“All a person can betray is their learning and evolution!” – King Ayles, writer
“… she would have to let her go…have to fire her.”
Deena’s boss called me from her car. She identified herself as the CEO of a software company I had heard of somewhere. Barbara said, Deena, her VP of customer service, was in danger of destroying her business and she needed help right away. She went on to say Deena was so irritable at work and impatient with her team that if she didn’t get her act together fast, she would have to let her go…have to fire her.
I asked Barbara if Deena was aware of her concerns and willing to talk to someone. Barbara said she was aware and was willing. So, we set up a consultation for the next day. When Deena walked into my office she seemed fearful. And indeed, the impatience Barbara has mentioned, was evident as well in her initial quick, terse responses and her fidgety behaviour.
Deena was about 30 years old with dark brown hair already flecked with grey suggesting both stress and wisdom. Her eyes were a bright hazel colour and quick moving. She was sharply dressed with an alert stance and professional demeanour. She looked the part of a customer service VP with her appearance, manner and self confidence.
When I asked her how much she knew of why she was here, she was both honest and direct. She told me Barbara had been pointing out her concerns for several months. But, to date she had been unable to reconcile with herself what was going on in her workplace.
“Which one haunts you the most today?”
Deena said she loved her work and had great people on her team. She emphasized she saw no one who she could blame for her work performance. And, she added her impatience with others wasn’t just showing up at work, but also, outside work. Both members of her family and a couple of her friends had expressed their concern for her.
When I asked her to list her top three life traumas, she replied a childhood car accident she was in, a health crisis as a teenager and the end of a ten year marriage to Casper, which ended six months previous.
I said, “Which one haunts you the most today?”
She paused, looked at me while her eyes watered, and replied, “How can someone who loves you, betray you?”
“That’s their job, Deena!” I said.
She reacted with her entire body, jumping back in her seat, like I had swung at her with a left cross.
“It’s the job of everyone you love to help you learn to manage betrayal. Otherwise, you will be weak, dependent and unprepared for your future.”
She settled herself in her chair again, readjusted her shoulders, twisted her head from side to side like a boxer who was getting their balance back after taking a head punch.
“Everyone experiences betrayal repeatedly…”
“Let me get this straight. You’re saying when we love someone, we will consciously betray them to toughen them up for their future…like some kind of tough love stuff?”
“Deena, I’ve found it is rarely conscious, it is usually unconscious and just part of being in a relationship with anyone.” I said.
“Now, your saying its normal and supposed to happen to everyone! Are you serious?” she asked, her disbelief and impatience growing by the minute as she shifted in her chair and readjusted her posture, yet again.
“Everyone experiences betrayal repeatedly throughout their life. It comes in many forms that are determined by the values of the person feeling betrayed. For example, many religious people are dealing with betrayal in their leaders, many learners feel betrayed by their schools, many employees by their boss, many retirees by their governments, others by their friends, their family, and even their own body when they get ill.”
“Love is whatever you can still betray. Betrayal can only happen if you love.” John le Carre
“It’s not just common, it’s necessary…”
“Do you mean it is common for everyone?” she asked, curiosity surfacing for the first time.
“It’s not just common, it’s necessary for us to clarify who we are and what we stand for in our own life, Deena!”
“I think you just lost me! Run that by me again…in English this time, please!” she said with her first smile of the day.
“Deena, your past has enabled you to build a specific set of values which you live by, unconsciously. It is the set of things you have decided are more good than bad, more positive than negative, more pleasurable than painful. You use this value system as a reference for how to behave at all times. It is in a specific hierarchy from most to least important.” I explained.
“If it operates unconsciously, do people know what’s in their value system?” she asked.
“… their values are displayed in…”
“That’s a great question! Many people have little awareness of the hierarchy of their values. They often refer to external societal values like truth and justice. But, their values are displayed in how they spend their time, their money, their energy; what they talk to themselves about, talk to others about; what they do to others and with others; what their organized about; where they display self discipline and; what goals they set, visualize or dream about.”
“Are you suggesting being betrayed can help people clarify their values?” she asked.
“Well, are you interested in using what happened to you as an example?” I asked, wondering if she was ready for the truth of her life.
“You mean Casper’s betrayal helped me clarify my value system…do you really expect me to buy that?” she said her disbelief broadcasted for us both to deal with.
“Not yet! But, in a few minutes, definitely!” I said, baiting her for the learning ahead.
“OK! Give me your best pitch on what happened to me when I was betrayed by Casper, that S.O.B.”
“I was shocked…stunned really!”
“O.K.! Go to the moment when you felt the most betrayed. Where were you? Who was with you? What happened at that very second, Deena?”
“It was a Tuesday evening. I had been travelling for work and arrived home a day earlier than I had expected. There was a strange car in our driveway. I walked in the back door to our kitchen which looks into our dining room. There was my husband having a candle lit diner with one of my closest friends. They were laughing and carrying on with each other. I was shocked…stunned really! I just stood there staring at them! Finally, they noticed me. I gave Casper a skeptical, half smile, turned and left. I stayed at my sisters that night.”
“Deena, in your mind, just freeze that memory video of the second when you felt betrayed. Now, how did you cope with that second in your life? What did you say to yourself about yourself being in that situation?” I asked her.
“…Because it’s a song I have been hearing from inside me…”
She paused briefly, “Ken, I remember distinctly saying to myself, ‘I don’t deserve this! I work hard at my marriage and my life…I deserve better!’” she replied.
“Excellent! Now, why was it so important for you to have the opportunity to say those words to yourself at that point in your life, Deena?”
“Because it’s a song I have been hearing from inside me at other critical times in my past for a long, long time,” she replied after a pause, an air of insight surfacing on the edge of her mind like the sun breaking the morning horizon over the sea.
“Tell me about another time you heard it!”
“The time I dumped my high school sweetheart when I found out he was using me to get a summer job with my Dad’s company. And, the time I was blamed for a project’s disaster at work by a colleague who, I thought, was my friend. Or, the time…anyway, there were a few others I won’t get into. But, each time I felt betrayed by someone I had trusted. And, each time I felt so stupid, so dumb, so naive!” her voice cracked with emotions of anger and hurt.
“But, I bet those events also shared something else besides what you remember saying to yourself. I bet they shared a common thread in how you dealt with them. Would that be true Deena?” I said challenging her to start making the links she needed to grow her awareness and her self-appreciation.
“The intellectual tradition is one of servility to power, and if I didn’t betray it I’d be ashamed of myself.”
– Noam Chomsky, activist
“…I never thought of my anger as something that protected me.”
“Well…each time I got mad as hell and I said what I thought to those people who had betrayed me. Is that what you mean, Ken?”
“Yes, that’s it! But chunk your thinking even higher. See yourself expressing your opinion, hurt, and anger on the event but also empowering yourself…and protecting yourself…and taking control of your own destiny…at that very same second. Can you see that was also going on when you spoke your mind at each of those times?” I asked, wondering if she was making the connections.
“I have never raised my thinking to that level before…to view it from that perspective.” she replied.
Then, she added, “I never thought of my anger as something that protected me. I have always assumed it just embarrassed me. I like your take on it better than mine, Ken!” she said, smiling again.
“… dealing with betrayal gives you practice in empowerment…”
“Deena, can you see, when you view your anger within your perception of betrayal as not just painful but equally empowering you and protecting you, it neutralizes the pain of the perceived betrayal. It starts to look different right away!”
“Yes, I can actually feel different about it…less hurt and less emotional about it in general.” Deena said.
“Since you have a list of similar events in your past, this suggests to me you have been struggling with feelings of powerlessness and defencelessness for a while. Deena, is that true?”
“For sure! I remember as a child, being the youngest and feeling forgotten and taken for granted within my family. My opinion was never sought nor my feelings respected. It is like I have always had to stand up for myself and remind myself I deserved better…I deserved to be respected.” she replied with a firmness in her tone.
“So whenever you perceive betrayal in any form, you immediately empower and protect yourself, whether it is your spouse, colleague or old boyfriend. So dealing with betrayal gives you practice in empowerment and self protection.” I offered.
“That’s an interesting way to put it, Ken!”
“… betrayal is like beauty…always in the eye of the beholder!”
“Empowerment and self protection sound like very important skills in all parts of your life. So, maybe perceiving betrayal is one of the best experiences you have had in your life since it has given you the opportunity to grow you in very significant ways.” I said, testing her integration of the ideas.
“It sure makes betrayal look, and feel, different! But why have all these people betrayed me, Ken! I didn’t betray them!”
“Deena, betrayal is like beauty…always in the eye of the beholder! Everyone gets viewed as a betrayer during their life by someone, and often many people.”
“Are you saying we all get betrayed, and are a betrayer, according to someone else?”
“Yes! It occurs because so many of us carry around an illusion. Betrayal comes from a delusional thought, which is called an illusion, which we have been encouraged to learn.”
“…he might have felt betrayed by you?”
“What illusion is that, Ken?”
“The illusion you can get more pleasure than pain! Let me explain it using your own situation. Deena, do you like your job?”
“Ken, I love my work. I can’t wait to get there! Its both challenging and fun. And I work with great people, as well.” her face lighting up.
“What’s your work schedule like?”
“Well, I do earn my keep! I put in long hours regularly and there is some travel involved as well.”
“Can you see how Casper, within his own values, during some of those times you are working and travelling, he might have felt betrayed by you?”
She presented that head punch look again as she processed my question. She went into herself briefly then replied in a soft thoughtful tone, “A lot of our arguments were about my long hours and being away too much. So, I guess it’s fair to say he probably did feel betrayed by me at times.”
“What I want you to notice again is the many forms of betrayal. In your value system you are working hard at your job, but in Casper’s value system you are not with him, you are doing something else which he may think is more important to you than him.”
“So, it’s back to that ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder’ idea!” she said.
“… these betrayals enables us to define ourselves…”
“Exactly, that’s why everyone gets betrayed and is seen as a betrayer by someone else. And, dealing with these betrayals enables us to define ourselves as independent people with our own set of distinct values. So, while betrayals hurt they also help us learn who we are and what is important to us.” I said.
“And, you’re saying we need to have a clear set of values to prepare us for our future. So, Casper was actually helping me define myself in a way I need. Also, I have been engaged in a similar process my whole life.” Deena added, demonstrating her new level of awareness.
“I’ll bet you have a much clearer idea now of how your next relationship needs to be. Or, if you both want to rebuild, how a new relationship with Casper would need to be for you to be part of it.”
“Interesting you should say that, Ken because he has been trying to contact me for several weeks to talk about what happened. He seems interested in renegotiating. I haven’t been until now.” she said.
“Why now, Deena?”
“… if both of you are committed and willing to learn, any relationship can be rebuilt…”
“Now that I realize, he may well have perceived me as betraying him, just as much as, I see him betraying me, it gets me to reconsider a future with him. Could you help us with that if he was interested?”
“Deena, if both of you are committed and willing to learn, any relationship can be rebuilt, regardless of what has happened in the past. And, I can show you how to achieve it.”
“How long does it usually take, Ken?”
“It usually involves 8 to 10 hours of face to face work with the couple. Sometimes, a few hours of individual work is needed to clean up stuff one, or both, of the partners brought to the relationship from their past.”
“Well, I told Casper I would have coffee with him next week. So Ken, I may be contacting you again.”
“It would be my privilege to assist you both to rebuild, if that is your wish. Keep me posted, Deena.”
“I will Ken!” she replied.
“Only trust thyself, and another shall not betray thee.” – William Penn, leader
Until Next time…
Now you know, what you have been calling a betrayal was also a moment when you re-defined yourself more clearly in preparation for your future. It was when you got stronger and smarter. So, sit down with yourself and revisit every betrayal and uncover how each time you learned something which changed your life and your perception of yourself in a new, and useful, way. Then, go thank your betrayer!
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Namaste, (I salute the grandly organized design of the universe, manifested in you!)
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