Disclosure Done WrongOct 31, 2023
The following article was written by a guest author who has courageously chosen to share her experience with formal disclosure. As you will discover, the professional was not qualified to provide holistic care and this woman paid the costly price.
Thank you DeAnn for your courage and vulnerability to share with the MRC community.
Readers, please express your gratitude via the Feedback link at the bottom of the page.
Disclosure Done Wrong
We sat on two sides of the room. It was time for disclosure. Two weeks wasn’t much time to prepare to hear about 30 years of betrayal in just one hour, but I took our counselor’s advice. I trusted him. The long-term consequences of this decision would take years of trauma work to undo.
When the session ended, I sat in a pile of ash. My life was on fire. My hands and arms began to shake and soon my body followed. I couldn’t think. I couldn’t speak. I had a hard time driving home.
Later that night, the trauma pushed my brain into overdrive. My nervous system and body collapsed. My arms began to rise automatically as I lay down trying to sleep. My words were incoherent sentences. I tried to stop. I couldn’t.
Three stories were being lived out... mine, his and ours.
- My story was that he was a loving father, husband, good provider and friend, emotionally steady and honest.
- His story was that of clandestine meetings, gas-lighting and a campaign of deceit.
- Our story was two people doing their best to be good parents and spouses, raising and providing for their kids, being faithful and loving to each other.
For the first time in our married life those three stories collided.
What happened in that counseling office told me he was a broken man and our marriage was a lie. Two additional disclosures continued to reveal a man I really didn’t know.
My story was gone... Our story was gone.
Betrayal and the Brain
Betrayal trauma impacts not just our hearts, but our brains. Our brains are comprised of several key functions that equip us to make sense of complex information. Disruption of those systems through disclosure throws the entire limbic system into chaos.
Our limbic system is comprised of the amygdala, hippocampus, and hypothalamus.
The amygdala controls the way we react to certain events. It helps us recognize danger and experience fear.
The hippocampus retains two types of memories, declarative and spatial relationships. Declarative memories are related to facts and events. Spatial relationships are the routes and pathways to those memories.
The hypothalamus works between our endocrine and nervous systems. It manages our bodily responses to shock.
When experiencing trauma, our pupils dilate, our bodies express physical anxiety such as pacing or hyperventilating, we may have nervous breakdowns and shaking may occur and we may even pass out.
What I experienced on disclosure day was malpractice. I deserved a therapeutic disclosure done with preparation and support. The goal is integration, not devastation and, believe it or not, intimacy.
Instead, this type of disclosure left me in an extremely vulnerable position with no way to process. It stripped me of personal dignity and gave me no option to prepare or state what I needed.
It felt more for the addict than for me or us. He felt better, but I felt unimaginably worse. It was as if he backed up the dump truck of his pain and off loaded it off on me, leaving me buried underneath as an afterthought.
My brain’s reaction to this kind of disclosure fits perfectly with why it was traumatic.
This particular counselor was not well trained in sexual addiction and in hindsight, there were many red flags. Often, he would defend my spouse and had no understanding of betrayal trauma. After disclosure, he never followed up with me beyond a simple text. I was a hot mess.
Most counselors unintentionally commit malpractice. They are narrowly trained in a single field that demands more education and research. However, when a counselor is asked to get more knowledge and they continue to use old models this becomes intentional malpractice.
The “do no harm" clause in therapy ethics also means “don't attempt something you’re not trained in."
If you’re reading this, there is a reason you may be feel confused about what you've experienced. Your brain will take time to re-file the memories of your story, his story and the couple story. (More on that in a future post.)
It's normal. You're not crazy!
Avoid the pain I experience and learn how disclsoure is done right!
Journalist. Blogger. Mom. Recovering betrayed partner. Information gatherer.
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