When women first come into WORTH, for many it is the first time they are facing the trauma of betrayal of their loved one. Some have never shared their story with another person while silently suffering alone for years. They can become like a soda bottle that has been shaken up, with pressure building for years.
It is not uncommon for women who’ve endured betrayal trauma to feel like they’ve had to bottle up their emotions for years. Then, what feels like out of nowhere, they burst into tears and anger. No matter how hard they try to hold it in, the pressure just becomes too much.
Many have said that while “blowing up” may feel better for a minute, that release is only temporary. And even worse, it’s usually explosive, leaving the women frustrated by her loss of dignity and self control.
Have you ever felt like this shaken pop bottle? I have.
For the first twelve years of marriage, I had a temper. I never had considered myself an angry person before marriage, but it seemed like the longer we were married the more angry I got. The funny thing is, it was rarely at my husband. It was at my kids, at other drivers, at the stranger in the store. I had no idea about the addiction and just chalked up this anger to my character weaknesses.
After everything came out with my husband’s addiction, in the beginning I couldn’t feel anything but extreme sadness and hurt. I was being shaken, the pressure was building, but I didn’t know it. Then, the anger period hurt. It felt like it came out of nowhere and it was all directed at him. I was a constant “shaken pop bottle.” I felt like years and years of building came flooding out. There was yelling, screaming, tears, swear words, and even occasional throwing things. I was so embarrassed and ashamed of the way I was behaving. I felt so out of control, but I didn’t know how to fix it.
So how do you find a healthy release? How do you not become the shaken pop bottle that explodes everywhere? Here’s a checklist to get your started:
Begin a daily pattern of self-care
Selfcare should include three things every day:
- Emotional (Journaling, reading a good book, learning something new, meditation, etc)
- Physical (yoga, exercise, walk outside, massage, etc)
- Spiritual (prayer, meditation, scriptures, singing, being in nature, etc)
This can be as simple or as in-depth as you like, but make sure to hit them all every day. Also, when I know a big trigger is coming up, my rule of thumb is to double what I typically do to maintain.
One other thing to note with self-care is to remember the N-Rule. Always check yourself to see if this activity is nurturing or numbing. If it is just numbing (like watching Netflix for hours), you will not have any benefit from doing this. But if it’s nurturing, it will recharge you, even if it’s just for a little bit.
Include good community care
As humans, we all need connection. When we are going through trauma, we tend to isolate from others. While we all need times to be alone, extended isolation causes further damage. Your healing plan needs to include other safe people and environments. This could include a support group who understands, close friends, supportive family, a religious leader, or other organizations that build you up.
Learn to accept all emotions
We tend to think of some emotions as good and others as bad. Culturally we have been taught to be happy, fake it till’ you make it, and to just put on a smile. When the unpleasant feelings come, we try to push them away, numb the out, or run from them. While this may help with temporary relief, long-term this not only builds up the pressure, it can cause a lot of damage emotionally and physically.
I want to suggest an idea to think about that you may initially want to reject: Feelings are not good or bad. They are just there to give us information. When we are faced with an uncomfortable feeling, instead of running from it, try to explore it. Process it. Discover what is driving it.
I like to play the “Why Game” here. I take the feeling and ask myself why I am feeling that way. It’s always easy to list the first why. Once I do this, then I try to ask myself why I feel that first why. Then I come up with a deep reason. Then I ask myself why I feel this second why. I keep this up until I go at least five whys, each time trying to dig deeper.
One final thought on emotions. When feelings aren’t released, the tend to come out sideways and in ways we don’t intend them too. The way to release feelings is to talk them out or write them out. If you don’t like to journal, try speaking your thoughts into a recording. Either way, allow them to release.
Sometimes we are scared to write down these hard or even ugly thoughts and feelings that come. Or we are afraid, that once the floodgate open, we won’t be able to close it. I suggest creating a burn journal that you can let all out. And when you are done, delete it, burn it, or destroy it in whatever healing way you decide!
It tooks years of healing and work to process through the betrayal and find healing again. Today, I am no longer an angry person. The kids, other drivers, and strangers don’t upset me the way they did earlier in my marriage. It’s a combination of learning feel my emotions as they come and release them, as well as no longer living in a home with addiction. Even though I didn’t know about the addiction, I was so surprised when it was no longer present, how it affected every aspect of our lives.
If you find yourself feeling the pressure building, take time to feel those emotions. Release them as they come so you no longer are building. As you do so, you will gain in self confidence and be able to walk away from situations holding your dignity high.
Article written by Alana Gordon, MFT Intern, WORTH Program Director at Life Changing Services