Doctor Neha: Hi, everybody, and welcome. Today I have a wonderful guest, Xenia. Am I pronouncing that right?
Xenia: Yes, you are.
Doctor Neha: And what background does that name come from?
Xenia: The name is Greek. However, I’m from Columbia. My mom had a penchant for different names and was reading a novel and liked the name, so I got it.
Doctor Neha: Oh, how wonderful. I remember when I was little wanting my name to be the same as other kids, but then when I was older, I was so glad it was different than everyone else’s.
Xenia: Yes, exactly the same experience.
Doctor Neha: Well, you’re a brave soul willing to ask your questions so other people can learn. So tell me what’s been on your mind. What are you thinking about?
Xenia: Ever since I saw the video of Brené Brown on trust that really resonated for me.
Doctor Neha: So what she’s talking about is a video Brené Brown did called “The Anatomy of Trust” if you want to look it up.
Xenia: What I realized is [that topic] is such a core piece for me. The main reason was that I had a pivotal situation in my life when I was divorced. My mom and my sister opted to side with the man I was divorcing and disclosed information that was really harmful to me.
Doctor Neha: Wow.
Xenia: Since then, way, way, way down, deep inside has been this thought, If my mom and my sister won’t support me, why would anybody else?
Doctor Neha: If I can’t trust family, how can I trust anybody?
Doctor Neha: First of all, I just want to say thank you for bringing something so deep and so universal to life. And by universal, I mean, betrayal.
Doctor Neha: I don’t think people necessarily have your specific situation; I have not commonly heard that. But what I am saying is that many people have a different version of betrayal. Whether it’s by a friend, someone dating the person you liked when you were younger, whether it’s somebody telling a secret that you thought was private, all the way to family siding with the man you’re divorcing. So in a spectrum, yours is on like the insane intensity level.
Xenia: It did make me crazy. How can this be happening?
Doctor Neha: Yeah. How is this possible? Because “I’m not just breaking; my own heart isn’t just breaking; but my family bonds and love in more arenas than romantic love are breaking.”
Doctor Neha: Oh my goodness. So tell me, did you have a specific question around it that you wanted to talk about?
Xenia: So trust? Finding it in myself so that no matter how chaotic the circumstances are surrounding me or how tenuous the circumstances are that I’m walking on, I can still find trust in myself? So that I know I’m going to be okay.
Doctor Neha: So tell me how long ago was all of this?
Xenia: The divorce? It’s been awhile. It’s been about 15 years.
Doctor Neha: So did it all end up okay?
Xenia: It did.
Doctor Neha: Was it the right move for you?
Xenia: Yes. Oh yes, yes.
Doctor Neha: It was the right move. So now when you look back on yourself, you would say, “My instincts told me what I needed to do, and it got messier than I thought it was going to get.”
Doctor Neha: “And I found my way through.”
Doctor Neha: So you already have an enormous example of how if you trust yourself and listen to your intuition, it may not be easy, but it will be right for you. What that tells me is you have a really strong sense of self and you trust your intuition, sometimes over what everybody else in the world is trying to get you to believe. Is that true?
Xenia: Yes. That is true.
Doctor Neha: So where is it that you think you don’t trust yourself? In what aspect do you think you don’t trust yourself?
Xenia: There’s a voice inside my head that keeps saying, “You don’t deserve this. You’re not good enough.” And that line keeps coming through is, “If they didn’t believe in you, why should you believe in you?” So I survived it, but I haven’t thrived.
Doctor Neha: And does that mean like you’ve limited your relationships and opening your heart? And what I hear is that you’re ready for love again.
Doctor Neha: So yay! I mean how amazing. So I think maybe even the trauma of it would be that for 15 years, there was a price. There’s always a price to something and then there’s a payoff in how things play out. But the idea is that when the payoff exceeds the price, we keep things the same. The moment that the price exceeds the pay off is when we’re ready to change.
So what I know was in your marriage, the price exceeded the payoff, and you had to get out. The price of you choosing that was far greater than you anticipated.
Doctor Neha: And that surprised you and it shocked you. It was bigger than what you knew you were choosing because all these unintended consequences came with it.
Doctor Neha: I think what you’re trying to protect against right now is controlling that: “This isn’t safe because I think I know what I want, but what if things end up messier than I thought they were going to be?” And what sounds most important is that you have chosen yourself [in the past], so you can trust yourself, you can trust that little girl inside you, the one who may have felt betrayed or had broken trust. So think of a time that was long before this, the first time you felt that somebody betrayed you. Tell me how old you were. You don’t have to tell me what they did. But when was the first time you felt betrayed by somebody? They told a secret that you didn’t want to tell, or they left you…
Xenia: Like a little girl?
Doctor Neha: So I don’t even need to know the story, but what I know is that little girl grew up and she became the adult she wished she had when she was four. That’s you.
Xenia: Mm hmm.
Doctor Neha: You don’t leave her anymore. You don’t leave her. You say, “Even if this is painful, and even if there are unintended consequences, I’m siding with you, little four-year-old. I’m going to pick you up in my arms, and you and me, we’re always going together from here on out.” That’s what you did by taking the steps to heal yourself. Now the betrayal that came after that was surprising and shocking and even the adult didn’t expect that.
Doctor Neha: I think what you’ve done now is…actually, what have you done over these 15 years to help yourself heal?
Xenia: Work, work, work, work, work.
Doctor Neha: : Oh, you transferred into work addiction. Got It. Healthcare loves it when you transfer into work addiction, by the way.
So for those of you watching, Xenia is a nurse and she’s been taking my course to heal burnout. I have one for healthcare professionals called “Self care in Healthcare” and she has been in that course. So now what you’re saying is “It has been really great to channel that energy into healing and serving others. And there’s a part of my heart that is ready to have intimacy and connection from myself as well again.”
Doctor Neha: Oh, I just got the chills. So good. You deserve that love that you give to everybody else. You deserve that. And so that, that little girl is always going to come with you. And no matter how you risk and love, you will always choose her above something that is unhealthy for you. Because she’s relying on you; she’s depending on you.
Now it’s time for the adults to start trusting that you’re not who you were 15 years ago. You’re a smarter, wiser version of you. You can take things slowly if you want to take them slowly. You can open up and get to know someone and not be physically intimate with them until you feel emotionally connected to them. So tell me what are the lessons you’ve learned in the last 15 years? If you could give yourself, the top five lessons in love, what did you learn from that whole experience from before and the last 15 years of giving yourself time and space to heal?
Xenia: So listen to the red flags.
Doctor Neha: So pay attention to who people are because they show you who they are. You have to believe them.
Xenia: Yes. That I’m stronger than I thought I was and that I’m worth more than I thought it was. That when I reach out, people reach back.
Doctor Neha: They’ll extend a hand if you reach out. They’re going to extend their hand and they’ll be there for you.
Doctor Neha: And what do you know about vulnerability and control? What does your heart know for sure now? Take a nice deep breath in.
Xenia: I don’t have to do it alone. I always felt that I needed to be strong and just press on and push through it. But I’m stronger when I’m with others and that requires me being transparent and exposing my hurt—and people will come around and be there for me. Vulnerability does not make me weaker.
Doctor Neha: That, in fact, is the only path to intimacy and connection.
Xenia: So it’s scary.
Doctor Neha: It’s scary and not as scary as you isolating yourself and confirming that through isolation you are never allowed to have love.
Doctor Neha: That to me is a little scarier: when you are the one solidifying the path that you will not let anybody else in no matter what. That is the 100% guarantee that you’re going to get the thing that you fear most.
Doctor Neha: So there’s another piece to it that I think is really beautiful—I believe it was Brené Brown who said in an interview that there’s vulnerability and vulnerability is one level but when we’re seeking intimacy, intimacy is vulnerability plus self-trust plus self-worth equals intimacy. So intimacy is a different level of vulnerability and it’s allowing someone in and being vulnerable while we still hold the strength of knowing who we are. We don’t lose our boundaries of who we are. You will always hold that four-year-old dear and near to you. You’ll also hold the woman you were 15 years ago, who got surprised. But when you’re scared now, you’re going to say it out loud. You’re going to say, “You know what, thank you for that offer. I’m noticing that I’m weary or I’m cautious about taking you up on it. Can I sleep on this tonight and let you know in the morning?” That woman, she doesn’t think she needs to give an answer in the moment. She knows that she’s going to listen to her body. She’s going to listen to the four-year-old, she’s going to listen to the woman from 15 years ago, and she’s going to use the collective wisdom of her body to ask for what she needs in relationship. She’s ready.
Xenia: Yes. And in relationships at work, all relationships. Because it’s not just intimacy. My boundaries have been very well established to the point where I keep people at a distance and that sort of limits me. I think I have more potential.
Doctor Neha: So let’s talk for one moment as we wrap up about why those boundaries have been important. Those boundaries have been important; the reason you needed them was to stay safe. Your safety got violated on a primal level. You needed space, distance, and safety. So the first thing you want to do is thank that strategy of yours. “Thank you, Boundaries. Thank you, space. Thank you, isolation. Because now I’ve been able to heal and recover. Now I’m a little nervous. I’m a little scared. But guess what: The payoff of love is higher than the price now because I’m healed. And if there’s a place that hasn’t quite healed, it might show up in the first few times I date or the first few times I go out. But I trust myself. I trust this body. I trust my mind. I trust my heart that I will choose what’s right for me and I will speak up.”
How are you doing?
Doctor Neha: So what are your takeaways? I saw the takeaways in love and then is there anything else you want to say to the people out there who may have gotten hurt in love or felt betrayed, and have transferred their energy into working all the time or some other way to keep themselves busy because they’re too scared to attempt love again—what would you say? What would you say to them?
Xenia: Acknowledge the fact that you’ve made it through a very difficult situation and trust that your healing trust that you’ll be there for yourself and trust that you will be okay once you step out again.
Doctor Neha: And if you make a mistake, it’s okay. Do a take two.
Xenia: Take two!
Doctor Neha: Have grace for yourself. Because often we’re our worst critics. What if we were just nice to ourselves and treated ourselves as kindly as you would treat that four-year-old you’re holding.
Are any of you out there who know this resonates and you’re ready to go back out again? Just know you’re not alone. This human experience of betrayal and love and connection—it’s so juicy—and we’re all in it together. So go out there and trust yourself. It’s time to love again.