Thinking Out Loud
When I was growing up my mom was full of wisdom and had a saying for most situations…
“If it doesn’t kill you, it makes you stronger”
“If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all”
“Shit happens…it’s how you deal with it that matters”
“Who said life was going to be easy?”
“Treat others as you would wish to be treated”
Although there have been times where my relationship with my mom has been…’strained’ she did instill in me a lot of wisdom from a really early age. Unorthodox to say the least, parent in her parenting approach (how many 7 year olds can quote Shakespeare) she understood that life is a complex game and you have to stand true to your beliefs and your values.
So if life is a game… its ‘lessons’ are the cards you are dealt…a mix of chance and luck (and hopefully not too much cheating) but most importantly they are ‘character building’…that was what I grew up believing, there is something to be learned from the hard times, even if you can’t see it when its happening
Hmmm….Character building…another way of saying “this one’s gonna hurt”
As you journey through life, you have a vague hope that your character will become sufficiently built, that at some stage you will not have to go through any more ‘life lessons’ but at some point I think we all realize, to say your character is ‘built’ is to say the road has ended and the journey is over…working on your character is your life’s work!
So the stuff we build our characters on…the good times, the great friends, the adventures, the risks that pay off, the choices we make and unfortunately the times the card deck of life throws us a curve ball…these are the things that give us the chance to choose who we are and who we are going to be. These are the times when the true core of you….the real “who am I” is exposed and your choices reflect the values that you care about.
One of the hardest things to come to terms with is when someone betrays you in their words or their actions (or both)
It might have been your best friend, your partner, your boss, your brother or even your lover, it doesn’t matter who it is, betrayal can be one of the most painful experiences to live through. You can’t sleep for the anger, the shock and sadness.
Apparently it is part of the ‘stages of grief’, when you find yourself still not believing it’s happened to you. And then you realize that it has!
After being betrayed, most of us want two things, usually at the same time…the child in us wants to hurt the person who abused us, as deeply and as excruciatingly, as we’ve been wounded and the grown up wants to rise above the situation and to be the “better person”
Unfortunately neither of these approaches really work. Wounding words tend to boomerang and make you feel as terrible as the person you wanted to hurt. Forgiveness, especially if halfhearted, tends to come off as condescending and does not help to ease the pain.
No matter how much you read, or who you talk to, everyone one has their own journey to take on the road to recovery and there is no magic potion or self-help theory to make it any easier, but it’s good to share your experiences as you find them.
When those we have entrusted with our money, our plans, our strategies, our loyalty or even our love betray us, we can feel lost, sad and powerless.
It is at this moment that you will make some of the most important decisions that will determine how you get through it.
Someone wise shared this with me, explaining that like everything in life, how you handle yourself if a choice.
I remember a formula that I was given at the time…E+R=O.
E is for event…that’s the stuff outside of your control (shit happens)
R is for reaction…how you behave and respond
O is for outcome.
How you react to any situation is the only way you control how things end up…this is where you get back some of the control.
There are three important choices you can make – (1) what to believe, (2) what to concentrate on and (3) what to expect for the future
These three choices will determine the final impact this betrayal has on your life.
Choose what you Believe.
Make the choice to believe there is a way out. There is always a way out. You can survive this and even prosper on the other side of this tragedy. But first you have to make a very deliberate and conscious choice to believe it.
Choose what you are going to Focus on.
Once you recover from the initial shock of the betrayal, make a conscious choice to concentrate on the immediate next steps needed for your emotional survival – rather than on bitterness. If you dwell on your anger it will consume all of your creative energy and you will risk being fixated on how you have been wronged rather than what to do next. Unfortunately we cannot control the actions and misdeeds of others, it is their choice to behave that way. What you can put your energy into is creating a better brighter future and learning all the lessons you can from what has happened.
Focus on the resources, skills, gifts, talents and friends you have around you and remember that you have been let down by one person…not everyone is the same..
Choose your Expectations
Knowing that things can only get better will allow you to concentrate on creating a positive outcome. Expect to prosper again one day. Expect to rise from the ashes of this painful situation. Don’t expect the person who has hurt you to behave the way you would. Often their value system is what allowed them to live with their actions in the first place, so it is unlikely that are suddenly going to change their beliefs and treat you differently. If you have been deceived or lied to, believe that the people who know you will recognize the truth, and you can’t control the thoughts of anyone else.
“Better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.” — Confucius.
Understand that betrayal is one the most devastating loss you can experience. To be betrayed, a person must first have placed trust in the betrayer. It is fairly impossible for you to be betrayed if you did not trust the individual in the first place. This loss is in some ways like a death and it’s ok to feel the associated grief.
The aftermath of this hurt is the loss of trust, the realization that someone deliberately hurt you and a deep sense of disappointment.
When you trust people, you believe that they won’t hurt you; when they do, it leaves you feeling vulnerable. Remember it is just this one person who has let you down, focus on the good, kind loyal people in your life.
Another reason it is so devastating is because most often it is a loss that didn’t have to occur. It only happened because of someone’s deliberately hurtful behavior, or their carelessness, or their own personal weakness. Unlike a loss such as death or illness, there is usually some sort of choice involved.
Even more disappointing is coming to terms with the fact that the world is not always as it “should” be. When you are hurt you have to face this reality. Not everyone behaves the way you want them, not everyone has the same values and it is no reflection on you, but remember their actions are their choice, a reflection of their soul…not yours
So, given that betrayal is a loss, it is necessary to understand the process of grief in order to deal with having hurt. Therefore, if you have been hurt, you need to understand what these emotions are and why you are experiencing them before you can really take any action.
The theory of grief is that it involves several stages: shock/denial, anger, sadness, and acceptance. Frequently these stages may overlap or be on some kind of ‘loop’ but eventually with time you will move through to a place of healing
The first stage of shock or denial is when you are initially confronted with the betrayal. You may feel numb or feel like someone just punched you in the gut. There might be a tendency to disbelieve the situation and bury your head in the sand. Most people want to avoid the experience of grief because the emotions are so intense. So they may engage in avoidance behaviors. These can be compulsive, additive behaviors such as abusing drugs or alcohol, over-eating, or gambling. These types of behaviors are escapes from emotions so be mindful that you don’t hide from your hurt this way
Once the betrayal and loss is fully acknowledged, the individual is likely to feel intense anger. At this stage many people get stuck. the emotion of anger is perfectly okay, but our actions that are influenced by anger may not be. Don’t become so focused on the wrong that was done to you that you are unable to move forward. Anger often brings thoughts of revenge which is a very dangerous emotion. Even if it takes a number of months to work through the grief, it is better to wait than to regret rash actions
A great way to vent is to write out your feelings. You can even write a letter to the person who hurt you. However, it may not be a good idea to send these initial letters because it may not reflect the final outcome for you. A letter format is often helpful in working through the anger stage of grief because it feels as if you are talking to the person and able to express your thoughts without having regret later. I know from experience that trying to gain some measure of understanding…a “why” to try to explain the situation is a frustration that can drive you crazy. Even if you don’t send it…asking the question “what part of this was ok with you” or “how would you feel if you were me” is an important part of the healing process
As you work through the anger, you will begin to come to a point of sadness. The sadness is experienced when you begin to recognize the full extent of what you have lost. You think about the shattered trust, knowing that you can never get that back and that you have lost something that was important to you. And, of course, it is okay to cry.
The grief process is a healing process and eventually you will finally get to a point of acceptance. This is the point where decisions can be made and action can be taken. At this time you will be able to think more clearly about the situation and decide what is the best course of action to take. And, of course, that action will vary depending on the person and the situation.
Some practical steps to work through;
1. Gain some detachment. Try to stand back and view what has happened from a distance, don’t be a victim. Try not to dwell too much on how you have been wronged
2. Don’t indulge in emotions you cannot afford, don’t waste your energy on feelings of revenge or retribution, they won’t help in the end. You don’t want you pain to be an on-going drama that you can’t escape.
3. Accept that your emotions will take time to recover and then try and enjoy spending time doing things that bring you joy. Don’t rely simply on letting time do it for you.
4. Feel the hole inside and grieve over it, but know that in time you will feel better…at some stage you have to get over it!
5. Seek a friend who is not too close to the situation who will listen with objectivity without letting you dwell on the negative. Don’t waste time talking to people who feed on your pain or amplify your resentment
6. Work toward a tomorrow that will be better than yesterday. Don’t fixate on the past or what might have been, it’s always a trap to look back on past relationships with rose tinted glasses
7. Watch out for self pity and regret, enjoy activities that build your self-esteem.
It requires a good deal of objectivity to set about following such a program. Nothing is easier, of course, than doing the opposite, for example:
Sadly when it comes to grief it can feel a little like you are out of control. One day you are on the right track; the next day you are a train wreck. The key is to keep being kind to yourself.