F. Scott Fitzgerald: "It is in the thirties that we want friends. In the forties we know they won't save us any more than love did." Perhaps F. knew what it is like, when the inner world speeds up while the clock on the wall slows down. When the hours become mud, and tremors pass through the body. That bomb in us which only loved ones can detonate. Whether in romance or friendship, how do we live with betrayal?
Trust holds us together. It creates that unity which is togetherness. Family, friends, community. It also enables that unity which is a self, for we hold one another in being. "no man is an island." The love we have for each other is the ultimate glue that holds each person together. When trust is broken deeply, the cracks move in many directions. When it is profound we can lose our grip, not only on each other, but on ourselves. For trust is the earth beneath our feet. Betrayal is so terrible because it undermines our sense of reality.
What fills the void where confidence in truth previously stood? Often it is anger. Anger of a sort that can burn us up. Anger that is grown from various reasons. One is the unstated hope that somehow might undo the past and right the balance. That we might pay the other in turn, as though that would fill the void. But this is a fantasy we cannot achieve. In life we are too-often empty-handed; much that matters can be out of our control. Hence betrayal feels so much like fear.
When we are robbed in betrayal we can feel empty-handed and faced with emptiness. But if we can face that we may perform a miracle: the creation of something out of nothing. To build and create, precisely where the other has made a nothing.
Betrayal is in part the denial of value. The only truly effective and good response to the denial of value is the affirmation of value. And that is a creative act, an act of building, which involves looking at your life in its various affected dimensions. Making sense of what happened in ways that are truthful, just, healing and good. Practising geometry: the art of proportion and placement, of giving things their proper names, recognising what has been done, and balancing the juxtaposing truths and contradictions. It requires connecting with others who are loving and faithful in your life. And connecting with what gives deep value to your life: the sources of beauty, love, friendship, truth. And just as importantly, connecting with yourself. Building yourself as the valuable person you always were and can further reveal.
Betrayal is the denial of our individual value. When that bomb goes off - the news, the revelation - it can seem to wipe away our value. We need to find value once again, within ourselves and within our life and world. This is the essence of healing from betrayal.
How can somebody that you loved and trusted and shared so much with, betray you? People can close their eyes to what matters in order to allow themselves to fulfil their desires. The more wrong the desire, the more they close their eyes. After that initial choice, everything else follows according to a kind of psychological mechanics, insofar as they do not open their eyes again. Such people become like tiles blown off a roof, and their responsibility lies merely in the initial consent to become a tile. We suffer throughout life from this consent of others to become obedient to their desires no matter where that leads and what it violates. And others suffer from us making tiles of ourselves. Through this choice some people betray others in appalling and callous ways. Some will afterwards struggle with conscience, while others will wrap themselves in self-righteous narratives, in narcissistic madness. Some will suffer later due to their flawed character, while others will appear to flourish. For on the one hand life is not directed by justice but by blind, natural laws, whether biological, psychological, or social, but consistent with this, violation takes its toll on every wrongdoer, even if the effects are often masked, so there are fruits of character, but while they are real they are unperceived in their connections. People who treat others badly have poor inner lives, not only as a cause but also as a consequence. It is through paying attention that we see reality at the ethical level - at the level of love. This is why during the trials in Jerusalem of Nazi murderers, Hannah Arendt was struck by "the banality of evil." It is banal because it is blind. The creation or discovery of value is lucid. It is the opening of eyes. And for all the pain this may invite, it is worth it. It is to live life in color. It is to be a force for good in the world. It is to have the potential for something wonderful in the future. To create a wonderful future.
I have seen people, initially crushed by betrayal, rise and flourish incredibly. They have become people they never would have been otherwise. Some of their deep, old struggles, which shadowed their inner lived, have been burned away in the fire and pain of their deep trial. But this requires choice. There is a heroism in it. And a profound spirituality - an orientation of love and hope and turns toward life. It is also often a joyful rediscovery of one’s self, and the potential of the self - the deep sources of strength and possibility within oneself. Sometimes it is when your value is terribly denied that you discover it anew.