I feel gutted. Flayed. Filleted. I’ve been betrayed, and there is no worse feeling. It is painful. Sick. Wrong. At various points this week, it’s been hard to take a deep breath. My eyes leak constantly. I’m angry. I’m hurt. I’m filled with self doubt. How could she be that awful? How could I be that stupid?
In the midst of all this upheaval, I haven’t known how to arrange myself to find comfort. Even my skin seems tight around my muscles and bones. So, what to do? Whine? No, read. I made a beeline for Dragon Bound, my very favorite binky-like book, the one that soothes my jangled nerves and calms my restless heart.
And what did I find, almost on page one of Thea Harrison’s most wonderful creation? That the “inciting incident” — as novelists in the know call it — was the main character’s betrayal by an ex-boyfriend, a man she’d thought she loved, who she thought she knew… but who had sold her out to the highest bidder. As Pia experienced it, “she couldn’t get over the knifelike sensation in the pit of her stomach.” And that is exactly what it feels like, isn’t it?
Who among us hasn’t been subjected to this particular brand of nasty? Lucky is she who has missed this roller coaster ride, and if it’s you, kudos. Do let me know how you managed it.
For the rest of us, join me in the comments section and tell me all about your particular hell. Misery loves company, as I’ve written about before.
Being betrayed affects so many things—our feelings of worth, our confidence in our own judgment, and our trust of other people. We get to experience the vulnerability of being a victim, my least favorite thing to be, with its attendant loss of control—or even the illusion of it. We have to wonder where else we’ve gone wrong, who else is a wolf in sheep’s clothing? And when the betrayal hits particularly close to home, it’s a double whammy of vile emotions. In the past, I’ve been betrayed by friends and lovers. These days, it’s been more professional colleagues, and most recently, a former therapist, which truly sucks eggs.
In Dragon Bound, Pia wonders how she could have been so lacking in judgment, taste and sensibility. I feel her. In fact, I’m feeling quite a lot of this negativity of late, especially the necessity to sit with all these emotions and thoughts, experiencing, deep in my psyche and my body, the trauma of betrayal. And now that it’s taken up residence, I need to find a way to move it out, leaving only the scars and impressions of the experience to guide, but not dictate, my future actions.
But how? I’m sure that forgiveness is key. I must remember that forgiving does not mean forgetting. But forgiving the one who betrayed me is vitally important to my own well-being and has nothing to do with her. I can see her as a damaged, broken individual in need of compassion, pity and help. I can provide the first two, but not the last. That’s not my job, although it’s hard to know where my job begins and ends. It wasn’t my job, for example, to control her behavior. She made the decision to act badly all on her own. I don’t have to carry that water. But it’s hard not to take responsibility for others’ malfeasance. At least for me. I coulda, shoulda, woulda seen the signs, questioned her actions and words, scrutinized her inconsistencies or paid more attention to the warning signs and red flags, which were abundant — in hindsight.
Becoming sadder and wiser is also key. It is so important, but also so difficult to avoid bitterness and resentment. I want to balance good judgment with maintaining my faith in humanity and not letting one or even several bad apples poison the entire bunch. It turns out that some people are just bad. Or they descend so far into moral relativism that they cannot distinguish morally acceptable behavior from morally bankrupt actions. I find that when people behave immorally, like my betrayer and Pia’s ex-boyfriend, such behavior is always attended by an intense sense of entitlement whereby someone else’s needs always take precedence over mine. Or yours. Have you noticed that too? For whatever reason in these folks’ heads, they believe that they always deserve the biggest piece of the pie, whatever that pie entails. This represents a very skewed world view.
Another pitfall to avoid after we’ve been the victim of betrayal is becoming paranoid and creating self-fulfilling prophesies. I’m having to watch myself here. I don’t want to become Captain Queeg of The Caine Mutiny fame, who sees liars and thieves all around him and whose paranoia manifests in the very mutiny he feared – and which did not exist before his fear tainted his crew members. Fear is toxic in any incarnation and can ruin a good thing faster than Usain Bolt can run the 100 meter. As Karen Marie Moning reminds us, ‘fear kills, hope strengthens’. She is right. But it is oh, so hard to fight the fear. I’m doing my best. Not sure how I’m faring in this battle.
Once again I’m amazed and comforted by my beloved paranormal fantasy books. Because while I may not be battling with dragons and unicorns, the demon of betrayal sure feels mythical in scope. I’m glad I have Pia and her ilk to teach me how to fight.