Photograph of shattered glass by Jilbert Ebrahimi on Unsplash

Exercises and strategies for recovering from betrayal

In the moment

Guarding the imaginary prison

Close your eyes and think about your betrayal. Imagine you have created a little prison in your mind to correct the injustice. Imagine putting your accused betrayer(s) into that prison.

  • Look at the people in the prison. Who is there?  
  • In what way have you been stuck guarding their imaginary prison? 
  • What purpose does it serve to keep guarding the prison? 
  • What does it cost you to keep running the prison?
  • What do you fear will happen if you stop guarding the prison?

Now imagine yourself opening the front gate to release your prisoners. 

  • What feelings come up? 
  • What are the consequences of letting the prisoners free?
  • What are you now free to do?

Reflection and growth

The Matrix


As we describe in this program’s appendix, it’s possible to get stuck in a loop on the Away side of the Matrix. This can happen when your moral pain leads you to behaviours that soothe you in the short term, but don’t move you to the Toward side in the long term.

Even if you somehow free yourself of all the difficult thoughts, feelings, and memories on the Away side of the Matrix, that doesn’t guarantee you will find yourself on the Toward side. And you should know that you can make Toward moves even in the presence of yucky internal experiences on the Away side. On the Matrix, you’re just trying to help yourself spend more time on the Toward side than you did before. We all make Away moves! 

It’s important to be kind to yourself. Rather than focusing on what not to do (“Do not make Away moves”), focus on what you can do (“Do make Toward moves”) to move yourself closer to what matters to you.

Fill out the chart using the following prompts. Start in the lower-right quadrant and go clockwise.

  1. Lower right: What have you learned about your values because of your betrayal? How can you repair your relationships after your betrayal?
  2. Lower left: What feelings did you experience during your betrayal? How did your thoughts about yourself, others, and the world change because of your betrayal?
  3. Upper left: What do you do to get away from these thoughts? Do any of these behaviours violate your values and/or increase your feelings of shame or guilt?
  4. Upper right: How can you take your power back after your betrayal? How can you take perspective? How can you meet your needs and prevent future harm?

Remember you don’t have to decide if the thoughts and feelings on the Away side are true or false. Once you have finished the four quadrants, look to the centre of the Matrix and notice (with kindness and curiosity) how your responses show whether you are moving toward or away from what matters to you.

The Matrix
Tap and hold (or right click) the image to save and/or print it. (Alternatively, you can draw two lines on a blank journal page to make four quadrants.)