“The laws of nature will never betray you. Their consistency is the only real truth in life.”
– King Ayles, writer
“… his “restless leg syndrome” and his recently diagnosed, “diverticulitis.”
Uri limped into my office on his first consult looking pissed off and exhausted. He kind of fell into the chair and started rubbing the calves of his legs. He was dark complected and of average height. He told me he didn’t get much sleep last night because of his “restless leg syndrome” and his recently diagnosed, “diverticulitis.”
Uri had the polished look of a person who was well organized. He was dressed casually, yet professionally. His stylish shirt enhanced his designer jeans and expensive shoes. While probably past 35 years old, he looked in his early twenties with his trendy hair cut and eye glasses.
When I suggested the research indicates both of his conditions had a strong stress component, Uri nodded in agreement and started talking about his job in the community planning department of the small town where he lived.
Uri told me he had been a community planner for ten years and had been in his current job for all that time. He said he loved his work and the people in his unit and the community were great to deal with. He was in the position of ‘senior planner’ along with his close colleague, Ursula. They worked for the town council and reported to the chairperson of the council, Ulga.
As he was telling me about the great job he had and the great people he worked with, he stopped, looked down for a second, then his eyes flushed with emotion. He looked away and said,
“I was betrayed by my boss!”
“I was pissed…devastated…I felt so betrayed!”
I waited a moment for him to compose himself before saying,
“Tell me what happened, Uri!”
“I took the month of July off this year for my vacation time. Before I left for my holiday the town had received a federal grant to do some important infrastructure work on the ten towns parks. When Ursula and I met with our supervisor, the chairperson of the town council, Ulga, she told us we would be coordinating the ‘parks project’ together…which was great.” he said with a guarded measure of enthusiasm.
What was great about it, Uri?”
“It was great to me because Ursula and I have work well together in the past. And, since parks and recreation was a personal interest of mine, and an special area of my studies when I was in school, I was especially pleased to be involved.” he replied.
“What happened next?”
“I returned to work the first week in August to find out Ursula had been assigned the ‘parks project’ herself and I had been reassigned to coordinating the maintenance budget for the rest of this fiscal year. I was pissed…devastated…I felt so betrayed!”
“… responding unconsciously to an unresolved emotional trauma.”
“Uri, is the timing of these events in any way related to your development of your leg and intestine conditions?” I asked wondering if they were connected, and if so, had he already made the links, either consciously or unconsciously.
“Well, it’s been eight weeks since my sleep has been interrupted and I’ve been taking medication for both conditions for about four weeks now…so there is some overlap there for sure.”
“Betrayal is a pretty strong and emotionally laden word which suggests to me you may be responding unconsciously to an unresolved emotional trauma.” I said.
“You mean my diseases have been triggered by what happened at work?” he said, putting the events together in his awareness for the first time.
“Perhaps? Let’s find out, shall we?”
“OK! But how do we do that?” he asked, genuinely curious.
“Most of us regard good luck as our right, and bad luck as a betrayal of that right.” – William Feather, author
“… I want you to close your eyes and go back to that moment in time.”
“Tell me specifically about the moment when you perceived you were betrayed by Ulga. When did it happen exactly? Where did it happen? Who was there besides you at that very moment? And, how did it take place? I need the specific details.”
“Well…it was my first day back at work after my vacation, so the first Monday in August. I usually arrive by 8:30, but that morning I was there at 8 because I wanted some time to catch up on whatever I had missed.”
“Tell me in detail, what happened, Uri?”
“I sat down at my desk and booted up my computer to check my emails and found the memo from Ulga announcing to all the town’s staff of Ursula’s appointment as lead planner on the ‘parks project’.”
“Great. Now, I want you to close your eyes and go back to that moment in time. I want you to remember that moment in even greater detail. Who else was there and how did you cope with that feeling of betrayal?”
“Ursula and I share a large office, but she hadn’t arrived yet, so I was by myself. I recall I jumped up from my desk cursing and swearing at the empty room.”
“…learned something important that has made you smarter and stronger…”
“So, you were cursing about the situation. That’s important to note. But, tell me also what you were thinking, or saying to yourself, about you feeling betrayed at that moment?” I asked him.
“I was thinking it wasn’t fair! I was thinking I don’t deserve to be treated this way! I was think I had more seniority than Ursula! And, I was thinking I got to do something about this!” he replied, his anger and hurt surging forth.
“What did you do at that very moment, Uri?”
“I sat right back down and wrote Ulga an email demanding to know why it had happened and why I hadn’t been told and expressing my deep disappointment about the whole situation.”
“OK, Uri! Just freeze that memory right there for a while so we can look at it closely.”
“You mean like if it was a video and I pressed the ‘pause’ button?”
“Yes, exactly! Now, you’re here telling me about it…so, we both know you survived the experience. That means, since there are no mistakes in nature, you must have learned something important that has made you smarter and stronger…otherwise, it would have no purpose, no value to you. Nature wastes nothing.”
“I notice patterns across my clients experiences…”
Uri looked at me with an uncomfortable expression as if I was talking trash or ridiculous. So, I added,
“Everything that happens to us has contributed to us being who we are, doing what we do and having what we have. That’s why elders are revered, they have had so many experiences to glean for wisdom.”
“You’re telling me being betrayed by Ulga somehow helped me learn something important?” he asked in disbelief.
“It’s even more profound if you look carefully!” I said.
“How do you mean, Ken?”
“I notice patterns across my clients’ experiences…repetitive examples, in different forms, of how they got smarter and stronger due to the experiences they don’t appreciate yet.”
“Tell me more!”
“Uri, each of us behaves within our highest values unconsciously, at all times. This means how you coped with your perception of betrayal had to honour or respect your highest values. When you can identify how, it shifts how you see the event…because now you value it more.”
“So, how does that work in my situation?”
“Betrayal is really the naive belief someone will put your values before their own.”
– King Ayles, writer
“…you can be very specific and identify the most vital ones for you…”
“My best guess would be when you perceived Ulga had not appreciated you, your skills or maybe the contribution you could make to the ‘parks project,’ you appreciated yourself by challenging her perception of you.”
“If that is true, Ken, what does it do for me?”
“It gets you to be more aware of and respect your highest values, to strength your own spirit by asserting yourself, raise your self esteem by taking a risk, protect your role at work, even protect your financial future, garner more respect from others like your colleagues and friends, protect your family’s security by protecting your job and even managing the stress of rejection.”
“I never thought… of it…that way… before!” he said hesitantly.
“I simply speculated as to what might have been the benefits to you based on my experience with clients in the past. But, you can be very specific and identify the most vital ones for you…that made it worthwhile for you. What were they, Uri?”
“Probably the biggest one was asserting myself at work because that has been a challenge for me since I started there. Working for a town council who are basically volunteers often demands a lot of patience and a team effort. And, I often carry the ball on projects but seem to rarely get acknowledged for my contribution.”
“… significant events often display patterns in our lives…”
“So, noticing how the ‘park project’ event motivated you to advocate for yourself is important. What else?”
“At coffee break that same day, Ursula confided to me she was really embarrassed by what had happened, that it had been a decision by the entire council. And, she supported me when I told her about sending the email. We have actually become closer because of it. And, even Ulga was sympathetic, saying the council made the decision because of the short funding time lines on the project.”
“You’re really getting the idea of it being a two sided event, with both bad and good within it.”
“Yes, I’m noticing other benefits as well, like being more focused on my career aspirations and not taking things for granted like my family and my own health.”
“Let’s take it one step further. My experience has shown me events of a similar form often repeat themselves in our lives. Repeated auto collisions, relationship breakdowns, health issues, money problems, addictions, parenting challenges, and so on. These repetitive events in a variety of forms keep occurring until we learn from them what we need for our future.”
“Do you mean, this has been happening before to me in some way?”
“What do you think, Uri?”
“…I have struggled with being heard, with asserting myself, ever since childhood.”
He sat back and went quiet for a few moments, clearly looking over his past as his eyes wandered. There was some slight glistening as he tripped over an important memory.
Finally, he came out with,
“I’m the baby in my family. I have three older brothers. I was an unexpected pregnancy. With the age difference between me and my brothers, I grew up feeling unheard and unnoticed. I have felt at times in my past like everyone was ignoring me. So, I think I have struggled with being heard, with asserting myself, ever since childhood.”
“Then the ‘parks project’ event actually gave you an opportunity to practice advocating for yourself at work, and also to apply it in other important places in your life as well. Does that sound accurate, Uri?”
“Not just accurate, but it also explains why I was so upset and why I handled it the way I did. And, it feels OK now…it feels perfect for me. Like you said earlier, it was not a mistake, nor was the way I dealt with it!” he said smiling for the first time.
“Now let’s clear out any other ‘betrayal’ perceptions you may be carrying, so you can continue your evolution toward greater self-esteem, self-confidence and physical health.”
“I’m game for that, Ken!”
“Anyone who hasn’t experienced the ecstasy of betrayal knows nothing about ecstasy at all.”
– Jean Genet, dramatist
Until Next time…
Now you know, those similar painful events which keep happening to you repeatedly in life, like feeling betrayed, are lessons you need to learn from, for your future. So, go to the most upsetting one and analyze it carefully to uncover what you need to learn to ensure your viability in the future. And remember, these events profoundly impact, not just your mental health, but also, your physical health.
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