Betrayal is common and must be dealt with more effectively.
Most people will have at least one experience of major betrayal in the course of their lifetime. Unfortunately, for many of us, we might even experience a series of betrayals. If our betrayal experiences are intense and overwhelming enough, we may even feel trauma from these betrayals, and each time another real or perceived betrayal occurs, we find we are flooded with powerful emotions, flashback memories, and self-righteous thoughts, centered around the narrative of how much of a victim we are, or have been, in the story of our life.
I am not here to say betrayal is not real. Yes, betrayal definitely happens. I am also not here to say the act of being victimized, is not real. Of course it is real! However, the meaning we make around these experiences, who we are, and how we have a right to think, feel and act in response to them, is all a choice.
This may sound like typical, self-help, empowerment talk, however, I want to offer a more nuanced explanation of how your response to betrayal is a choice, and where to begin to extend practical action toward a more accelerated healing process.
- Feel IT
First off, the most important step to begin to heal, is to acknowledge how much pain you feel, and give yourself a full 24 hours before you seek justice, or do any drastic action, so to speak. Instead, focus your attention on the sensations you feel in your body, based on what has happened, and begin to take an inventory of the impulses, thoughts, and emotions centered around these sensations. This will eventually help guide your process in an accelerated way, towards healing beyond the trauma of the experience.
2. Change Your Frame Of Perception
The second most important step is to recognize that this betrayal is an opportunity for growth, and there is an important lesson waiting to be learned. Take some notes or talk with a friend who is able to encourage you to explore what this lesson is. I will give you a hint, if the lesson is, “I always get screwed by this person”, or “I am too stupid or pathetic for…”, you haven’t grasped the full lesson. But, this will likely be the first round of thoughts you have, which is a normal part of the process. This leads me to the third step.
3. Forgive And Dis-identify
The third step is to forgive yourself and others for feeling hurt and being hurtful, and recognize that the other person’s betrayal actually has nothing to do with your inherent worth, worthiness of love, or how much power you have. The other may have wanted you to think it did, however, you get to choose whether it does. Additionally, your initial self-righteous or hurt and angry response, has little to do with them, either. The second you acknowledge the actions and feelings on both sides don’t mean much about the other it is directed at, you can see the betrayal as an indication of another’s challenges around cluelessness, ignorance, carelessness, low integrity, low self- worth, felt powerlessness, lack of empathy, or inability to deal with their own wounding, and their resulting feelings and thoughts. Then you can calm yourself enough to begin to do the deeper work of healing yourself, and why you were so harmed by their betrayal in the first place.
4. (3. 5) Accountability And Self-Honesty
The fourth step, which is more like step — 3.5 is to begin to ask yourself how you are blaming others and external circumstances for your feelings and overall internal experience, as a way to position yourself as a “victim”. This doesn’t mean choosing to blame yourself, and positioning yourself as a perpetrator, as an alternative. Nor does it mean blaming a different person, or dismissing the pain and hurt you feel, and dropping boundaries toward whomever hurt you, and attempting to also be their “savior”, or the person who helps everyone heal, and see the light, so to speak. This means taking an accountable and honest stance to address the deeper wounding within, and the beliefs you have about who you are, how much power and choice you have, and your level of worth, that are triggered during a betrayal experience.
Addressing your deeper wounds IS antithetical to being a victim, as the focus shifts to taking responsibility for your own pain and healing yourself, rather than on fixating on how to control another person, or on how much another person deserves whatever form of treatment, in response to what they did. Practices often helpful in addressing this deeper wounding are therapy, coaching, journaling, co-therapy with a friend or partner where you hold each other accountable to this degree, and a spiritual practice that encourages you to get beyond ego.
5. Apologize And Adjust Your Boundaries
Once you have located what is you own wounding, and have begun to do any number of practices to heal the pain there, actively let the person know how their actions impacted you, a bit about what it is based on (no need to tell detail), and apologize to the person for the part you have played in trying to blame, control or hurt them back. However, it is extremely important to not do this step until you have done some work with and identified your wounding, and at least understand it.
Be aware that the person who betrayed you, likely is still identified with also being a victim, and may use whatever apology you give them as an opportunity to attempt to hurt and betray you more.
You are well on your way to healing if they respond taking their own victim stance with you, blaming you for how much you have hurt them, and for how sick/bad/wrong you are, and you are able to not react and simply see it for what it is. At this stage, with enough work on yourself, you will not need to get defensive or set them straight, but yet let them keep stewing within their own victimhood, and then decide where your boundaries and expectations are of them, given their limitations in accountability. In other words, you do not need to keep people close to you who are unwilling to take responsibility for themselves, and yet, you don’t need to keep fighting with them about it, or trying to change them, either. Just redirect your attention to yourself, your healing, and your life.
Take this out into the world and use it!
I hope this guide has helped you or someone you know deal with betrayal in a better way. There is no sense in holding on to pain and anger towards anyone, when what serves us most, is to go directly to healing the wound that was triggered.
People will always do things that hurt us, whether intentionally or accidentally, and the way to a more peaceful and well-balanced life, is to not get stuck at obsessing about how badly you were hurt, and victimized. Address the deeper wound, and step out of being a victim. I guarantee, you will end up preventing many real or imagined betrayals as time goes on, because you will adequately prevent triggering, as well as re-calibrate your life to eliminate closeness with people who routinely take the victim position, and thus intentionally or through willful ignorance, betray you.
Go on, try it!