3 December 2010 7 Comments

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?

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7 Responses to “Betrayal as a Journey of Transformation, Part 3: Why Betray?”

  1. Greg 3 December 2010 at 9:59 am #

    Maybe honesty about what is going on with ones self is more difficult than betraying ones true nature. Or not having the insight to see what I am really made of.

    My exploration of what my true feelings and views on a emotional matter involving relationships can take a lot of personal discovery and be very difficult to confront. Betrayal allows me to not look at and feel what is going on in a truthful way.

    I always pay the price emotionally, if I do not tell the truth about what is going on in my life. Another Betrayal of self. That is where it starts for me.

    Waking up to that idea of self Betrayal and dealing with that and starting to unravel all the other betrayals is the beginning.

    My heart is the first place to look at when a betrayal of trust is happening. What is really going on there. The journey begins and will probably never end. Betrayal of self is where it starts for me.

    Thank you,

    • Teresa Dietze 4 December 2010 at 12:07 am #

      Greg this comment rocks! Thanks for having the guts to put your process out so frankly. That makes it real. What I love about this comment in addition to your authenticity is that you know where you are and where you are starting. So often we try to start where we WISH to be instead of where we ARE. Then our work doesn’t take us anywhere.

      I love that you mention paying the price. I think that price gets higher and higher the better we know ourselves, until we cannot bear to do it. Interesting that this supports either denial or Inner Work. We choose which.

      I agree that waking up to the self betrayal helps to unravel the others. Until we look at that piece we may feel we NEED to betray and defend that stance. I also love that you say your heart is the first place to look. Good catch. And yes, it is an ongoing journey.

      Thanks again for staying in the conversation and making such feeling contributions.


  2. Michele Marie 4 December 2010 at 8:44 pm #

    Thank you so much for this very beneficial blog!

    • Teresa Dietze 4 December 2010 at 8:59 pm #

      Thanks. Let us here your thoughts, feelings, and experiences sometime Michele. 🙂

  3. Teresa Dietze 4 December 2010 at 9:02 pm #

    Comment string on this post from Facebook has some great content. Thought I’d share it:

    Susan Powell wrote: Wonderful Teresa….Really wonderful…..One now has to ponder the initial attraction to ‘those’ that would betray us…Is it a power dynamic as you say?? Quite possibly as the emotion of gut wrenching despair that one is left with is totally disempowering in the period of time that follows until a measure of healing can take place….. Namaste

    Teresa Dietze wrote:“One now has to ponder the initial attraction to ‘those’ that would betray us…Is it a power dynamic as you say??”

    Sometimes we simply overlook something difficult, or we’re hopeful in excess of being observant. I believe that we are attracted to others for a whole host of reasons, coming from different aspects of ourselves. We are so complex and layered and have so many different dynamics going on.

    Over-simplifying the dynamics of relationship down to one item—betrayal in this instance—is, I believe, misleading. Were you only attracted to the person because they would betray? Conceivable, but unlikely.

    Is it a power dynamic? Can be. May not be. More often the betrayer LACKS enough personal power to clearly state needs and relate fairly. Then s/he abuses power, more often by accident or incident than by intent.

    (I address approaches to support ‘the gut wrenching despair’ in the last post of the Betrayal series.)

    Mericiana wrote: Self honesty and much to consider. Our news anchors reflect every day betrayals and I wonder what is driving us to look forward to our future. Is it fear of disaster or is it spiritually inspired motivation to create the next steps that so urgently needs to be taken. It is essential that we understand the culture diversity and our agreed upon values and principles that guide us. Is betrayal necessary or do we acknowledge our relationships with each other and believe in miracles?

    Teresa Dietze wrote: I hope it’s okay to post the questions I answered above where we’ll be able to find them. If so, do you me to post anonymously or with your name, the whole comment, or just the question I repeated at the top. Thanks again for being in the conversation! T

    Susan Powell wrote: Happy for you to post. I’m not bothered with anonymity….we are just sharing thoughts with the hope of enlightening both ourselves and others……

    Teresa Dietze wrote: “Is betrayal necessary or do we acknowledge our relationships with each other and believe in miracles?”

    I believe that we need to acknowledge our relationships WITH OURSELVES in order to minimize betrayal. Is betrayal necessary? This depends what we mean by necessary. I believe there are always other options. Whether or not we are ABLE to notice and act on these other actions depends on our inner life. (The post series on Inner Work explores the context for this comment in depth.) So the question becomes, perhaps, “Is betrayal avoidable?” In all likelihood we can avoid betraying only to the extent that we are compassionately in touch with our own motivations.

    As for miracles, in my experience we set the stage for wondrous interconnection or intervention first by turning inside, sensing and acknowledging our connections within.

    Mericiana wrote: “Hi Teresa, I’m hard wired and know Jesus is in my heart so betrayal dosen’t phase me. When Jesus appeared in one of my paintings (a miracle from Mother Mary) I get “hard to swallow” and disbelief. I believe compassion is a language of the soul. Please feel free to share as I so enjoy your writings and conteplations. Joy to you”

    Mericiana wrote: If we believe in betrayal, it can be a very painful journey just to discover the illusion of it all. Love your thought provoking writings Teresa. Miracles are gifts from God, the divine which I know to be a more compassionate love. Not bothered with anonymity either.

    Teresa Dietze wrote: Ah, good point M. Yes there is a stance of loving understanding from which we do not interpret behavior as betrayal. Sometimes we wish to be in that place but other parts of us have difficult feelings that are called “betrayal” when we put words to them. Then it is an experience, less than a matter of belief.
    I believe that some actions are by their nature “betrayal” in that they are intentionally dishonest and grossly out of accord with stated values. The extent to which we feel distressed if treated to this behavior varies depending on many things, including wounds from childhood, the importance the relationship, the amount of support we have in our lives, timing, and so forth.

    Thank you for being an engaged person who enjoys having thoughts provoked.

  4. Sandy 2 February 2016 at 1:44 am #

    Thank you for your thoughts. It is difficult for me to understand betrayal because I am quite loyal in general. For me betrayal is the absolutely worst thing and I would be too ashamed to face myself and so I stay loyal to avoid self loathing which I have worked a lifetime to dismiss from my life. It has been very helpful to me to r rad thru these discussions. I am trying to understand why someone I know loves me very deeply feels the need to betray me. After reading thru this it cues me to believe this is a result of never having come to terms with the first wife’s sudden. Accidental death. Because his first wife w as also cheating on him with her first husband I can see how he associates her death as a betrayal to him It helps to have a perhaps reason to give me strength to cope with the behavior and hopefully help him to seek professor help to work this they so he can enjoy life as he was meant to do rather than suffer every day which he has accepted as what is due him because he did not protect his family

    • Teresa Dietze 2 February 2016 at 2:46 pm #

      Good insight, Sandy.

      Thank you.

      In general, we betray when we are terrified of being abandoned, and out of touch with it. Those of us who are able to experience the terror are less likely to perpetrate it on others.

      I send blessings,


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