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Snake Bloomstrand on Betrayal

The sting is often self-inflicted, explains Snake in this month's column.

Betrayal is a common enough human experience. Unscrupulous individuals, scam artists and thieves legal or illegal are a reality. Betrayal will remain part of the human experience. Who hasn’t felt its sting?

Abuse of trust, perceived or otherwise, triggers the grieving process. Our supposedly universal value systems have been violated, so we demand retribution. And perhaps we take the matter personally, labelling ourselves obviously not worthy of ill-defined prerogatives like ‘respect’. 

At a time of weakness, it feels good to put grieving aside, and instead experience aggression, rage… fury. 

Ranging in intensity from a minor slight to a broken heart, the impact of feeling betrayed rattles the bones. Perhaps betrayal is devastating because what we thought was an agreement – reliable, and worthy of our trust – is unexpectedly called into question.

Fundamentally, we want to feel safe. When the world and people around us remain predictable we feel at ease. But when we’re misled, safety and predictability are swiftly replaced with uncertainty or fear. We’re left feeling betrayed, angry and maybe heartbroken too.

At the core of betrayal is a breach of trust.  

Whether the arena is social, political, or in our personal lives, one needn’t search far to feel a sense of betrayal in today’s divided world. None of us willingly agreed to endure the stress caused by a global pandemic. This wasn’t the agreement: I feel betrayed, but who’s responsible and what can I do about it?

Blaming the world’s leaders for failing to anticipate the unexpected, or assuming scientists and health care providers have all the answers serves little utility. 

I may feel betrayed. But if my beliefs contain little but unclear agreements or unreasonable expectations, they’re scarcely relevant. Projecting unrealistic expectations on others will not reconcile the distress of feeling betrayed. Attempting to blame or hold others responsible for the emotion we experience does little to ease uncertainty or increase safety. 

Many seek to hold the offender accountable, responding with anger or outrage. Conflict-adverse individuals may avoid confrontation and internalise betrayal, often excusing the harmful actions of others as confirmation of their own unworthiness. Feeling betrayed is not limited to social or relational interactions, the aged or seriously ill often feel as though their bodies have betrayed them. In each case betrayal triggers an emotional response.

Emotion is often impetuous and intellect tends to over-think, together they represent a powerful asset if fully integrated. Inconvenient, disruptive or anxiety provoking, emotions are meant to inform and help shape an appropriate response. Interpreting emotion accurately is challenging in that emotions remain unique and individual much like our fingerprints. 

Complicating everything further, betrayal may be perpetrated by an individual, institution or most insidious of all – self-inflicted.

No discussion of betrayal is complete without mentioning the ways we betray others, or betray our own best interests. Examples include white lies, cowardice, shame, or turning a deaf ear to what we feel, suppressing emotions intended to inform. 

Once the storm has passed we’ve all said, “Damn, I just knew that wasn’t right.” 

At the core of betrayal is a breach of trust. 

So who is responsible?

The most effective salve for the sting of betrayal is to build trust and confidence in the integrity of self. It takes a lifetime to soak in. 

Snake

Craig ‘Snake’ Bloomstrand is an official advisor for BAAM plus the leader emeritus of The Mankind Project. Find out more at sensiblecoachingandmentoring.com.

6th January 2021

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