Tag Archives: We’re all screwed up

Why Betrayal hurts so much

Most of us have been betrayed in some way at some point.

It’s not the act of being betrayed that causes the problem. It’s what happens in your head as a result of that.

It can lead to a desperate attempt to control everything, in the belief that if you are more alert, if you just act differently, you can prevent more hurt in the future.

Often, the intensity of hurt that you experience from betrayal can be as bad as the grief of losing someone.

It can trigger Episodic memories, taking you back to times in childhood were you were unfairly accused of something or treated unfairly. It’s that moment, where your brain, in an attempt to protect you from that hurt, learns that you need to watch everything more closely. If you can get in trouble for something you didn’t do, then everything you do could be wrong. This is not a good lesson to live with: feeling everything you do is wrong.

My biggest betrayal comes from my mother. I thought I had a good relationship with my mother. Because she is disabled, I was her carer and constant companion from the age of 10 or so (I lived with my father and stepmother before that)

The first betrayal was when she walked in on my stepfather abusing, and then walked out again, doing nothing.

The second betrayal was a year or two later when I told her he was abusing me, and she lost her temper with me and told me never to talk about it again. And the abuse continued.

The third betrayal was when he divorced her and she asked me to read the letter he wrote her, which contained explicit references to their sexual relationship.

The fourth betrayal was when I reported him to the police for historical abuse. She told me that she would do anything that was necessary to help me and then wouldn’t talk to the police. When she eventually did, she would not corroborate my story.

The final betrayal was during his trial, when my mother refused to come to court to testify. Her written statement was so bad, that it was better for the barrister prosecuting him to let the jury think my mother didn’t believe me, than read it out. At the end of the day, it was my word versus his word and he was found not guilty. My mother was the only person that could have shown the jury otherwise.

It was after the final betrayal that I stopped talking to her and broke off all contact.

I ask myself why I didn’t do it before? What sort of fool was I to ever believe her. I have questioned my whole childhood with her. None of those fond memories were true, because I thought she cared and she clearly didn’t. I feel weak for allowing her to continue to be in my life, for caring. It leads me to think that nothing I believe about our relationship was actually true.
And that could eat me up.

However I know that I can’t time travel. Everything was the way it was at the time. I do not have the benefit of hindsight. I can’t let younger me know what was going to happen later. So at every point in my life I’ve been the best version of me I can possibly be.

I am not responsible for her. My actions have no effect on her. It was not about whether she loves me or not. Nothing I do changes what she does. I am only responsible for myself, not for others.

An unspoken secret

18 year old me

I have a secret.

This may not be a surprise to you if you know anything about my past.

But its not what you think.

This secret has created meaning in the events that followed. The secret has eaten away at me.

You see, it’s not what happens to us that causes us a problem. It’s the meaning we assign to it. It’s the meaning that triggers a protective state. It’s the meaning that causes hurt.

There’s a catch though. We interpret and attribute meaning to events, well before our brain is developed enough to understand.

The prefrontal cortex, the rational and analytical part of you brain, is not fully developed until you are at least 19 years old.

At least 19 years old before you can understand what happens to you

And before you are 16 you have learnt all the important lessons that you need to stay safe as an adult

This is the catch.

And so I have a memory from when I was 9 years old, and it had meaning. It was the unspoken thing.

I think we all have them, those moments that we carry, that we don’t want anyone else to know of, for whatever reason. Sometimes, they rest, untouched, with very little impact on our day to day lives. Other times the gnaw away, answering with silent words in our head.

They are not big, traumatic moments, but they are moments that form our sense of self. They might be loaded with shame, or guilt or something else.

They are unspoken.

My moment? I walked in on my stepfather when he was having a shower. I was 9. I pointed to his private parts, and touching it accidentally, asked what that was. He angrily told me that I should never touch that.

I thought that I made him think about me as a sexual object. I thought it was my fault that he abused me. I thought I was his partner, not a young child who was abused.

I never, ever spoke the secret.

And it meant everything was my fault. Who was I to cry victim when I created the problem?

This unspoken secret meant I planted the idea. It meant I was complicit. It meant I was not a victim. It meant I was a participant in the abuse, not a victim of it.

Because it was my fault.

I knew about my secret. But I didn’t ever speak about it. Or even tell anyone I had it.

I didn’t want them to know that all these things I spoke about were my fault. But I was sure they were.

And so I hated myself and my body for the role it played. I hated it for being involved in what happened. I felt guilty. I felt ashamed. I felt like a fraud for letting everyone else believe I had been abused, when actually I had created the problem.

And then thanks to the help of my amazing therapist friend, I spoke the unspoken and the spell was broken.

And now I see that there was nothing I could do. I was a young child. I was abused. That is never a child’s fault.

My body is not to blame. I am not to blame.

Speaking the unspoken changes it.

What is your unspoken thing? Who do you trust to tell that thing to?

You deserve freedom from the unspoken.