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Feeling Betrayed: Emotions, Archetypes and Recovery, 2

March 2nd, 2015 · feeling betrayed

As we described in the first part of “Feeling Betrayed”, betrayal can be a devastating experience.  So, how could anything good possibly ever come from it?

feeling betrayed

Often, discovery of betrayal is a huge emotional blow.  Before anything can occur to bring an individual back into the flow of life after a major betrayal, this enormous impact must be acknowledged and accepted.
The individual must get past denial or splitting off of the grievous emotional pain.  He or she must also get past the temptation to pass punishing — and unjust — judgement on him- or herself for being the victim of a betrayal.

Seeing Oneself in Betraying Relationships

feeling betrayed

We can learn a great deal about ourselves in the process of understanding how a betrayal comes to occur in our lives.

Sometimes feeling betrayed arrives with no warning, and nothing in the relationship that led up to it, but most often, this is not true.

Acts of betrayal often occur in relationships of one kind or another where weaknesses go unacknowledged.  That is to say, that the relationship may have aspects of which we are unwilling to become conscious.  For instance, in a marital relationship, one or both partners may compartmentalize, showing one aspect of who they are in the marriage, and another, quite different, outside.

To deal with betrayal is often to be in the realm of shadow.  Betrayal forces us to quit idealizing the other.  Yet it also makes us less naive or idealizing about ourselves.  I may be taken past sunshine illusions, and realize how my denial, my complexes, my deep childhood yearning to be loved at any cost, may have all helped to set the stage for the devastation of betrayal.

A Meeting with Our Instinctual Selves

If we can stand to see it, betrayal can often lead to encounter with our core and instinctual selves, which are non-rational, but very real.

Often, in retrospect, the individual recognizes that the unconscious instinctive self warned of the betrayal prior to its occurrence.  Dream images, or even a direct voice urging the individual to “pay attention to John (or Jane)” are typical warnings from the unconscious.  Many individuals who ended up in betrayal situations recount having such warning experiences.

Connection with these instinctual aspects of the self can lead us to a different understanding of who we are, and a different journey through life.

Self-Honesty and Self-Acceptance

Betrayal represents a threat to the integrity of the self, leading to self-devaluation.  To see beyond the betrayer’s rejection to the love of oneself, as one is, is often the call of the self in the midst of the pain of betrayal.  This entails accepting our vulnerable, flawed selves, and the recognition of how much we yearn for love, and how fundamental it is to us.  This painful journey is essential.

Betrayal, Self-Betrayal and Power

feeling betrayed

Self-acceptance in the light of betrayal can take us deep into vulnerability and shadow.  Betrayal in our adult lives may take us to fundamental issues rooted in early life.

Professor Arno Gruen of Rutgers writes of how, deprived of basic love and the security of true acceptance at an early age, a child can be forced into destruction of the true self and pursuit of power and social status.  This requirement to betray self by surrendering autonomy to get the “love” of those who wield power over us can lead to self-hatred.  A betrayal later in life can reactivate intense feelings around early self-betrayal.

The depth psychotherapy of individuals in betrayal situations focuses on compassionate acceptance of our frail, needy selves, and our need to move into our lives from that place of self-love and deep acceptance.

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist and Jungian Analyst

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© 2015 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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Feeling Betrayed: Emotions, Archetypes and Recovery, 1

February 24th, 2015 · feeling betrayed

Feeling betrayed is one of the most painful and difficult of emotional states.  A betrayal in a key relationship — sexual, familial or friendship — can lead to an individual facing feelings of abject despair, and of being completely undone.

feeling betrayed

Many of us learned the famous line from Shakespeare uttered by Julius Caesar in school:
“Et tu, Brute?  Then fall, Caesar!”

Just last week, in my therapy practice, I met with a client who revealed a history of experiencing multiple betrayals on matters of great emotional importance within relationships of high significance.  When the individual confronted the depth of the feeling involving these experiences, they were close to those of Shakespeare’s Caesar, who fell into absolute despair in the face of the betrayal of his friend.

We humans are social animals.  Our evolutionary past centers around life in small, close groups.  It is in our nature to form close bonds of crucial importance, which psychotherapists call attachment bonds, with those people who are closest to us.  When those bonds are most crucial to us, when we trust them, and that trust is flagrantly broken, our reaction is most often intense grief and despair.

The Pure Bitterness of Betrayal

Betrayal is a common enough experience in human social life.  It has been with us throughout the ages, and people in the 21st century experience its reality just like all who have come before us.

Trust is natural.  The more complete the trust, the more devastating the betrayal.

Often, when people encounter betrayal of various sorts, they feel that they have been gullible and unwise.  Their refrain is often, “How could I have been so stupid?  I should have seen this coming!  How could I have been so blind?”  Yet, often for these individuals, betrayal has actually come with little, if any, warning.

feeling betrayed

At its extreme, betrayal can be traumatic.  For instance, when an unsuspecting spouse suddenly finds clear and flagrant evidence of an affair, the experience of the discovery may take on many of the typical aspects of a traumatic event, such as re-living memories or finding the discovery of the affair appearing as recurring parts of a dream sequence.

The Archetype of Betrayal

In his work “Symbols of Transformation” Jung discusses the “unjust betrayal of the hero” motif, found throughout human mythology.  Some examples would be:

  • Siegfried and Hagen;
  • Baldur and Loki;
  • Samson and Delilah;
  • Julius Caesar and Brutus; and,
  • for European cultures, the iconic image of Jesus betrayed by Judas
  • feeling betrayedThis motif keeps appearing in our myths, mythologists would tells us, because it represents a perpetual fact of human life: there will always be those who will betray the trust of others, for whatever reason of their own.  Even the heroes and the gods, with all their strength and wisdom, are subject to having their trust betrayed.  We ordinary human beings share in their vulnerability, not because we are weak or stupid, but because it is in the nature of our life as social beings that we are made to love and to trust — and we must run the risks of that.

feeling betrayed

Can Life be Found on the Far Side of Betrayal?

In myth, a death due to betrayal is often followed by a re-birth or resurrection.  Similarly, individuals can and often do find a way forward on the other side of betrayal.  This is not to underestimate the difficulty of recovering from betrayal, but often there is a new life — even a better life — to be found in the ashes of betrayal.

Feeling betrayed may require us to go deep into ourselves, to recover who we most fundamentally are, what is truly important to us, and where life is calling to us. Often depth psychotherapy can be a vital part of this process.

In the next part of “Feeling Betrayed” we will look more at the self-knowledge that can come from betrayal, and recovery into life on the far side of it.

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist and Jungian Analyst

PHOTO:  Attribution Share Alike  ©  ; Dee Ashley ; Anne J.ღ
© 2015 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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