Over the past few months, we have been looking at the phases of the Authentic Hope Process for healing from betrayal trauma. This week we come to the sixth and final phase: flourishing.
While this is the final phase of the healing process, it is by no means the end of the journey. There are stages and phases to the process of healing from betrayal trauma, but the road does not go in a straight path. It winds around, it revisits familiar territory, it goes slow and then speeds up and then slows down again. Most partners find themselves in more than one phase at a time. For example, a partner can be still reeling from devastation while also doing some re-imagining about what might be ahead.
So, do not look at the flourishing phase as a place you arrive at, never to return to the earlier phases. Rather, it is a place you arrive at while still experiencing and occasionally returning to other stages of the healing process. Over time, you will find yourself spending more and more time in the flourishing phase, and eventually it will become your new normal.
When healing from betrayal trauma, one of the most significant challenges that partners must wrestle with is the profoundly negative stories that betrayal tells them about themselves, others, and their Higher Power. Betrayal tells stories of shame (I am not worthy of faithfulness or honesty); stories of fear and terror (I will never be able to feel safe again); stories of powerlessness (I am helpless to change my situation); and stories of despair (this is all I can expect). These stories hold partners in their suffocating grip, slowly squeezing the life out of them.
The key to healing from betrayal trauma is learning how to loosen the grasp of these stories (by noticing how all the stories are built on lies) and learning to live in ways that create a new story. A story that is rooted in authentic hope.
As you move through the phases of the process you learn new skills, new tools, new practices. We have talked about some of these over the past weeks as we have looked at each phase. What each of these different skills, tools, and practices has in common is that they work to change the story that betrayal has been telling you. Your ability to do life in new ways results in restructuring your relationship to yourself, others, and your Higher Power. When this happens, you start to tell and live a new story.
Here is a summary of the new skills and tools that, by the time you reach the flourishing phase, are part of your new approach to life and relationships:
- Self-care is standard practice.
- Living with an integrated mind, emotions, and body becomes a way of life.
- You have an increasing ability to care for your emotional self and to handle triggers, challenges, and difficulties.
- You have a stronger connection to your Higher Power.
- Life is lived in community and consultation with others.
- Safety and trust are restored (with yourself and others), and relational disconnects are repaired more easily.
- Eroticism and healthy sexual expression are restored.
Next week, we will continue our look at the final phase of the Authentic Hope Process.