As you will learn, relatives, professionals, friends, acquaintances, and sheer strangers have betrayed me. I write of betrayals by my father, by dentists, by my therapist, by the province of Alberta and by Alec Baldwin.
Many were the sort of garden variety betrayals that are all so familiar. The overt betrayals where the betrayer is the active force, the victim passive. But when the concept of self-betrayal is thrown into the mix, then things become more complicated.
Self betrayal is, simply put, the bad habit of looking for trust in all the wrong places. We can be betrayed only by those people we can truly trust, enemies and strangers cannot betray because there is no reason to trust them in the first place.
Stories of garden variety betrayal include Mind the Gap, and Gaming in Alberta. Professionals owe a duty of care to their patients, so the actions of my dentists and my therapist is proper betrayal. Obviously a father in in a position of trust with his children. Therefore, his improper behavior was proper betrayal.
But I began to question my role within the stories and in my life in general. Am I active in the process of perpetuating a theme that has an outcome that I can predict and am comfortable with? The victim who response with laughter instead of tears Ot am I trying to kid myself? Am I just a passive fool, who ends up in the wrong place at the right time, or the right place at the wrong time? Do read Shopgirl with these ideas in mind.
A pattern emerged. There was no reason to trust the men (so accurately displayed) in the first place. The Baldwin Betrayal is one example, There was no reason to trust Alec Baldwin. The beginning of the story Besotted by a Stranger should have signaled the end. The guy was a jerk, the outcome predictable. “What was I thinking?’ Putting oneself out there is risky behavior. What is the motivation to take these risks?
Some of motivation is societal. There does exist, even in this twenty-first century, a belief that it is normal to look to others to complete one’s life. It arises from a certain sense of incompleteness coupled with a desire to find our “better half” or the “one who completes us.. Our society, the movies, and the media has tricked us into believing that the most important relationship we’ll ever have is with “the ONE” and that our lives are not whole until we find that person and ride off into the sunset. My attraction to the man in the story Solitary at the Synagogue was borne of the desire to be united with the ONE. When one does not find “our better half” there is the supposition that we have been betrayed.
But, what if the expectation that it is normal to look to others to complete one’s life is itself the betrayal?
However, blaming others is itself a symptom of self betrayal. C. Terry Warner posited:. “Three aspects of the self betrayer’s conduct always go together: accusing others, excusing oneself, and displaying oneself as a victim.”
So I turned inward again to sense that I have never developed a betrayal filter, I was trusting people randomly and did not see the betrayal coming before it hit me. But why? Further research found an answer to this absent betrayal filter.
Jennifer Freyd introduced the terms “betrayal trauma” and “betrayal trauma theory” in 1991 at a presentation at Langley Porter Psychiatric Institute in San Francisco, California. (Freyd, J.J. Memory repression, dissociative states, and other cognitive control processes involved in adult sequelae of childhood trauma. Invited paper given at the Second Annual Conference on A Psychodynamics – Cognitive Science Interface, Langley Porter Psychiatric Institute, University of California, San Francisco, August 21-22, 1991). “In cases where a victim is dependent on a caregiver, survival may require that she/he remain unaware of the betrayal. In the case of childhood sexual abuse, a child who is aware that her/his parent is being abusive may withdraw from the relationship (e.g., emotionally or in terms of proximity). For a child who depends on a caregiver for basic survival, withdrawing may actually be at odds with ultimate survival goals, particularly when the caregiver responds to withdrawal by further reducing caregiving or increasing violence. In such cases, the child’s survival would be better ensured by being blind to the betrayal and isolating the knowledge of the event, thus remaining engaged with the caregiver.”
Betrayal trauma is essentially a survival mechanism. This was an epiphany, It explained my memory lapses and the vague unease and discomfort I always felt about my parents. My entire childhood is a haze. I was unaware of betrayal trauma theory when I wrote Back Story . I read it now and weep.
Betrayal is key, it is the magic word that explains everything. I now see I have been both resilient after betrayal and deeply scarred by it. Betrayal has both opened my eyes to the world, and shut me down. Betrayal has both rendered me vengeful and gifted me with forgiveness. Which emotion will win out?
Where would I be without having experienced, and often initiating, betrayal? That is a thought both frightening and seductive.