Barry K WeinholdWhile betrayals happen to everyone, not everyone learns from them. Some people seem to endure many betrayals before any learning occurs. The point where you no longer need to repeat negative experiences is known as grace.

The next time you encounter a betrayal, ask: “What lesson do I need to learn here How can this betrayal help me expand my consciousness” If you are able to quickly identify the lesson, then the experience can move through your life in an affirming way. It helps to know which choices keep us from learning the lesson of a betrayal. These are known as “sterile choices.”

Sterile choices such as revenge, denial, splitting, cynicism, paranoia and self-betrayal never support the resolution of intractable conflicts involving betrayal traumas. Only by understanding the patterns of betrayal trauma can behavior really be changed. Being willing to see betrayers as players sent from central casting to act in a betrayal drama, casts them as allies or friends helping you to clear earlier betrayal traumas.

Betrayal can be used to learn more about yourself and to increase your consciousness. Rather than splitting or making another sterile choice, ask, “What other options were available to me in that situation Is it still possible to use them” Here are some suggestions for using betrayal experiences as opportunities for growth.

Do a Perception Check

The first choice to begin making more effective responses to betrayal involves a perception check with the assumed betrayer as part of an attempt to resolve the conflict. Ask this person, Are you aware that I felt betrayed by your behavior Was it your intention in what you did (describe objectively the person’s behavior) to betray my trust of you I feel hurt and angry as a result and what I need from you is for you to treat me with more respect, and what I want from you is for you to agree to treat me with more respect in the future and to apologize to me for what you did. Are you willing to do that This person may not even recognize his or her behavior as a betrayal, so your questions can provide that person with new awareness about both of you. This direct communication is critical because it can stop the unfolding of drama triangle dynamics in your relationship.

Look for Patterns of Betrayal

The second healthy choice is to look for patterns of betrayal. Barry describes how this was helpful for him:

One day I made a chronological list of my major betrayals. Three or four pages later I began to see a pattern of betrayals involving certain kinds of women, and I identified the recurring themes. I thought, “Oh my God! This has been going on most of my life.” These patterns had been there much longer than I realized.

Then I looked at what was not finished about each betrayal. In each instance, I was able to identify the unlearned lesson that kept recycling. You may want to complete the betrayal writing exercise at the end of the chapter to help you recognize your patterns of betrayal.

In another post under this category you will find a skill practice exercise to help you recognize your patterns of betrayal.

Learn Compassion for Yourself and Others

The third step is to learn compassion for yourself and others during a betrayal trauma. Betrayal usually involves some misperception on your part about the other person or distorted perceptions related to an earlier developmental trauma and unmet developmental needs.If you have not done a perception check with the other person, your misperceptions may be creating a narrowly focused picture that allows you to disregard significant information about a person. A betrayal tells you that perhaps your image of this person was too narrow or restricted and that you overlooked things about that person in order to maintain some illusion of him or her. This is usually related to some unmet developmental needs or some unhealed developmental trauma.

This critical step in your awareness will help you move beyond any internal splits and open yourself to connection and reciprocity with this person again.Redefine Betrayal.The fourth healthy choice is to redefine betrayal as an opportunity to expand your consciousness. The real question is, “Who is the betrayer in this situation” The truth is, you probably betrayed yourself by creating a distorted view of the other person based on some unmet needs or earlier unhealed developmental trauma.

Perhaps you wanted to see that person in a certain way, hoping to heal your wounds related to an earlier betrayal trauma. People are usually not the way you would like them to be, so we have positive projections on them and dont see their shortcomings.

They may have some qualities that you like and some that you don’t like. They are trustworthy in some situations and may not be so in others.

Barry remembers confronting this in a therapy group:

A group member said to me, “I really trust you.” I recognized the presence of a positive projection and challenged the statement: “I may not be totally trustworthy. What makes you so sure that I’m totally trustworthy” This question got the person thinking. Then I said to this person, “Don’t expect me to be totally trustworthy. You may end up feeling disappointed and then angry because I didn’t live up to your expectations. I need to have a relationship with you where I have permission to be human. While I will always strive to do my best, I know that I am not perfect. I feel this is more realistic than you expecting me to be a perfect therapist. Are you willing to agree to see me this way”

By reframing your experiences of betrayal, you may be able to return to the person who has betrayed you and say to that person, “I now realize that I gave you a lot of power by making you totally responsible for betraying me. I see that I also had some responsibility in creating the betrayal. I had unrealistic expectations of you because I did not want to see all of you.

I want to acknowledge that I dont now see you as all bad and that I can see your good qualities as well.” Toxic shame or feelings of pride often prevent people from making these kinds of amends. Pride is a defense against feeling shame. If you see a person exhibiting a lot of pride, know that underneath the pride is a lot of hidden shame.

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