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24 December 2010 4 Comments

Betrayal as a Journey of Transformation, Part 6: Self Care for Serious Betrayal or Major Transitions

Betrayal as a Journey of Transformation, Part 6: Self Care for Serious Betrayal or Major Transitions

“Let despair and disillusionment ravish the garden of your heart. You will replenish it once again with the seedlings of self-sufficiency and contentment. Life never is, never was, and never will be anybody’s Beloved.” ~Meher Baba

P1010857If you feel disillusioned, seek and discover advantage in losing illusion. (See previous posts on Disillusionment.) Sharpen your sense of what is real for you right now.

Release resistance. This reduces pain. Accepting losses makes them more bearable.

Remember that simply having a body and a life is an opportunity. If you were plopped down in different country with nothing but the clothes on your back the days you have left would still be a gift.

Allow yourself plenty of time alone. If you need to, allow yourself to retreat from social life for a period of healing. Give yourself time to reorient, slowly and gently. Make loose plans down the line to do something you can look forward to when you think you will be ready.

Avoid making anything up–about yourself, about others, about your state. Stay with your process without labeling it as a negative state such as “depression.”

(I love this suggestion.) Let people know, “I’m a little IN right now,” rather than defining yourself as depressed, not wanting to connect, etc. This gives you room to feel, express, and grow.

Release your goals like an out-breath. You can pick them up in another season.

When you’re ready, set up short periods of simple interaction that doesn’t ask much of you, such as sitting with someone while they do a household task.

Keep to basics as much as possible: Sleep, walk, eat. Nourish, nurture, get light, get massage.P1000341

Focus on details in nature, like flowers, clouds, waves, the leaves of a tree responding to wind. Spend time in your garden or pick flowers if you like.

Release self-blame about being betrayed. You may have had cues or clues. You may have had inklings or premonitions. You may have ignored your guidance or felt shamed for doubting someone. You may have been clueless and feel stupid. Feeding these feelings distracts you from doing effective Inner Work and moving forward.

Ask not What caused this but What can I use it for.

Take breaks from thinking. If you cannot stop your brain, listen to audio books.

Find the sweet spot between avoiding feeling and indulging feeling. Allow feeling to surface into your awareness and run through your body. Giving sensation to feeling allows it to express through the body, completing its process. Do not dramatize it or keep it active by repeatedly reliving the past. Feel it fully and let it flow out as you feel it.

Acknowledge pain with compassion and use it to craft your inner world. Pain is a keen tool.

Use music or art to keep your expressive flow open.

Be compassionate to yourself in choosing with whom you discuss personal issues. Gently decline unsolicited advice.

Rearrange anything in your home or office that has become stagnant. Clean things out, throw things out, wear different colors, change your bedspread, cut your hair.

Practice forgiveness—but first accept your grief. Forgiveness is glorious. Premature forgiveness can be a spiritual bypass. Any spiritual practice used to avoid feeling is an agent of denial. Forgiving does not mean that you condone what someone has done. It means that you release claims and resentment to obtain peace.

P1020240Positive focuses for the mind:

  • In what ways does this betrayal serve my best interests?
  • What illusions am I releasing?
  • How does my orientation change without them?
  • What needs am I able to satisfy gracefully if I consider my resources?
  • What positive qualities and values are important to me in relationships going forward?
  • What new possibilities are opening for me?
  • What am I newly free and able to do?

Be loyal to yourself. This will bring more happiness than trying to maintain relationships with people who have issues with loyalty.

Last time I was betrayed I actually had some positive feelings about the experience. I sensed that the betrayal was a real opportunity to support myself fully, and even to accept support from others, who noticed the betrayal and stepped forward on their own. I felt a breath of relief as I released a burden I had been carrying. The burden consisted of false hope that a close friend would allow himself to trust our connection.

Inside You
They say, We cannot go barefooted in that courtyard.
There is nothing but thorns through there.
Love answers, The thorns are inside you.
Be silent, and pull what hurts out of your loving’s foot.

Then you will see gardens and secluded rose bowers,
and they will all be inside you.

~Mevlana Rumi (Translation by Coleman Barks)

What are YOUR best tips for emotional renewal and recovery?

Please share this post with those who need support.

17 December 2010 4 Comments

Betrayal as a Journey of Transformation, Part 5: Internal Conflict

Betrayal as a Journey of Transformation, Part 5: Internal Conflict

Inner strength, peace and clarity of mind result from knowing and accepting who we are. Self knowledge gives us the ability to chose actions with which we are wholeheartedly aligned. Moving beyond betrayal depends on knowing what drives us. Whether or not we have inner conflict, we can make loving choices when we are in touch with ourselves.

P1020908Even principled, powerful men or women with upper-level business and social skills sometimes experience themselves as being unable to say “no” in more personal relationships. Intimacy can set off submerged issues. Those who fear intimacy feel conflicted about it. Part of them longs to be close while another powerful part works to undermine that intimacy, to reject the vulnerability. Control issues can make the fearful part of them resent or even hate those who love them or come too close for “making” them feel vulnerable.

A person of fairly good character, in conflict about vulnerability, may resist expressing uncomfortable feelings until fantasies of acting out blossom into actions that betray others. Efforts to act honorable can contribute to denying negative feelings and they override candid expression until their discomfort busts their seams. Then the built-up energy is expressed in inappropriate behavior.

People do not betray because we are doing something wrong. They are just as likely to betray if we do something right! And if they do, you can bet they are in conflict. Here are two examples:

  • When we are able to be more vulnerable and open than another person, they may feel threatened if we get close.
  • If you are virtuous it can bring up conflict in others. Those who want the feeling of virtue may judge themselves because they cannot live up to what they see in you, like alcoholics who caustically criticize people who do not drink.

To understand betrayal, accept and pay special attention to your own tendency to betray. If you are honest with yourself–and even if you never actually act it out because you recognize the consequences–you may be able to find a whiff of temptation to betray. Sniff out your conflicts and you can act intentionally instead of acting out.

  • What forces, fears, feelings, drives, and conflicts operate within you when betrayal crosses your mind?
  • What part of you feels weak?
  • What do you actually need in those moments?
  • What would you have had to admit, to yourself or to another person, to be open about your needs?
  • Do you need the other person’s approval?
  • What, exactly, are you afraid of?
  • What did you tell yourself that blocked up your compassion?
  • What is the most loving way you can meet your needs?
  • Are you willing to feel compassion for your weaknesses?
  • How can you use the challenge of sorting out betrayal as an exercise to develop your personal values and clarity?

Which of the above questions do YOU find most useful? Why?


10 December 2010 4 Comments

Betrayal as a Journey of Transformation, Part 4: Betrayal and Inner Work

Betrayal as a Journey of Transformation, Part 4: Betrayal and Inner Work

P1010527While one of my brightest and most loyal-hearted clients wrestled with an inner conflict about his marriage, I had an interesting window into our humanness. As we explored feelings, actions, and possibilities it stuck me that we were skimming the water line between the airy realm of the mind and the deeper waters of the heart.

I noticed in a new and immediate way that these two realms have quite different physics, laws, subtle structures, and sensations. I sensed almost physically the way these different “realities” touch–like the great expanse of sky kissing the sea, stirring together surface-to-surface during storms but never merging or become like one another.

I was tracking my client’s buffers—the residues of trauma; invisible walls that keep threatening feelings and memories apart from awareness like a sheet of one-way glass in a fish tank. His buffers were thin. Like pointing from a boat into the depth; at certain angles of light we could see in. From the realm of mind we watched the movement of emotion like fish beneath the surface. He had enough awareness to stay with his feelings while using his skills to go up to bat for his needs. He remained loyal.

On the heels of these observations I saw the way unprocessed trauma–with thicker and more numerous buffers—can make balancing thought and feeling nearly impossible. Buffers cause thought and feeling to alternate without awareness, so they cannot modify one another--different realms a mirror surface away. Our motivations can be invisible to us even while they take shape in action.

Conflicts build up inner pressure when parts of us do not have a voice. The actions that spring from these hidden parts are not consistent with our stated values. Frightening feelings and unthinkable motivations activate the buffers that make us unaware, turning these hidden parts into exiles. So unresolved trauma can make us emotionally and spiritually deaf to the effects of our own actions. Survival mechanisms have no principles.

Reclaiming the brighter legacy of our humanity by becoming self-aware results from courageous Inner Work. As we explored in my post series on this important topic, we can develop an unshakable habit of deep yet detached self-observation.

Yet even Inner Work does not guarantee that we integrate buffered material. I am thinking of someone who excels in self-observation yet fails to apply it when triggered. He has an allergy to psychology, denouncing it frequently in favor of spirituality as a superior practice.

The role of psychology is to assist us to approach and manage the trauma hidden beneath our buffers. Once we are able to feel, identify, and interact with the issues that trigger us, drive us to dissociate, or make us act against our values, Inner Work on its own may be enough. If we cannot approach buffered issues we need frank, experienced assistance to reflect us to ourselves and free our inner exiles.

P1000907We all know people who do what they think or fear is expected of them to hold on to relationships. They resent their weakness while blaming the other person and feeling controlled. When we lack the inner strength to remain loyal to our own needs, feelings, ethics, boundaries or beliefs, attempting to be loyal to others brings up traumatic inner conflicts. These conflicts usually originate in childhood and reside behind buffers.

We may experience the other person as interfering with our ability to take care of ourselves or get our needs met. What is usually going on here is a lack of self-honesty and awareness about real needs, and about who is responsible for our care. We can ask others to participate in meeting our needs, but not to read our minds or to step in without a direct request.

Even in actual situations that force us to choose between our own needs and those of another, we can be forthright, sincere, and loving.

What do YOU do when you feel like someone is stopping you from doing what you want to do? Can you take responsibility for your feelings and remain loving even as you free yourself?

3 December 2010 7 Comments

Betrayal as a Journey of Transformation, Part 3: Why Betray?

Betrayal as a Journey of Transformation, Part 3: Why Betray?

When we are loyal to ourselves, we are able to be loyal to others. At a very basic level, betraying others occurs after first betraying one’s self. When we are out of touch with our real needs–especially if we sell ourselves out and do what we think others want us to do–we are much more likely to betray. Betrayal can be a skewed attempt at self-care, with a hostile twist.

P1000414Betrayal can be blatant, or diabolically subtle. Cheap and obvious betrayal like cheating on one’s spouse or misrepresentation in business may reflect low standards and values. More shocking are betrayals from those who believe themselves to be upholding positive values. Some go to great lengths to convince themselves they are taking care of themselves or doing something emotionally healthy while creating real life dramas in which they betray.

I recently watched an intelligent professional, able to manage and guide businesses, who appeared powerful and spiritually motivated, betray a dear friend when an honest conversation would have achieved her aims without causing pain.

When betrayal seems out of character, what else is going on?

When someone betrays you it reflects on their ethics, maturity, level of spiritual development, and ability to sustain compassion. It is not a reflection on your worth, or even a matter of whether or not they love you. It is more a matter of whether they love themselves enough to face their own issues honestly.

There are psychological reasons why we betray. Issues mask feelings and motivations that the primary (conscious) personality feels a need to deny. “Triggers”—experiences that re-ignite these buried traumas—make us behave in irrational and unconscious ways. We are so much more complicated than our conscious experience.

Betrayal involves control. The betrayer keeps the betrayed person in the dark while s/he devises and starts to execute a plan, letting consequences shock or shatter as these acts set up a drama on the stage of life. This ploy is sought to ensure that the betrayed has no power. At some level of experience the person who betrays feels powerless, and may imagine that betrayal is a powerful act.

The false power of betrayal emotionally bankrupts those who rely on it. An emotionally healthy person with inner strength can and will discuss with close associates any decisions that could hurt or shock them, in advance of acting on these decisions. Out of respect they give the other person time and information, allowing them to prepare for changes.

P1000642Rational as I am, I ask myself why we do not import the skills polished in business into more intimate relations, to negotiate respectfully for what long to receive. Before risking damage to our connections with others and our self-respect, why do we not till the richest type of soil for what we’d love to grow, or woo those we love as we did initially to win intimacy? The careful, fruitful efforts we extended before we felt entitled to receive were so much more effective than acting out. But we may not be as intentional as that, or as aware of what drives us.

Betraying someone we love IS self-betrayal. We are connected. Hurting a loved one hurts our own heart.

Can you sense inside YOU the part of yourself that would betray under any possible set of circumstances? What does that part feel like in your body? How do you talk to yourself when that part rears its head?

26 November 2010 4 Comments

Betrayal as a Journey of Transformation, Part 2: Sorting Out Betrayal

Betrayal as a Journey of Transformation, Part 2: Sorting Out Betrayal

Besides inviting joy to roost nearby, one of the most positive things we can do is to learn use difficult experiences to develop compassion and to transform ourselves. This challenging and advanced topic can deepen all-purpose insight and also support those who struggle with betrayal. Please stay with me.

P1000491Betrayal is one of the most difficult–and rewarding–emotional experiences to process positively. This makes it important to effectively resolve. My heart goes out to those who are going through betrayal. Inner experience can get so intense that even dear friends feel out of their depths and pull away, isolating those who need support. I offer this series from love.

What makes betrayal so hard to sort out?

Betrayal can be complex and confusing. Betrayal may involve spoken and unspoken issues of conduct, boundaries, belief, expectation, and entitlement.

Betrayal can be crushing and confusing. Disillusionment is usually part of the mix. (See Disillusionment as a Positive Process, Part 1 and 2) So is abandonment, literal or emotional.

Betrayal is a real opportunity to clean out our emotional closets and discover who we really are and how we really want to live.

Being betrayed increases your need for support while the doubts it breeds make you unbearably fragile. You may need help but fear advice and be too vulnerable to take it in. Advice may make you feel worse. You may have no idea who to trust, how to trust, and whether to trust. If you also wonder whether you are somehow to blame or feel shame you will be even more sensitive. Too much is triggered to sort it out alone, yet other people’s opinions can make you feel worse.

Betrayal can shake down deeply held beliefs, challenge our sense of self, and make us question our actions, principles, perception, values, relationships, and self-esteem. If we do the trench work of sorting ourselves out we can shed an old skin and come out renewed.

Sorting out betrayal requires that we distinguish between several different experiences. Betrayal can be:

  • an incidental or accidental act someone takes due to lack of understanding or ethics
  • a spiteful or vindictive act, intentionally unkind
  • an unfortunate consequence of changing life paths when unexpressed needs have been handled without frankness and consideration

When you FEEL betrayed, what is happening? Allow your feelings to wash through you, feeling them in your body. Then aim to view the acts that occurred objectively, without allowing your emotions to color your interpretation. Alternate objective observation with pure feeling if you can.

These questions may be useful. (The answers can be “both”):

  • Have you interpreted someone’s acts as betrayal, or are their acts betrayal by their origin, energy, and nature?
  • Did you perceive the dark, shifty energy associated with betrayal, or do you feel betrayed due to unresolved issues?
  • Was there any point in your circumstances when you might have known and stopped the betrayal before it happened? Without blame, ask yourself what was happening inside you when you did not or could not act.

P1010823The question, “Did I cause this,” can arise. Soul searching–stimulated by betrayal–can develop truthful self-observation and personal clarity. Self-blame is useless. Taking responsibility is not the same as blame.

Processing the complexities of betrayal can require a lot of thinking. Thinking too much can interfere with feeling and expressing the grief, shock, loss, sadness, anger and other feelings that betrayal evokes. Recovery takes time and compassion. Make room for both thought and feeling.

If you get stuck on “Did I cause this,” try substituting these more-useful questions:
“What role have I played that may have contributed to this situation?”
“Have I been loyal to myself in this relationship?”
“Is there something in my life that this experience can motivate me to change for the better?”

The last post will contain rubber-hits-the-road ways to get through serious and shattering betrayal. The next few explore what is going on inside that leads us to betray or be betrayed.

What have YOU discovered about betrayal? Have you been able to find any benefit in going through it?

Please share this text series with those who will find it useful.

19 November 2010 10 Comments

Betrayal as a Journey of Transformation, Part 1: Genuine Loyalty

Betrayal as a Journey of Transformation, Part 1: Genuine Loyalty

The purpose of this post series is to learn how to become loyal to yourself—the cornerstone of a positive life. Like the mythic journeys of heros, the prize of genuine loyalty is won by journeying into your inner underworld and returning with the self-awareness to carry real virtue into daily life.

P1010618Genuine Loyalty is the first post of a detailed exploration of betrayal. Betrayal is one of the most intense of common human experiences. This makes it useful as a vehicle for transformation. Whether or not you encounter betrayal, the observations, principles, and exercises in this series will stimulate insight and Inner Work. We will approach betrayal from a number of different angles. The last post is a series of practical tips for managing life when you feel shattered.

Let’s begin with loyalty—the end of a successful journey for those who use betrayal to transform rather than wasting suffering or going numb:

Loyalty can bring peace and joy to life by sustaining close relationships and expressing personal honor.

What is loyalty? Let’s make a distinction between loyalty as a rigid practice, based on an external sense of honor, and loyalty based on authentic feeling.

Basing loyalty on externals means you behave in ways that fit with the requirements of your contracts. You do what you think is right– based on how others will interpret your actions. Following rigid codes of behavior based on external approval feels binding. It can lead you to suppress the thoughts and feelings that conflict with these codes. You may feel bound by this sort of loyalty even as you choose to maintain it. When internal feelings and external rules collide you may feel tense and restricted.

Authentic loyalty is less about doing what it takes to protect or maintain your investment in a relationship and more about honoring the loving connection you feel inside–to yourself as well as toward someone you respect. This expression of loyalty is not about the letter of a law or contract but about extending heartfelt consideration, respecting the feelings, reputation, and integrity of someone you choose to honor. Honoring them makes you feel good, not stuck.

P1010795Loyalty based on real feeling is rooted in Sincerity. (See previous post.) It is not about attempting to be blameless in the eyes of others. Rather, it seeks to protect the hearts and peace of mind of those we are loyal to, as an act of solidarity or love. This is an expression of inner beauty, not an obligation.

Like commitment that springs from choosing and valuing solidarity with a close friend or loved one, true loyalty depends on clarity about our own needs and values. When we are able to be loyal to ourselves, we can be loyal to others.

Have you explored YOUR inner experience of loyalty? What does it feel like inside when you are committed or loyal? Can you find the part of yourself which experiences loyalty as a powerful and free choice?