Here’s a Question I received recently from a subscriber:
“For a long time I have been feeling betrayed by some of my family members because of a history of being hurt and lied to by them. I can’t understand why they did it, and it seems impossible to let go of my anger about it. It’s hard for me to be around the people who have done this to me and pretend I’m not still upset! I can already feel my anxiety starting about the upcoming holidays. How can I stop letting these memories ruin the little time I have with my family?”
My Answer: Part 1
This situation is more common, and for more people, than you might think. And the good news is, the solution to feeling better about it is completely within your control. All it takes is a sincere desire to be free of the anger, an open mind, and taking some new actions that I’m going to recommend.
You can’t change what anyone did in the past, and judging and resenting them for it will never give you the peace you desire. But you can change how you think about it, and you truly can find peace that way.
First you need to gather a little background information, not necessarily related to the person with whom you are currently having this issue. You want to find out when you first had to deal with this kind of situation, and how you interpreted it back then.
So I want you to look at your history with your family objectively – without judgment or criticism – to simply acknowledge who the most important “players” are (or were) from your family of origin and which of their behaviors had such a significant impact on you in terms of feeling lied to and/or betrayed.
Next look at the nature of the behavior that affected you. How was it different from what you expected? Did you have a sense that it was “wrong”? And if so, what behavior would have seemed more “right”? Finally, how did all that information relate to – and even contribute to forming – your beliefs about yourself?
In looking at your personal history with lies and betrayals, there are a number of open-ended questions that need to be asked and answered, without defensiveness or excuses. So ask yourself these questions, and write down your answers:
- What were the lies that you were told?
- How were you betrayed?
- What feelings did you have as a child growing up as a result of these behaviors?
- Were you allowed to express your feelings to anyone about the lies and betrayals you experienced?
- Were your feelings handled with respect and compassion or with dismissiveness or ridicule?
It’s important to answer these questions so that you can have clarity as to what you’ve been carrying over your lifetime. We cannot heal what we don’t feel, and we cannot make changes in our attitudes, perceptions or lives without awareness.
You are acknowledging that you are stuck in feeling powerless and helpless, and therefore victimized, because of others’ behaviors. That is a key awareness to being able to make changes in how you respond now to the memories of these behaviors.
“You Are Here” – Realizing You Are No Longer “Back There”
Next you need to be clear that while you may, in fact, have been powerless and very much a victim growing up, that does NOT have to be true today. Changing your perception of yourself is a key component in changing your responses to behaviors that are hurtful, deceitful, unethical and/or otherwise problematic for you.
Your self-perception is reinforced by your thoughts. Though thoughts alone don’t move you forward (your underlying beliefs about yourself control that), letting your thoughts play out unmonitored can be very self-sabotaging, so – again – it’s important to be aware of them. Then you can intentionally change them when they are working against you.
Your thoughts always reflect your beliefs, and it’s our beliefs that truly control your ability to make positive progress toward your desired outcomes. Therefore, if you believe that you have often been in the position of being the victim of someone else’s bad behavior, and helpless to stop or change it, then that is how you will see and experience each new event that comes up.
PLEASE NOTE: None of this is meant to suggest that people in your life are not behaving badly and that it’s all in your head! It DOES mean, however, that you now get to change how you respond, internally and externally, to their behaviors.
The Key to Getting Back Your Power
- Clearly Identify Your Beliefs What’s getting triggered in you (and I really mean “in you” – notice you can feel it in your body when it happens!) about being on the receiving end of that type of behavior? What new beliefs can you replace those with, now that you can see clearly that you have other options for interpreting the interaction?
- Realize the Other Person is “Unconscious.” Know that the other person’s behavior – no matter how reprehensible – is a misguided attempt to make the world understandable, predictable, safe and/or more manageable for that person.Assume they are on “autopilot” and mimicking behavior they learned from someone else that appeared to accomplish that same goal for the person they’re imitating. Realize that they don’t even see that their behavior actually causes problems for them by obstructing and even damaging relationships.While you don’t necessarily need to feel empathy for them, realizing that they have that blind spot and it is running (and perhaps ruining!) their life can help you to let go of the need to understand the “why” of their actions. They don’t even know the REAL “why” themselves!
Next week I’ll give you a 5 step process for getting yourself unstuck from the anger and resentment of feeling betrayed by others’ actions – see you then!
p.s. If, even after reading this and following my recommendations, you still feel powerless to let go of your anger over feeling betrayed by a family or friend, email me at Loren@BeingWellWithin.com or call me at (201) 489-6720 to arrange a time to talk about it with me.
I’m committed to you having the best holiday season possible, and I will start the gift-giving early by providing a 20-minute complimentary consultation to jumpstart your progress in preparing for it!