Betrayal never feels good. It doesn’t matter where it comes from or who does it, the results are pretty much always the same: a sense of devastation that can profoundly shatter the sense of self so deeply that the results can last a lifetime. There is nobody who hasn’t been betrayed on some level at some point in their lives, but some people seem to bounce back whereas others just crumble and shatter. Repeated betrayals are obviously harder to tolerate than a one-time deal, and people who start out strong and intact are in a better position to weather this storm than those who start out with a more emotionally precarious foundation.
So why do some people betray and others seem destined to be taken advantage of? A few years ago, I read the ultra-famous book by Byron Katie. What I remember of her premise (other than that I DETESTED her book) is that everything that happens to you is really your fault and to your benefit. Really she is not that cold about it, and she tries to be very loving about everything she says, but- and again I am saying what I remember through the filter of me really not liking her book, so I may be somewhat off here- is that whenever you are having a thought that, “So-and-so did X”, you should turn that around and say instead, “I did X”. So, for example, instead of holding the idea that, “John hurt my feelings.” You should try out, “I hurt my feelings,” and see where that takes you. Perhaps you did things that contributed to your own hurt. Perhaps you drew a toxic person into your life or stayed in a bad relationship or didn’t speak up for yourself when you should have. What I can get on board with is the idea that in some cases you have some responsibility for parts of your own situation. What I couldn’t get to, though, was her insistence that you are always completely responsible for what happens to you and it seemed to me that it let everyone else off the hook for their bad behavior. Truthfully sometimes people mess you over. And it is bad. It is really bad.
Betrayal seems to me unique in the world of travesties in the way it strips its victims of their dignity. It is the one component of any crime that grinds its victims into the dust and doesn’t let them stand back up. People can be hit or stolen from or cursed into oblivion, but once betrayal enters the picture everything changes. Once a person feels they have been betrayed they become attached to such a sense of shame; they become their victimhood in a searing flash of pain. The filth of betrayal is the stain that is the most difficult to soak off. It is the stink that stings your eyes and taints every other thing you try to smell, no matter how pleasant it should be. It ruins perfectly good interactions and steals happiness from endless futures. Betrayal burns like no other acid.
So what is the antidote to betrayal? There isn’t one.
Isn’t that cheery? Time blunts the sharpness of betrayal, and distance helps. As with most things, truth is a great healer, and the more truth heaped on the head of a betrayal, the better and easier it will be to keep it buried. Perspective is always good, and anything you can learn from the experience will be of benefit to you, however hard won the knowledge. I think the best thing to do will be to leave you with a song. It’s an oldie but a goodie. Enjoy: