How do I let go in order to reduce the anxiety, hurt and sadness?

I was lied to and betrayed by someone I cared about. He lied and embarrassed me multiple times and I later found out that he was seeing my close friend who was making things up about me to him which caused the acrimony between me and him.
Asked by HC

Hello HC .... thank you for your message and your question. Letting go of the pain of betrayal can be one of the most challenging things we can ever be asked to do. In addition to the betrayal, you might also be feeling a sense of loss of the relationship that you thought was solid. So, how to let go.

1. First, I would want to ask you if there is any hope for reconciliation? Does the person who lied to you and embarrassed you express any kind of remorse? Is he asking for an opportunity to make things right? I am not suggesting that you "should" give him that chance. I am just wondering if that is even an option. If it is an option, the steps you might take now will be different than the steps you would take if reconciliation was not an option. If reconciliation IS an option, it would be important for this other person to take responsibility for the hurt he caused without blaming anyone else. He chose these behaviors and no matter what else might have been going on, these were his choices. He would need to be willing to own them and create a plan to ensure it would not happen again. On your side, you would need to be willing to gradually let go of the negative thoughts and feelings that you have about him and his behavior. Letting go would be important to rebuilding the relationship. 

2. Let's just assume that rebuilding the relationship is not an option. I think what you are asking, then, is how do I heal my heart so I can move on with my life. I am not going to suggest that this is an easy process because we all know it is not. On the other hand, it is possible to heal and to do so without adding additional pain to the process. There is an approach called radical acceptance. In short, radical acceptance means that we acknowledge that something has happened that we don't like. This something that has happened is painful. We allow ourselves to say: "This thing that has happened is very painful. I don't like how this feels. I wish this would not have happened." Or anything along this line. This is simply being honest with ourselves that we are unhappy with what has happened. By being honest with ourselves, we are not trying to ignore our feelings or pretend that this thing has not bothered us. It is okay to feel sorrow over a lost relationship and anger about a betrayal. These are normal feelings and radical acceptance means that we are willing to acknowledge both the reality of what has happened and the feelings that go with it. Radical acceptance also means that we realize that we cannot go back and change anything about the past. We cannot change or control other people. This is the hard part because we frequently want to be able to rewind the tape and go back and make things turn out differently. But, we can't. The more we fight the facts and the feelings of a situation, the worse we feel. Radical acceptance means we acknowledge the facts and we show a willingness to tolerate the feelings that go with the facts. We need to be able to tolerate uncomfortable feelings. Feelings are normal and they don't last forever. We make ourselves feel worse when we fight our feelings. In addition to accepting that this thing has happened that we don't like and accepting the idea that we are going to have some unpleasant feelings for a while, radical acceptance means that we turn our attention to our values and we align our behavior to our values. It would sound something like this (example only):

"I hate that this breakup happened. I am honestly miserable. I don't like the feelings of betrayal and anger. I also know that I cannot change any of what has happened. I cannot control these other people who hurt me. What I can control is how I respond to this unpleasant situation. I still want to show up in the world as the best version of myself that I can be. For that reason, I am going to (fill in the blank) because that would be in accordance with my values, who I am, and what I stand for."

I frequently talk to people (and actually myself as well) about the "bag of rocks." The bag of rocks represents the anger and resentments that we carry around with us after being hurt in some way. Just visualize yourself carrying a huge bag slung over your back. The bag is filled with heavy rocks. This big bag of rocks is hurting only one person -- you. The other people don't even know you are carrying the bag. You will be doing yourself a huge favor if you will practice radical acceptance so that you can put down the big bag of rocks. You might only be able to put down one rock at a time. Imagine each rock represents one individual behavior that these people did that resulted in your painful feelings. Maybe you can just pick one rock at a time and say to yourself, "I am going to let go of this one rock because it is not helping me at all to hold on to it."

It is important to remember that letting go of the anger, the pain, the resentments does not mean that you or anyone else is saying that what happened is okay or acceptable. It is never okay for one person to betray another person. So you are not condoning what happened. By letting go, you are simply saying, "I don't want to carry these rocks around with me any more." And, if anyone suggests to you that you "need to forgive" these people, please remember that forgiveness is something only you can decide to do or not do. That is entirely up to you. If you do decide to forgive, you will do that on your timetable, if at all. And finally remember that forgiveness is something you do for yourself, not them. It is essentially you letting go of that big bag of rocks so you are not in pain any more.

I hope this was somewhat helpful. You can learn more about radical acceptance by just Googling it.

Thank you for reading my response! I wish you well.