June 2016
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Hello Readers,

Last month I discussed betrayal and it's aftermath. I suggested that it is healthy to eventually let go and move on. You may have found yourself thinking "easier said than done, Barbara." I certainly agree. But deciding not to let go is a costly choice. So, this month I look at what makes letting go so hard and offer some suggestions on getting started. (Hint: seeing it as a choice is a key element.) Now that we have shed our rain gear perhaps we are ready to shed some old hurts as well.

All my best,
Let It Go (Cue Elsa)

Why would we hold on to the hurt and anger of an old betrayal if we could just let it go? Aren't we victims of the bad feelings created by someone else's betrayal? Maybe not. Holding on to feelings of anger, resentment and pain can serve several purposes.

First, holding on to anger can give us a sense of being in control. We feel much more powerful when we are angry then when we are hurt. We may fear that if we stop focusing on our anger the pain will be unbearable.

Second, when we hold on to a feeling of victimization we get to be right. "He/she is the bad guy. I am the victim." We don't have to be responsible for any choices we made in the matter. Victims of mistreatment are afforded a certain status. Also, we may want the betrayer exposed as a perpetrator and punished. Often we are looking for our mutual friends to choose our side and reject the person who betrayed us.

Third, we may believe that we are securing a safer tomorrow. By holding on to the pain of the past betrayal we keep ourselves vigilant against any new betrayals.

Lastly, and perhaps the most difficult to consider, holding on to pain, resentment or anger toward a person who betrayed you keeps you connected to that person and the relationship. Even if the relationship has ended in the external world, continuing to dwell on the betrayal keeps it alive in your mind. In this way you can stave off some of the feelings of loss.

These are all legitimate benefits of deciding to hold on to the anger and pain that follow a betrayal. However, when you look closely at the price you pay for these benefits you may find the cost to be prohibitive.

Holding on to any of these thoughts and feelings keeps you stuck. And look what you have chosen to be stuck with. You have perhaps chosen anger over pain or pain over loss and emptiness. Are any of these experiences what you want for your future? You may be able to protect against future betrayals but it will cost you the chance of new relationships. You may be able to keep a relationship alive in your mind but the price is carrying a bit of that pain forward with you each day. Also, the benefits of being a victim run out. Even if you don't move on your friends and even the perpetrator will.

The decision and act of letting go of past betrayals is difficult and risky. You open yourself up to an unknown future and frankly there are no guarantees that you won't experience a new betrayal. It takes courage to make that choice. But, you may find that the benefits of letting go are worth the risk. When you put down your old hurts you open yourself up to all possibilities including fun, happiness and joy.

If you are struggling with letting go of an old betrayal or mistreatment I am always here to help. Please call me.

Top Ten Steps To Letting Go

1. Decide. Whether you stay in the relationship or not, you must decide that you are ready to move past the betrayal. It is a choice.

2. Forgive. This is often the hardest step. You don't need to say or believe that what the other person did was okay. It wasn't. You do need to choose not to carry it forward with you any longer.

3. Own your part. Being able to see how you may have participated in the events helps you to regain a sense of control.

4. Grieve. Allow yourself to feel the loss of trust. Don't let anger block the pain.

5. Detach. Once you have allowed yourself to experience the pain of the betrayal, begin to detach from those feelings. When they arise, intentionally distract yourself with other thoughts.

6. Stay present. Instead of ruminating about the past betrayal be fully present in your life right now. Throw yourself into your current activities.

7. Imagine a better future. Have faith in your ability to create that future.

8. Want something more. The benefits of holding on to a moment of betrayal are very limited. Allow yourself to desire more for yourself.

9. Surrender "fair." Sometimes what we are holding on to is the sting of injustice. We believe that the person who betrayed us should suffer in proportion to the pain he or she caused. This often doesn't happen. Wanting it to be fair only creates more rage.

10. Learn something. This experience has something to teach you. It may be as simple as learning to trust your instinct. Perhaps you had a feeling this person was not worthy of your trust but did not heed your own warning.

Author's content used with permission, © Claire Communications

Barbara is a psychotherapist with over 20 years of experience helping individuals and couples to achieve happier, more fulfilling lives. She assists clients to better understand themselves, improve their relationships and develop more effective responses to life's problems.

Barbara always welcomes the opportunity to work with new clients.
Barbara Hill, LCSW-C
6236 Montrose Road
Rockville, MD 20852
Phone: (301) 340-3050