If you have been hurt badly, you may find that you have a hard time trusting others. Betrayal can hurt deeply and it can take a long time to heal after you have discovered that someone you cared about deeply has betrayed you. Following this kind of trauma, it is easy to think that perhaps you had it all wrong; that maybe there are not as many people out there capable of being trustworthy, reliable, true to their word, faithful and loyal. As a result of such injury, the lens through which you see the world may have shifted radically. Having been a person who tended to see the good in others and the world, you may now be a skeptic, wary, more reclusive and full of caution. While visiting this place for awhile may in fact be an inevitable part of the journey of dealing with and healing from betrayal, it is not a fun or healthy place to hang out for the long-term. Yet, how does one get unstuck and find a way out of such a quagmire?
The Taoists had it right. The reality of the world is that there is good and there is bad; there are those who can be trusted and those who cannot. The world is not black or white. It is grey and none of us are immune from having negative encounters no matter how smart or insightful we are. I have spent thirty seven years of my life studying relationships and I have to say that despite this, I am not always accurate in my assessment of people. It takes time to get to know someone and it becomes even harder if they do not know themselves.
One of the ways people get stuck in healing from betrayal is by adopting the view that people are untrustworthy and that the world is a dangerous place. In the long-term, this attitude is a formula for resentment, bitterness and loneliness. Another way people get snagged is by blaming themselves for what has happened. While it is important to do some sort of review when things go wrong and to learn from life’s experiences, it is also vital and humbling to recognize that bad situations cannot always be foreseen. We want to believe that the world is just and that bad things do not happen to good people. However, this is a child’s way of thinking and simply not true. Life is not conflict free and in the end we all inevitably face challenges and betrayal of one sort or another. One way of holding on to the myth that negative life experiences can be avoided is by ruthlessly blaming oneself. You might wonder: Why would anyone want to add salt to injury by blaming themselves? Is the pain of betrayal not enough? Well, believe it or not, while painful, such thinking also has an upside. If you are to blame for bad things that happen, then you have the power to prevent them from ever happening again. The wish for a secure and happy future can be so strong that we are willing to suffer self recrimination to sustain such a dream. Not unlike the rape victim who maintains the belief that if she had only dressed differently, the event would never have happened, we find some flaw in ourselves to explain painful life events in an effort to feel less vulnerable and to have some sense of control over our future.
Unfortunately, life is difficult and painful events are inevitable. Just as people in the world are neither all good nor all bad, so it is that life experience brings both the positive and the negative. Re-calibrating from a painful encounter means being able to see reality for what it is and recognize that you are not immune to ending up in negative encounters. Sometimes, people’s actions are predictable but at other times, their behavior just comes out of left field with no warning. Learn what you can from the experience but do not take on the blame for something that is not yours. This can only inevitably end in self harm and low self esteem.
There is a well kept secret here that I want to share. When you have been betrayed, while it may seem that the issue you face is whether or not to trust others, such is not the case. There will always be those who are trustworthy and those who are not. The trust you need and the trust that matters most in order to heal from betrayal is the ability to trust yourself again. Life will always challenge you with difficult and unpredictable situations. The only true security and healing lies in having renewed faith in yourself that whatever life brings you, you will deal with it. Take a look. Whether you realize it or not, you always have dealt with it!