How do you get past what he did to you?
It doesn’t even matter what he did. Lied to you. Took advantage of you. Cheated on you. Betrayed you.
Your whole world has turned upside down. You trusted him. Loved him. Gave him everything.
And now you’re stuck with the broken shards of your life together, wondering how you’ll ever feel okay again.
Dr. Debi Silber has heard so many stories like these.
As a holistic psychologist, she helps women heal from betrayal so that their lives end up better than ever. She’s the founder of the PBT Institute and author of the #1 bestselling book The Unshakable Woman: 4 Steps to Rebuilding Your Body, Mind and Life After a Life Crisis.
In this week’s YBTV interview, she shares the secrets of what it takes to bounce back from the worst thing that ever happened to you. You’ll learn which women heal from betrayal—and the 3 groups that don’t. You’ll discover the 5 stages of healing—and why you don’t want to get stuck in Stage 3.
You’ll also learn how you can go from betrayal … to breakthrough.
What You’ll Learn
Anybody who has been through betrayal knows that feeling: we’re in a club we never wanted to be in.”
Dr. Debi Silber didn’t study betrayal because she thought it would be interesting.
She studied betrayal because it happened to her.
“You don’t study something like betrayal unless you have to,” she jokes.
After a family betrayal, then a betrayal by the man she loved, she found herself turning to research to make sense of it all. How is betrayal different from other crises we go through? Why do some women emerge from betrayal stronger than ever, while others stay stuck?
When the people we trust the most prove untrustworthy … where do we go? There is no sense of safety. Our world as we’ve known it is shattered.”
She ended up in a Ph.D. program studying transpersonal psychology, the psychology of transformation and human potential.
“I did a study on how women specifically experienced betrayal: what holds them back, what helps them heal,” she says.
Her research yielded 3 important discoveries, which ultimately led to the creation of the PBT Institute, an organization that helps people heal from betrayal.
She had originally been studying post-traumatic growth, the personal growth people experience after going through trauma. It’s how trauma “can potentially lead you to new insights, new perspectives, [and] a new awareness that you never would have had, had that not happened.”
But she realized that betrayal is different from a health scare or the death of a loved one. In addition to experiencing loss and grief, you have to rebuild everything from your trust and confidence to your worthiness and self-esteem.
With betrayal, there’s a rebuilding of yourself.”
So Dr. Silber gave it a new name: post-betrayal transformation.
What Does It Take to Heal from Betrayal?
When she started her research, she “assumed that the women who were hit the hardest would grow the least, because they had the most to overcome.”
She was wrong.
She discovered that “when they were willing to face [the betrayal] head-on—not numb, avoid, [or] distract … but do whatever it took to face those demons, slay those dragons, and move through it—those were the women who healed and achieved this post-betrayal transformation.”
She was also surprised to discover that part of the rebuilding process for many women included reconnecting with their spirituality.
“They needed that sense of connection because they felt so lost, so confused,” she says. “But they also needed to start to rebuild trust, so they reasoned, ‘I can’t trust my betrayer. I can’t trust myself. At least let me trust in something bigger.’”
There were 3 groups of women who didn’t achieve post-betrayal transformation. They struggled to come to terms with the betrayal and move past it.
Group 1. Those Who Numbed
These were women who thought, “It’s too painful. I can’t take it. I’ll take mood stabilizers or anti-anxiety medications.”
“I get it,” Dr. Silber says. “It helped them get through the day—but at a price. Because they were carrying it with them much more and much longer than the other ones.”
Group 2. Those Who Remained in Denial
This group includes those “who just refused to acknowledge [the betrayal], which means they wouldn’t grieve it [and] they wouldn’t accept it. They didn’t move on as well.”
Group 3. Those Who Protected the Betrayer
The final group were those who kept the peace, perhaps because of religious reasons or to protect the family. They stayed with their betrayer, and there were no consequences.
“That was my most physically sick group,” Dr. Silber says. “You’re not living in truth. You’re not being honest with yourself. And the body can’t withstand something like that.”
The 5 Stages of Recovering from Betrayal
One of the other major discoveries Dr. Silber made in her research were 5 stages that betrayed people go through on their way to achieving post-betrayal transformation.
Through her work with the PBT Institute, she’s created a program to help lead people through these stages, so they don’t have to navigate it on their own. Post-betrayal transformation is possible for anyone.
“That’s what the Betrayal to Breakthrough program is all about,” she says. “If they’re willing to do the work, module by module, with the experiential activities, they will predictably go from one stage to the next.”
The five stages include:
Stage 1. Setup
Dr. Silber asks us to envision a table with four legs, each leg representing the four aspects of life: physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual.
What she found that was that the betrayed women were leaning heavily on the physical and mental side of life. They weren’t paying much attention to the emotional or spiritual.
“So that’s a lot of thinking and doing as opposed to feeling and being,” she says.
Stage 2. Breakdown
“Here’s where we’re blindsided,” she says. “There’s a breakdown of the body, the mind, and the worldview. Now you have ignited the stress response. Your body is in a state of alarm… Your mind is in a state of absolute chaos. You cannot wrap your mind around what just happened. It makes no sense.”
Stage 3. Survival
This is when “survival instincts emerge. It’s the most practical stage. [You think], ‘If you can’t help me, get out of my way. How will I feed my kids? Where will we live? What do I do? Who do I speak to? Who can I trust?'”
A lot of people stay in this stage. “If you get to be right, you get someone to blame. You get self-pity. You get sympathy,” she says. But “if you’re willing—and willingness is the big word here—if you’re willing to give those things up … you can move to stage 4, which is finding and adjusting to a new normal.”
Stage 4. New Normal
This is like moving to a new house, she says. Your stuff isn’t in it yet, it doesn’t look like home yet, but you can see the potential.
“Just being in that space … you’re telling your body, ‘I’m a little bit safer. We can turn down the stress response a little bit,'” she says. “You think, ‘I can make this work,’ and you feel good about it.”
Stage 5. Rebirth
This is the most beautiful stage, Dr. Silber says. It includes “healing, rebirth, and a new worldview. You’ve turned down this stress response. The body starts to heal.”
You finally have time for self-care, and you feel more grounded. “You start making sense and meaning out of your experience… You have a completely different way of looking at things based on where you’ve been.”
If you’re interested in post-betrayal transformation, Dr. Silber encourages you to visit the PBT website, where you can take a quiz to see to what extent you’re struggling with post-betrayal syndrome.
I’m living proof healing is not only possible, it’s predictable. There is no reason to stay sick, sad and stuck. I promise your biggest crisis can reveal your greatest gift if you’re willing to do the work.”
Jump to Topics of Interest
1:44 How Dr. Silber came to study betrayal
3:37 Men experience betrayal, too
4:17 The 3 discoveries Dr. Silber made in her research
6:29 The surprising way women rebuild trust after betrayal
7:39 How Dr. Silber’s own personal betrayal helped her step into the life of her dreams
10:22 The 5 stages from betrayal to breakthrough
15:17 3 types of women who struggle to heal from betrayal
17:11 Dr. Silber’s Betrayal to Breakthrough program and work at the PBT Institute
19:21 Healing is not only possible, it’s predictable
Dr. Debi Silber
Dr. Silber is a holistic psychologist, a health, mindset and personal development expert, and the author of the #1 bestselling book The Unshakable Woman: 4 Steps to Rebuilding Your Body, Mind and Life After a Life Crisis. Her recent PhD study on how women experience betrayal made 3 groundbreaking discoveries that changes how long it takes to heal. In addition to being on FOX, CBS, The Dr. Oz Show, TEDx and more, she’s an award-winning speaker and coach dedicated to helping women move past their betrayals once and for all. Find out how you can work with Dr. Silber.