COLUMNS Word & Wisdom

Betrayal, Anyone?

BETRAYAL is such an ugly concept. Trust and innocence go by the wayside. Pain and grief take their place.  So many versions of it exist. Marital, friendship, business relations, confidential partnerships – all have the potential for betrayal. Many a great drama  (think Shakespeare!) has been built around betrayal, probably because it deals with unmet expectations, lies, deception, and ultimately a loss of some kind, be it love, innocence or even life.

It’s a topic that is only shared between confidantes, perhaps. I share my story, you share yours. It can be such a painful subject that to revisit the psychic scene can be choosing to revisit an unresolved experience. One’s blood pressure rises. There is also the idea that to be betrayed implies some sort of ignorance, a blindness to the facts. A certain shame for having been deceived sets in, as if some one smarter would have seen it immediately or some one more worthy would not be subject to betrayal. We don’t understand it so we analyze it endlessly and find ourselves baffled. It is often not something one wants to acknowledge freely to just anyone at all. But since one’s ability to trust has suffered a blow, trusting again – even to share one’s story -  is fraught with hesitation.

I remember someone stating to me that it was not my fault if someone worked hard and succeeded in deceiving me. That made me feel better. In any betrayal, I always have whined, “How could I not know? Why did that person lie to me?” etc. Silly me, I took it personally.

Now that I am older and wiser…. yes, go ahead, laugh with me at this point.

The older I get, the more protective of myself I get. I also feel free to place back on others that which belongs to others. Betrayal belongs to the betrayer. I realized I had the freedom to move forward. The betrayer has to carry that burden for a long time, maybe forever.

Why am I writing about this now? I realize the media exposes betrayals. I realize I react. I have an emotional reaction to betrayals that play out in public. (Specifically, the latest Schwarzenegger thing is out and about, but a few years ago, Enron scandal also impacted me. Betrayal by any other name…. )

Arnold (as in Schwarzenegger)  did not know that his actions would impact me so. And probably millions of other folks.  His shoddy behavior clicks in with previous personal betrayals, ones that have left nicks and scars on my heart. Did he really think no one would ever know? Did he think his wife was stupid? I don’t know, but there’s great arrogance behind such a double life.  My heart gets heavy automatically.

So, thanks, Arnold, for refreshing my memories about betrayal. It feels icky. The betrayer, Arnold, is icky. Makes me get depressed for all of humanity. I will have to take myself out for a hot fudge sundae, just to feel better.

After a few moments of this fleeting wave of emotional yuk, I remind myself, cognitively, that betrayal involves secrets, selfishness and a certain arrogance. I, and most people, can move forward from its impact. Those that practice betrayal get to live with themselves forever.

And that, my friends, makes me feel much better.

By Tobi Nason

Tobi is a Manzanita counselor.