Last week we talked about some of the factors that keep betrayed partners from transitioning out of devastation and realization into the stabilization phase of the Authentic Hope Process. We also discussed ways in which partners can move themselves forward into stabilization. This week we are going to introduce the key steps and actions that occur in this phase.
One sign that you are entering the stabilization phase is that you start to feel like you have a little more emotional space inside of you. Instead of feeling pushed to the emotional wall, you find that you are not quite as short-tempered or exhausted or prone to teary outbursts as you have been. The painful feelings do not completely go away, of course. You are still going to catch yourself asking, “How did this become my life?” But as you start to wrap your mind around what has happened and to understand your experience, the most severe symptoms of shock—emotional and mental fragmentation, difficulty concentrating, and impaired functioning—begin to recede and improve.
You also start to ask different questions. In the devastation and realization phases, your questions were about how to survive and what to do in the moment to manage your overwhelm. In the stabilization phase, your attention turns to deeper matters of the heart, to your future, and to the future of your relationship.
Questions that are hallmarks of the stabilization phase include:
- How do I navigate my relationship right now?
- What boundaries do I need in my relationship?
- What are my bottom lines, and how do I communicate them?
- What is it OK to ask for in my relationship (and from others in my life)?
- What if my partner relapses or cheats again?
- How do I find my voice and communicate better?
- How do I heal from the trauma I have experienced?
- My relationship is ending. Now what?
To heal from betrayal trauma, it is imperative that all of these questions are answered and answered well (except the last one, if your relationship is not ending). To fully answer these questions, you must learn new concepts and new skills. You must also develop a different understanding of what healthy relationships look like. This requires enormous growth and change on your part, which is why, as I mentioned in last week’s post, the stabilization phase is often the longest phase of healing.
For example, you may feel like you use your voice a lot in your relationship, so working on finding and using your voice seems unnecessary. However, you may be doing a lot of communicating, but ineffectively, in ways that allow what you say to be easily dismissed or ignored. Communicating effectively from your personal power center is a whole different enchilada. Establishing this new way of communicating involves learning and practice.
In addition to answering the questions listed above, there are key tasks and actions that facilitate stabilization. Each of these steps, as you master them, creates hope.
My hope is that rather than feeling daunting or overwhelming to you, these steps provide you with a sense that there is a clear path to healing from betrayal trauma—that there are specific skills, tools, and relational abilities that, when developed, move you out of feeling traumatized into a place of feeling empowered, grounded, and whole again.
Next week, we will turn our attention to phase four of the Authentic Hope Process, re-imagining. This is where things start to get exciting, so stay tuned.