my faith, in my darkest day.”
Your ability to stand on solid ground, and have a place from which to be steadfast, strong and stable is crucial to recovery. In LifeStar we talk about “resourcing” or “getting grounded.” This refers to the recovery skill of creating stability, peace, and emotional safety for yourself. This can be done by setting boundaries, by intentional self-care, or by mindfulness meditation. There are so many ways to find your center and put you back on solid ground. When you’ve lost yourself in this crumbling world of betrayal trauma, finding your solid ground is essential to your recovery.
I recently took a trip to visit the Hoover Dam, which is on the border between Arizona and Nevada. This massive structure was built in the 1930’s with over 5 million barrels of concrete (4.5 million cubic yards). Just to give you some perspective: that’s enough concrete to pave a 2-lane highway from Seattle, WA to Miami, FL. The engineers estimated it would take nearly 80 years for all of that concrete to cure completely. To me, it’s instructive that although the foundation for the Hoover Dam is solid and strong, it has been curing and becoming stronger over the last 80 years.
Establishing your solid ground in the midst of a crumbling world takes work, and sometimes a shift in perspective. When standing on the Hoover Dam marveling at it’s massive structure, it’s easy to become sidetracked and miss the whole purpose of the dam.
It was built to manage and harness the power of the Colorado River. Before the dam, the river would flood and dry up on its own unpredictable timetable. The towns along the river depended on it for their very life, and yet it could wreak havoc to their lives through torrential flood or dried up dirt. The river caused trauma to the lives of those who so desperately depended on it. The dam created safety by forming a reservoir.
Create your solid ground and your safety. Tend to your foundation. Recognize that not all the familiar parts of your life that you’ve counted on throughout the years have betrayed you. Turn around and see the reservoir of life you have created. What is in your reservoir? Is it strength? Hope? Good friends? Kindness? Faith? Trauma may have shaken your foundation but you are finding your solid ground. It is curing and becoming stronger and stronger. And you have a reservoir of life from which to draw your own peace, stability, and emotional safety.