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Healing from betrayal trauma through little choices

There is no end to expensive and time-consuming options for emotional healing. Intensives, retreats, countless therapeutic interventions, and more - all requiring significant chunks of money and time. While these options are so helpful and needed, I want to consider the role of little choices in moving forward with recovery goals.

The author of Atomic Habits, James Clear, gives a startling example to show the difference just a little change makes. If a plane takes off in LA headed for New York City but alters the direction of the nose just 7 1/2 feet (2.25m) to the right, that plane will land not in New York but in Washington DC, 225 miles (362 km) south. Tiny changes, seemingly insignificant when they begin, have the power to shift our destination significantly. Instead, we often bemoan our inability to do the big things while continuing in the little things that are leading us away from our goals.

What if "atomic habits" could be applied to the process of healing from betrayal trauma? What if "atomic habits" could change the way that we work through transition and discomfort and change? What little habits might alter our outcomes in the long run? Here are ten ideas for atomic habits that might give you traction in getting to your recovery goals.

  1. Saying thank you. Thankfulness verbalised is a powerful antidote to negative thinking. It literally has the power to rewire our neural circuits.

  2. Naming my feelings and getting curious about them. Feelings unrecognised can drive reactions that lead us away from our goals. Every day name your prominent feeling, don't squish it down and get curious about what it's telling you.

  3. Mindfulness. Mindfulness expert, Darrin Ford, cites mindfulness as a key part of recovery. It doesn't have to mean sitting like a yogi saying Omm. It might look like eating an apple while doing nothing but noticing the sweetness, the juice, the crunch and the colour. Eating it not just with your mouth but with your mind engaged - instead of scrolling on your phone or gobbling it down while running an errand.

  4. Drinking water. It's really basic, but it can be easy to miss. Your body (including your brain) needs 2-3 litres of water daily to do its stuff well and especially if it's overwhelmed by trauma. If triggers or endless mind loops trouble you, get yourself a drink bottle and sip away. It might not instantly take away the symptoms, but it's a way of adding value to the other stuff you might be doing to heal. And actually, having a drink of water when triggered or in ruminating thoughts might be enough to interrupt what's going on and bring you back to the here and now.

  5. Checking in with a friend. Find a person you feel safe with and check in with them regularly. You could go for coffee or lunch, you could ring them up, you could send a text or share a meme that made you laugh or mad. Connecting with safe others settles the symptoms of trauma that have disintegrated your reality.

  6. Move your body. Try a little stretch routine, go for a walk, work in the garden, clean the house with vigour, workout. Just a little every day can help you feel better.

  7. Take magnesium. This is NOT medical advice, so check with your doctor before you go crazy with this one. Magnesium supports muscle and nerve function and can reduce stress symptoms. A bonus is that more relaxed muscles and better nerve function contribute to better sleep.

  8. Lavender oil. Lavender is known for its anxiety reducing qualities. Put a few drops on a hanky or buy a diffuser or inhaler. Again, this is NOT medical advice so look into it before you get carried away.

  9. Go outside. Step outside and feel the breeze on your face. If it feels good, sit in the sunshine. Or walk in the rain. Smell a flower or pick up a rock and rub it in your hand. Crunch leaves under your feet. Let your inner child enjoy connecting with the outdoors. Give your senses the gift of nature's good feels and your lungs the gift of fresh air.

  10. Prayer. Find or make up some short prayers that you can say every day. A scripture might work for you: "You restore my soul." An affirmation might be what you need: "God, you love and accept me just as I am." A breath prayer might settle your soul: "Lord, you're here." Or simply tell God what's on your mind and leave it with him.


Jane tenderly and skilfully comes alongside women seeking healing from betrayal trauma. She is a certified partner coach candidate with APSATS.


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