For the past several weeks, we have been looking at the six phases of the Authentic Hope Process for healing from betrayal trauma. This week we turn our attention to phase five: creating. We talked last week about how phase four, re-imagining, is a turning point for many partners as they start to think about what their post-betrayal future might look like. In the creating phase, the work of building this new future begins.
Even as this occurs, betrayed partners must continue to grieve and accept the losses that have occurred as a result of the betrayal. Often, one of the most interesting and poignant things about healing from betrayal trauma (or any trauma for that matter) is that as you come more fully into the process of knowing what you feel and allowing those emotions to move through you, you find that the sadness, grief, and loss lay next to something else inside of you. Something very surprising. That something else is longing.
Grief awakens not just your sadness about what is lost, but your deeply held inner yearnings and desires. As you count the cost of the betrayal, you also begin to feel the stirring of your longing for joy, aliveness, connection, intimacy, fulfillment, meaning, purpose, etc. Things you thought were dead and gone slowly awaken, raising their sleepy heads to peer around and see if it might be safe to send out tendrils, dig in deep and start to grow, and to bloom.
There are only two things in life that motivate us to do the hard work of changing. The first is suffering and pain. The second is our longing for something different. I would argue that the most sustainable, longest-lasting changes are changes that are connected not to our pain, but to our longings.
Nevertheless, for most betrayed partners change starts because of the pain and suffering caused by infidelity. The change is not chosen and is often about surviving and coping with the trauma of betrayal. However, by the time you move into the creating phase, a profound shift in your motivation occurs. Now, instead of being in the process because you had no choice and needed to cope with all the pain and loss and take care of those who depend on you. Now, you are in it for yourself and for the life and relationships that you long for. You continue the work because you see the potential for a life that you never thought was possible. You dig into your learning and healing because you want something more and better than what you previously had.
Each betrayed partner longs for different things. Some want the freedom to live from their authentic self without feeling the need to people please or experiencing shame attacks when they are seen and known by others. Some want a new and improved relationship with their cheating spouse. They have glimpsed the potential for true honesty, intimacy, and connection, and they want to go for it. Others want a new relationship with someone different. They want to learn how to pick a healthy, available, present partner, and how to be healthy, available, and present for that relationship themselves.
Nearly always, betrayed partners, when they enter the creating phase, move toward dreams that they’d never dared even to acknowledge, let alone pursue. Sometimes they break generational patterns of dysfunction and betrayal in their families, creating a new opportunity for the generations to come. Slowly, step-by-step, they create a new life that is guided by the deep longings and yearnings that are only revealed by the grief and sadness of betrayal.
And there is the mystery: that out of something so awful and life-wrecking could come such powerful and positive life-altering possibility. This is the essence of the Authentic Hope Process.
Next week we will look at the common experiences and steps that are part of the creating phase.