Sanctuary for the Abused
Monday, October 21, 2013
BETRAYAL: THE FEELING OF BEING BROKEN
.. AND THE RECOVERY
They were in love. Everything was wonderful. They'd been together for twelve years. They were expecting their second child and they were delighted. And then came the unexpected telephone call. The phone call from the 9-year old boy asking to speak to his "Daddy."
The trust, the dreams and the hopes all shattered in an instant with the revelation that her husband of twelve years had a secret relationship and a secret child for nine years!
"I love you baby. You know I would never hurt you. My job is to protect you always and I will always do that. You just need to keep our secret safe. Don't tell Mommy what we're doing ... she won't understand that I need to show you how to love ..."The child who trusts the adult not to hurt him/her is betrayed by the abusing or neglectful adult.
The mere word, "betrayal," evokes enormous feelings. It’s one thing to be disappointed, saddened, and unhappy; but it’s altogether another to feel BETRAYED.
…Lied to in a way that feels humiliating. Defiled by someone whom you trusted; someone in whom you placed your belief, your hopes, perhaps your love. Perhaps it is in the enormity of the truth not told, or the complexity of the subterfuge, or the completeness with which the trust was given…that the pain grows to feel so huge.
Another common experience in the moment of discovered betrayal is deflated self-esteem. It is so very important to remember that trust given and trust broken is at the core of the betrayal issue. Trust is a gift. If you gave and it was not well and honestly received – YOU have no blame. That you would trust and honor you both with one of the greatest gifts one human can offer to another, makes the betrayer the person who is sorely lacking. You must not diminish the magnitude and beauty of your gift – by belittling yourself for having given.
There are many times when one can experience betrayal:
Betrayal by parents:
A parent who abused you.
A parent who lied to you.
A parent who neglected you.
Betrayal by a lover:
A lover who has conducted another relationship(s) while with you.
A lover who has told you things and presented a picture of themselves that was false.
A lover who has taken all your money without your knowledge.
A lover who has transmitted a disease you never knew about.
Betrayal by society:
A promise for full employment that never gets met.
A promise of social security – that may not be there.
Quality healthcare – available only to a few.
Betrayal by your body:
A chronic illness when you’ve done "everything right."
A disease of body image – and you feel hopeless and helpless.
Betrayal by a friend:
A closely guarded secret --- exposed…
An important promise --- broken….
A person you trusted who acted with no regard for your feelings...
A friend you put yourself on the line for – who left you high and dry.
Betrayal of self:
Lies to self.
Denial of a personal medical condition.
Participation in a disrespectful relationship.
In all these instances – it is the quality of the perceived connection between the parties that determines whether the injustice feels like a betrayal or simply an unpleasant event or behavior.
If someone you feel no particular connection to – promises a gift – and fails to follow-through; perhaps you are upset, disappointed, even angry. The rage and despair often associated with betrayal comes only when the experience is one of a profound, wrenching violation of your faith in another. The establishment of trust is a tremendous commitment you make. It only makes sense that when the commitment is dismissed – the magnitude of that dismissal can feel overwhelming. Whether the betrayal is experienced at the hands of another or is perceived to be experienced at the hands of self – the initial shock and anger can be quite draining; sometimes frightening.
The sense of betrayal can be accompanied by a self-anger, a new/renewed distrust of self, a new/renewed fear of self, and the decision-making skills you possess. With the feeling of betrayal can come the feeling of a psychic implosion. At the moment, you do not feel whole. Many begin to fear they will never feel whole again.
If you are struggling with a feeling of having been betrayed – there are many things you are likely to experience including: (1) shock (2) denial (3) anger (4) extreme hurt/sadness (5) anxiety (6) emotional lethargy (7) social lethargy (8) changes in daily living activities; in other words, many of the symptoms of depression. This is quite normal – but if these symptoms persist for more than two weeks, it is important to meet with a mental health professional for an evaluation for therapy – possibly short term, medication, etc., etc.
As you begin to understand the nature of your feelings and look for ways to proactively heal…you will be on …the road to recovery … In doing this, many may discover that the betrayal, the loss, the anger, and all the other feelings involve not only the immediate betrayal but any other betrayals experienced over your lifetime. Previous experiences of betrayal – whether from infancy / childhood or from adulthood last week can complicate the way in which you experience the betrayal and heal from the betrayal.
Betrayal by another does not have to mean that you have to betray yourself. It does not mean that you are unworthy and unfit. It does not mean that you deserved the treatment you received, nor is it a guarantee that you will be treated the same way again. If you feel betrayed by yourself - you may have to work with someone professionally or in a support group to understand the feelings of betrayal and how you can heal.
Tips for healing…
Acknowledge your pain, anguish…and every other feeling you have.
Surround yourself with supportive friends/ family.
If you are choosing to end the relationship, writing a letter to allow your own release will be important for you. (This is a letter that you will very likely not send.)
If you are choosing to continue the relationship, make sure you set clear and specific limits for future interactions.
Make sure to interact with at least one positive force in your life every day.
Allow yourself time to heal and learn.
Forgiveness of YOURSELF frees YOU from YOUR pain.
It is critical to remember during this healing time that…
Your trust has been abused…this is a very big deal. Recovery will take time.
You are NOT responsible for the betrayer’s decisions. (If you see self as the betrayer of self– recognize that your choices were propelled by choices you felt were reasonable at the time.)
You CAN heal.
You are NOT alone.
You are NOT "stupid."
YOU did not create the betrayal.
You do NOT need to understand the betrayer’s actions in order to heal. You DO need to get lots more information if you are going to remain in the relationship.
You may never understand the betrayer’s motivations – you do not have to in order to heal. You DO have to if you choose to resume/ continue the connection.
If you choose to continue the relationship, you MUST see ACTIVE change in the betrayer towards a new, healthy, HONEST communications style.
By Pamela Brewer, MSW, Ph.D., LCSW-C