We all have a true self. This is our most authentic self, who we were created to be. Our true self is made up of our personality, our unique strengths and weaknesses, gifts and talents. It includes our sense of humor, natural likes and dislikes, introversion or extroversion, etc.
Part of our true self includes five things that are true about all human beings. These five elements were first identified by Pia Mellody as part of her developmental trauma model. When we come into the world as infants, we are all:
- Valuable (we have inherent worth just because we exist, not because of anything we do or do not do)
- Vulnerable (we are able to be hurt by others and need protection)
- Imperfect (we all have character defects and weaknesses that negatively impact ourselves and others)
- Dependent (we cannot survive on our own, but depend on others for our survival)
- Spontaneous and open (we all have the ability to play and welcome new experiences)
When our parents or caregivers interact with us in ways that are less than nurturing around any of these key areas it sets us up to struggle with that specific issue. For example, if I receive conditional love from my parents, I am going to struggle with knowing that my value is not connected to what I do but is inherent to who I am.
Below is an outline of the issues that we can struggle with if we have experienced neglect or abuse around any of the five areas:
Valuable: struggles with valuing the self from within or maintaining a sense of self-worth and esteem.
Vulnerable: struggles with adequately protecting ourselves without either becoming overly defensive or too vulnerable.
Imperfect: difficulty acknowledging and living with our imperfections without experiencing chronic toxic shame (worthlessness).
Dependent: struggles with attending to personal needs and wants and in being available for interdependence with others.
Spontaneous and Open: difficulty living in moderation in our lives without falling into rigidity or indulgence.
Experiencing partner betrayal trauma also negatively impacts all five of these key areas of life and experience. As a result, many betrayed partners experience a double whammy where existing childhood wounds are re-activated by the adult relational trauma.
Insecurities and negative beliefs about the self and others, rooted in childhood experiences, can feel like they are being affirmed and reinforced by the current betrayal. This can leave you wrestling with fears that you are unworthy, not enough, and undeserving of love, fidelity and loyalty.
This is the multi-layered trauma that most betrayed partners are faced with. The current adult betrayal activates or piles on top of childhood betrayal and now there is one large throbbing wound that is screaming for relief. The failures of the cheater compound the failures of your parents or caregivers and combine to make most betrayed partners feel like there must be something truly wrong, bad or unlovable about them, since the most important people in their lives have let them down again and again.
It is this multi-layered trauma that drives the reactivity and pain that most betrayed partners experience and keeps us separated from our true selves while stuck in a spiral of powerlessness and helplessness.
To move out of this powerlessness and into a place where you are operating from your true self, you need to build skills around each of the five core issues where you experienced wounding. Here is what that could look like for each of the five core issues:
Valuable: I operate and speak from a deep sense of my own value and inherent worth.
Vulnerable: I operate with a sense of power through implementing boundaries and risking appropriate levels of vulnerability so I can experience intimacy and relational connectedness with others.
Imperfect: I am comfortable with and accountable for my imperfections and the way I impact others. I am able to take responsibility for my imperfections without experiencing toxic shame.
Dependent: I operate with a sense of abundance through active self-care, re-parenting of my wounded child and interdependence with others.
Spontaneous and Open: I live in moderation and am able to have self-control while also maintaining a sense of spontaneity.
To learn more about how our nurturing these five areas will benefit your relationships as an adult, I hope you will join me for my upcoming online workshop: Reframing “Codependency – Healing the 5 Core Issues at the Heart of Relational Recovery.
I will be presenting the workshop live via Zoom from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm Eastern on Saturday, January 22nd. The registration fee includes the live event plus 2 weeks of private access to the recording for those in a different timezone, or for those who simply wish to review the content after the event.
About the Author:
Michelle Mays, LPC, CSAT-S is the Founder of PartnerHope.com and the Center for Relational Recovery, an outpatient treatment center located in Northern Virginia. She has helped hundreds of betrayed partners and sexually addicted clients transform their lives and relationships. Michelle is the author of The Aftermath of Betrayal and When It All Breaks Bad and leads the field in identifying and crafting effective treatment strategies for betrayed partners.
Braving Hope is a ground-breaking coaching intensive for betrayed partners around the world. Working with Michelle will help you to move out of the devastation of betrayal, relieve your trauma symptoms and reclaim your life.