Breaking the Cycle of Betrayal
By Raymond Shipley
In the "me generation" more and more values seem to be lost in the wind. With the ideal the world revolves around the self comes the morality that all actions are acceptable if they grant the self titillation or to "meet one's needs."
Betrayal in an intimate relationship is to experience excruciating pain. Patients that have experienced both rape and infidelity consistently report the infidelity to be the more painful. Entrusting another with the essence of who you are, only to be betrayed, can only be seen as horrific. The pain is as real as if one's flesh were severed and a piece of the soul was ripped away.
When we are young we learn how to love. Our interactions with loved ones teaches us our value, and as children these impressions are never questioned; children attribute negative reflections to their own inadequacy and unworthiness. Having internalized our worth based on impressions gained from loved ones in our youth, this continues to have an affect throughout life.
Unlike having the ability to confirm or deny a physical blemish in a mirror, our love and worth can only be discerned through what is received by those we love. This is why judgements and putdowns by a spouse are felt more severely than by bosses and peers. Similarly, compliments and praise mean more coming from the people we love. If one's partner is pleased, we have worth; if they are displeased, there must be something wrong with us, and only anger or resentment can offer protection.
If childhood has taught us of our value, life will be filled with a realistic view of the self and relationships. Despite life being filled with moments of disappointment and sadness, a loving relationship will constantly reinforce feelings of our worth and love. And when sadness creeps in, such solid relationships will reinforce the knowledge these situations are temporary, and we have tools at our disposal to combat our lows.
But what happens when, despite our best efforts, the person we love more than life itself betrays us? When what we have valued above all else is shown to have cracked and all but failed? What does it mean; what do we do?
Intimate betrayal is an attempt to gain a momentary feeling of empowerment by violating deeper values. It causes an adrenaline rush, making one feel more alive. Much like most things that offer momentary gain, the long term cost is devastating to the self and their loved ones. Just like a drug, the adrenaline wears off and more is needed in the future. Likewise, feelings of self-doubt and depression come to the fore, demanding more of the stimulant and creating more pain. Betrayal becomes addictive, and increases in frequency and intensity over time, unless intervention takes place.
When our self feels slighted we attack that which has cast the unwanted reflection. Loved ones experience our wrath not because of their behavior, but for the painful reflection seen of ourselves. Being compassionate parents and spouses is the key to not only healing our loved ones and giving them the tools to live healthy lives of worth, it is also the answer to healing our own wounds.