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.

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