Inching Past Betrayal

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about betrayal. It’s been really fun to think about. Brought up a lot of heartache and lots of binges both of the food kind and of the self-pity, self-loathing kind. Like I said, a barrel of laughs! 

Okay, so as you know from my last post, life has been in the crapper for quite some time.  Oh, I know, I know.  It’s not life that’s been in the crapper it’s my thinking that’s been in the crapper. That could be true. The outcome, however, still feels shitty. Ba-dum-bum.

But lately, I’ve wanted to feel better. As an aside: For a long time, I really didn’t want to feel better. I wanted to feel as bad as I felt. But recently, I’ve been thinking it might be nice to get rid of the anvil that feels like it’s been sitting on my head since, oh, I don’t know, May. 

Well, finding tools to use to make myself feel better—that should be easy, right? Didn’t I train as a life coach? But here’s the rub: Most of the tools and techniques I’d learned had been taught to me by the very person in whom I’d lost faith. Uh-oh! What a predicament!  

Coaching suddenly seemed ridiculous. Ruh-roh! All that time and money spent, all that trying to get a business off the ground and now I don’t really believe in it? Really? Well, damn! So now, in addition to questioning everything I believed, I’d lost my way to make a living, because I couldn’t ethically take clients while I felt that way.  And any time I’d try to use the tools to help myself, I’d get angry and depressed all over again.

What to do, what to do? I started thinking about this a lot: How do you move past disappointment that is so profound, it’s shaken your whole belief system?

Through months of experimentation, I can give you a partial list of what doesn’t really work:

 1. Eating your bodyweight in macaroni and cheese followed by potato chips and cherry sour punch bites for every daily meal, plus tasty snacks.

2. Not eating anything at all for days at a time.

3. Stopping all physical activity.

4. Spending hours on Facebook, looking at all the people who have happy and productive lives while you’re still in your pajamas at 2:00 in the afternoon.

5. Staying in your pajamas til 2:00 in the afternoon.

6. Binge watching Dexter (although you do start to feel a little better when you realize at least you’re not a serial killer. See? It could be worse!) 

So—if you’re currently experiencing a soul-quake, those are some of the things that you’re welcome to try, but that if you stop there, will just make you feel like a puffy loser.

Well, okay, so if none of those techniques works; and if you doubt the veracity of your past techniques because now you doubt the veracity of your teacher, well what the hell do you do?

In fact—what do you do in the face of betrayal by anyone? I mean, it happens a lot. People are fallible. People disappoint us.  Lovers leave, kids misbehave, figures that we regard as moral authority turn out to have the morals of an alley cat. What then?

Well, here’s a list of what I’ve been trying lately (and what I think you could try if you’re in the same boat) that has me feeling better.

1. Spend time doing the aforementioned list. Wait, what? Be indulgent and sink into your depression? Yes. Although maybe you don’t like mac and cheese, maybe you’re more of a cookie dough person; maybe you don’t like Dexter, you’re more of a Hot in Cleveland type. Regardless, I really do think taking time to just sit and be miserable has its merits.  I think it’s fine to sit and grieve, to be indulgent and non-productive and to do stupefying, numbing things. It’s not really the answer; but I think it can be part of the answer.  It’s hard when you feel like your whole world has crumbled. Find comfort where you can, for as long as you need it. Eventually, you’ll run out of episodes to watch which will make you bestir yourself to notice that lots of time has passed. You’ll slowly resurface. You’ll be ready to move again one day.

2. And when that day comes, start keeping a “Fuck You” journal. I rummaged through my journals and found the sweetest, prettiest one I had. It’s purple and has butterflies and the word “friendship” scripted in elaborate curlicues.  And in it I have spewed the most childish, shrewish, hateful, spiteful, mean-spirited vitriol you can imagine. It makes me laugh when I go back and re-read it; but it really helps with that white-hot rage I feel as I’m writing it. Here’s the catch. After you’re done screaming on paper, close the book and say: “I ask (the universe, God, my best self, whatever) to help me release this anger and get present in this moment.” Breathe for a minute or two. This has helped me enormously.

3. Start talking to friends and family again. One thing I tend to do when I get depressed is to hide. I don’t want to burden anyone with my boring drama; I don’t want to be seen as weak; this is not that big of a deal. These are the things I told myself all summer. I didn’t reach out, didn’t see if anyone wanted to have lunch or go to a movie. I ignored emails, phone calls, invitations. When I finally did start talking to people again, I found sympathy, understanding, kindness. They were a lot nicer to me than I had been being to myself. No one cares that I’ve gained weight from all of my binges. No one tells me I’m stupid for feeling as I do, or that I’m boring them.  If you also have a tendency to hide, you might be surprised. People might just be happy to see you.

4. Conversely, I think getting off Facebook is a great idea. Sacrilege, I know. But. I was spending a lot of time looking at Facebook and seeing a lot of people write glowingly about the person I no longer trusted. It sucked. I saw posts by people in the lifecoaching world who were doing great things and it made me feel sad and lonely and left out. I felt like I did when I was a teenager and there were ads everywhere for the Pepsi Generation—and I always felt like I was missing it. All the cool kids were out partying at the dump (it was a small, rural town, what can I say, the dump was a place of mystique) while I was unpopular, stuck babysitting.  Oddly, though, the one time I did get invited to one of those parties, I was bored out of my mind. Who wants to sit around a filthy field drinking 3.2 beer out of cans and talking about whose tongue got stuck in whose braces? I’d rather make my 50 cents an hour…But, okay, back to Facebook. I always felt worse after I’d looked at it, but, like any nutty addict, I couldn’t seem to stop. It was making me feel so bad though, it was like emotionally cutting myself. So I deleted my account. I think I’ll probably come back to it—and be very selective about friends. Maybe I’ll have a different page just for networking. What has happened in the interim is having time to do other things—and gaining perspective. It feels like I can breathe again. 

5. Get some professional help. Hmmm. This, actually, was part of my problem. How could I go to my huge network of life coaching friends when a major part of my problem was loss of faith in one of its creators and thereby in its tenets?  Who would want to hear it? How would they help me? By quoting that teacher to me? Fuggedaboudit.  Finally, I called a person that I knew had had a similar experience. I didn’t want to gossip and share bitter little anecdotes (well, actually, I did, of course I did) but even more than that, I wanted to figure out how to feel better again.  It was really helpful to talk to a professional person who had been through something similar. It led to the next item on my list, which is:

6. Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. Such a weird expression. Did anyone ever throw the baby out with the bathwater? Still—one of the things I was very confused about was how to separate the teacher from the teachings. I suppose anyone who’s ever gone through a crisis in faith can relate to this one. How do we stand it when the minister has an affair, or the priest is revealed as a pedophile, or the reverend is caught getting blowjobs in men’s rooms? Some friends helped with this one. “The person is flawed, but has flashes of brilliance. Stick to those flashes and the products of that brilliance and ignore the source.” “It’s not the teachings, it’s your own insights about those teachings that really helped you.” “The teacher didn’t make you a great coach, your honesty and humor do that.” One friend said: “It’s like religion. Most of it doesn’t work, because of the people who run the institution, but the philosophy is still good.” I protested, “But this teacher inspired a lot of philosophy I believed!” To which he answered: “Well, how do we know? Maybe Jesus was a dick.” Which made me laugh like a lunatic. I know it’s offensive, but I just have this picture of Jesus tearing around, a raging megalomaniac, and all of his disciples trotting along behind, smoothing the waters: “Jesus is just having a bad day, sorry he’s freaking out and ignoring your calls, but wait’ll you hear the new material, it’s fantastic, it’ll knock your socks off! And no! Regarding Mary Magdalene, he did not have sex with that woman…”

7. Make a list of what actually happened.  This was really helpful to me because I kept trying to minimize what had happened. I think this is a common trait among people who grow up in dysfunctional homes where there are a lot of secrets. I know it’s common in adult children of alcoholics to question their own perceptions of reality. It comes from having to cover up so much of what was happening when we were kids. I still do it. I tend to want to blame myself for everything that happens and I often excuse bad behavior in other people. So—just writing out the facts in the order that they’d happened made me see that I really did have cause to be angry and that actually, no, I wasn’t the one to blame. (By the way, I think this process can work the other way, too. If you make a list of just facts—not how you felt or what you wished, or how you think the other person might have felt—just true, provable facts—you might see that you are overreacting and need to make some adjustments yourself.) Either way, it can be helpful.

8. A friend suggested I get very picky about how I spend my time and with whom I share my creativity. I had never really thought about that before. Picky? I’m so not picky. But what an intriguing idea. She said: “Pretend you’re a queen and you’re here for just a short time. And you might want to spend time with that person, but you might not. And you’re used to being treated like royalty. So unless the person is willing to treat you extremely well, and unless they applaud your creativity accordingly, you just don’t have the desire to be there. There’s not enough time to be treated poorly or indifferently.” Indeed.

9. Find something else to do besides obsessing. I reached out to some friends who all want to get back into acting, or to take their career to the next level.  We now meet twice a month to talk about strategy. We go on auditions together. We give each other encouragement.  We take workshops. We whine about the industry and watch each other’s monologues and audition songs. It’s pretty fun. It reminds me that there’s a whole wide world of people out there and that there are many avenues to pursue.

10. Upon awakening, list 3 things for which you’re grateful. I know. Bleeeeccchhhh! There might not be much when you feel so raw. But sometimes you can refocus for a second, even if it’s on innocuous things. The divine taste of capers. The way the sun hits the pomegranate tree outside the kitchen window and lights the fruit like Christmas ornaments. The perfect color of paint in the bedroom called Autumn Crocus. Start small. (This one makes me feel a little squirmy because it’s so smarmy. But I’m finding that it helps shift my energy out of “I hate everything” into “I hate most things, but at least I like these things.” Somehow, there’s comfort and promise in that.)

And that’s about the gist of it. As to forgiving and forgetting, I’m not sure doing any of the things listed above will help. Honestly—I don’t think I’ve ever forgotten any past betrayals and I’m not sure I’ve truly forgiven any, either. (I tend to be petty. So sue me.) What I have noticed is that with time, things change and whatever the betrayal is ceases to matter as much. I gain perspective, distance—and if I’m lucky, compassion for the person who did me wrong. Forgive and forget?  In my case, doubtful. But moving on? Yes. Definitely. Healing? That, too. 

So. If you’re experiencing the sadness that comes from being disappointed and betrayed, honey, I’m definitely there with you in spirit; and am always happy to help you in person.  And I wish you illuminating, generous healing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



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