Thursday, May 26, 2016

Blindsided by the Betrayal Bandit? Understanding why it hurts so badly!

Over the past several weeks, we have been talking about a very debilitating injury - betrayal. To gain a better understanding of betrayal and the recovering information we've covered, I encourage you to read the previous blogs before moving ahead: Blindsided by the Betrayal Bandit? (1) Hold is on the way!! ; (2) What is behind the mask?(3) Feeling "Confused, Worthless and Powerless"? ; and (4) Free yourself from four painful traps!  Today, we will tackle our last blog in this series, but it is perhaps the most important one - understanding why injury from betrayal hurts so badly. 

When we can make sense of why we are feeling incredible pain, 
or when we come to learn that there are sound explanations for the debilitating
 states we find ourselves in, an inner level of comfort takes hold and our healing begins.

Let's examine two features of betrayal which explain why we hurt so badly. 

#1 Underlying principle of betrayal 

Each and every encounter with betrayal has its own unique and distinctive characteristics as well as damaging effects. Every person has his individual threshold for and tolerance of pain. Everyone has his inner strength as well as support systems. However, given those and other differing features and factors, I have observed a common indicator of the duration and severity of symptoms. 

The degree to which we invest, believe, or trust in someone or something
is directly proportional to our degree of injury from betrayal. 

It is important to mention that "degree" has several important connotations which also help us to understand why we feel so much pain:
  • Degree as to length of time
  • Degree as  to what we gave of ourselves or what was taken from us
  • Degree as to what was lost: personal, relational, material, inter-personal qualities, of characteristics, beliefs, or  even our identities or personas
Although we have discussed many different kinds of betrayal in previous blogs which connect to these three examples of degree, I have found that individuals who invest tremendously in their relationships with friends, family, spouses or partners and/or other meaningful and purposeful connections experience devastating injury from betrayal.

Many years ago, my husband and I were attending a large church where the pastor was quite revered and respected. After allegations of misconduct by the pastor surfaced, the elder board asked him to step down. The pastor refused to do so and eventually was forced out of his position. The church body became extremely divided over the incident. Longstanding members expressed "feeling betrayed" either by the pastor or the board. Their feelings of betrayal were deeply rooted in their levels of investment, trust, and belief in the pastor and in the church. Hundreds of parishioners, who had been attending for years and years, invested into the unwavering vision of its leader and the ever-expanding mission of the church; many had served in numerous programs and ministries giving generously of themselves and their financial resources; and countless others recounted how they had trusted in their faith only to find themselves questioning their beliefs and their foundational principles. For so many faithful supporters, their degree of time, their degree to which they gave of themselves, and their degree of inter-personal loss resulted in deep feelings of deception, distrust, and disillusionment.

Therefore, regardless of the kind or type of betrayal, with great investment comes enormous loss; with strong belief comes shattered truths; and with profound trust comes unspeakable violation. Being aware of the degree to which we gave of ourselves helps us come to terms with of our degree of pain.

#2 Underlying principle of betrayal

As I think about my  many clients and their respective injuries with betrayal, as well as my own, I believe their severity and duration pain were directly related to the occurrence(s) of betrayal and to ensuring exposure to one's betrayal experience. In other words: 

The number of  betrayal occurrences and the degree of exposure 
to the betrayer and/or to the betrayal environment is a predictor to the degree of injury or re-injury.

As with other features of betrayal, each person has his unique experiences and thus, there can and will be exceptions to the explanations. And, it is critical to remember that the degree of investment, trust, or belief in someone or something should always remain paramount in our assessment of injury. However, drawing attention to the types of occurrences can serve us well in understanding our level and span of pain.

Because each of these is very important to understanding its impact on your levels of injury and ensuing discomfort, I encourage you to read Chapter Three Breaking Through Betrayal 2nd Edition : "To What Degree and How Long Will I Feel This Way."  There are longer explanations with examples for each one.  For now, it is important to know them:
  • Acute or short term - The betrayal happens once and/or does not last long. However, short term betrayal can involve horrific trauma and require long-term recovery. It can also be of a lower level, yet still painful.
  • Chronic or on-going - The betrayal (s)takes place over time; the betrayal environment is conducive to perpetual injury, abuse, or trauma.
  • Recurrent or episodic - The betrayal takes place; then subsides. Usually because of environmental factors, betrayal injury resurfaces.
  • Multiple betrayals - Betrayal is perpetrated  repeatedly by the same person, thing, or environment over a short span or longer periods of time; or betrayal is perpetrated or exacerbated by one or more individuals, things, or environments.  
  • Re-injury from self - Turning to destructive behaviors or self-soothing behaviors as a result of the betrayal resulting in additional injury to self. 
Although any of the above examples of occurrence can and will evoke debilitating symptoms and manifestations from betrayal injury, it has been my experience that on-going and multiple betrayals can be the most damaging. Working in the areas of abuse and trauma, I was witness to many survivors who not only endured months and years of horrific violations by perpetrators, but who were also betrayed and re-betrayed by friends and family members who did not believe the abuse and/or who came to the defense of their abusers. In addition, often the legal system did not bring adequate restoration or justice to the survivors, again adding to the layers of betrayal. Still today, I can recall the faces of my clients who never gave up and who reclaimed themselves. their lives, and their truths. 

No matter what the varying degree or types of betrayal, we can rest in the knowledge that hope and healing remain within our grasp. With hard work and specific tools, we can lessen our pain and shorten our stay in the bondage of betrayal.

There is so much more to share with you. However, it is up to each of us to grab hold of healing resources available to us and decide when we will begin our healing journey. If you are struggling to move past your betrayal experience, I want you to  know you are not alone. I hope you will take this journey with me. I hope you will be brave enough to do so.

Betrayal has know us far too long.  It is time to change that.

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