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What drives a person to betrayal?

How to Deal with Betrayal

[This is the tenth article in the series Stoic Strategies for Daily Living. In this series, I will explore Stoic solutions to our everyday problems. The emphasis is not just on solutions, but also on how to apply them to our daily lives. Chuck Chakrapani]

That sinking feeling

For many of us, a sense of betrayal is one of the worst emotions we can experience. Almost by definition, the person who betrayed us is someone close to us, someone we trusted. It could be a friend, spouse, a close business colleague, or someone near and dear to us. When they betray us, we get this sinking feeling: the firm ground we stood on confidently has turned into quicksand. We get angry, upset, or even depressed. How could someone who we trusted so much so deliberately let us down? We aim to take revenge on the person who offended us this way, no matter the cost. We will show them. By now, we know this is not the Stoic way. But what is?

1. First, examine the impression

The first thing to know is that “x has betrayed me” is what the Stoics called an ‘impression’, something that appears to be so to us. But is this true? Our first job when feeling betrayed is to examine the impression. The spouse who decides to leave you may not be betraying you. You might have ignored her or been indifferent to her for years and not treated her well. She might just be leaving because of your betrayal. The friend you thought betrayed you by refusing to help you may have his own more serious problems to cope with. Your business associate who refused to lie to the boss for you to save your job may not have betrayed you but did what he thought was the right thing to do. So, whenever you think someone has betrayed you, examine it to see if it is really true. See it from the other person’s perspective. In many cases, you will see that the person, for the most part, is not motivated to betray you but to do what is right for them or for everyone in general. When you see this, you will see that there is no betrayal. Even if there is, it may not have been as serious as you might have imagined at first. There might be many mitigating factors leading up to the other person’s actions.

2. Even if it was a betrayal it is not shameful

Even when someone truly betrays us, it says nothing about us. It is not shameful for us and we don’t need to be disturbed. It is external to us like the ocean waves or the sunrise. No one can truly betray us any more than the sun, moon, wind, and the waves can. They do what they do, conforming to their nature. Nothing diminishes us, nothing can stop us from leading the life that is under our control. The only betrayal that should matter to us is the one that comes from us. Others’ betrayal is their business. If you are disturbed by other people’s betrayal, you may want to think about this:

How can I make my car shine like glass?

How is it that unskilled and untrained souls confuse the skilled and trained?

Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 5.32 (Chuck Chakrapani, Stoic Meditations, Book 5.32)

If we, with our understanding of Stoic principles, cannot see that betrayals are nothing to us, why should we expect the other person with no training at all see the harm in them? Betrayals are not harmful to us but only to the perpetrator.

3. What a person does depends on their character

By the way we are born and by the way we grow up, we develop certain character traits. People who betray us may not have set out to betray us but may have acted in a way “that seemed right to them” (Epictetus). Even if we say that the other person’s character is flawed:

What else could they do — with their character?

— Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 12.16 (Chuck Chakrapani, Stoic Meditations, Book 12.16)

…expecting a bad person not to harm others is like expecting a fig tree not to produce fig juice, babies not to cry, horses never to neigh, and the other inevitable things not happen

— Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 12.16 (Chuck Chakrapani, Stoic Meditations, Book 12.16)

4. Everything is eventually up to us

As long as we appoint someone else to be the source of our happiness, we will always be at their mercy. But yet we know that, eventually, our happiness can come only from us. It is natural to be upset if someone betrays us. But if we continue to feel betrayed and if we let it overcome us, we may want to think about this:

When you blame others for your negative feelings, you are being ignorant. When you blame yourself for your negative feelings, you are making progress. You are being wise when you stop blaming yourself or others… — Epictetus, Enchiridion, 5 (Chuck Chakrapani, The Good Life Handbook, Ch. 5)

What if you are upset after all this? Our favorite emperor has some advice on that:

If you’re still angry, then get to work on that.

What car logo is cross with snake?

– Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 12.16 (Chuck Chakrapani, Stoic Meditations, Book 12.16)


«Backstabbing» redirects here. For the concept in group psychology, see Workplace deviance § Coworker backstabbing. For the religious term, see Backbiting.

«Betrayer» redirects here. For other uses, see Betrayer (disambiguation).

Kiss of Judas, 1304-06 by Giotto shows Judas betraying Jesus.

Betrayal is the breaking or violation of a presumptive contract, trust, or confidence that produces moral and psychological conflict within a relationship amongst individuals, between organizations or between individuals and organizations. Often betrayal is the act of supporting a rival group, or it is a complete break from previously decided upon or presumed norms by one party from the others. Someone who betrays others is commonly called a traitor or betrayer. Betrayal is also a commonly used literary element, also used in other fiction like films and TV series, and is often associated with or used as a plot twist.

Definition [ edit ]

Philosophers Judith Shklar and Peter Johnson, authors of The Ambiguities of Betrayal and Frames of Deceit, respectively, contend that while no clear definition of betrayal is available, betrayal is more effectively understood through literature. [1]

Theoretical and practical needs [ edit ]

Jackson explains why a clear definition is needed:

Betrayal is both a «people» problem and a philosopher’s problem. Philosophers should be able to clarify the concept of betrayal, compare and contrast it with other moral concepts, and critically assess betrayal situations. At the practical level people should be able to make honest sense of betrayal and also to temper its consequences: to handle it, not be assaulted by it. What we need is a conceptually clear account of betrayal that differentiates between genuine and merely perceived betrayal, and which also provides systematic guidance for the assessment of alleged betrayal in real life.

Ben-Yehuda’s 2001 work («Betrayals and Treason Violations of Trust and Loyalty» Westview Press) framed all forms of betrayals and treason under a unifying analytical framework using loyalty, trust and moral boundaries as explanatory tools.

Signature and consequences [ edit ]

An act of betrayal creates a constellation of negative behaviours, thoughts, and feelings in both its victims and its perpetrators. The interactions are complex. The victims exhibit anger and confusion, and demand atonement from the perpetrator, who in turn may experience guilt or shame, and exhibit remorse. If, after the perpetrator has exhibited remorse or apologized, the victim continues to express anger, this may in turn cause the perpetrator to become defensive, and angry in turn. Acceptance of betrayal can be exhibited if victims forgo the demands of atonement and retribution; but is only demonstrated if the victims do not continue to demand apologies, repeatedly remind the perpetrator or perpetrators of the original act, or ceaselessly review the incident over and over again. If no true apology, atonement, real remorse and plan to change one’s behaviors are present, then the one who was betrayed can accept that it happened, and that the perpetrator is unwilling or unable to change. No real change means they can do it again. Lack of validation from the perpetrator can be been described as a «second assault,» which can exacerbate the effects of the initial trauma incurred. Accepting the betrayal and going no contact is the best route forward. The alternative is to stay in connection and realize the trespass can happen again, and may choose to avoid doing certain things to decrease severity. For example, if a person gossips, do not tell them your secrets. [2]

Do you sit on public toilet seats to pee?

Betrayal trauma [ edit ]

See also: Betrayal trauma

Betrayal trauma has symptoms similar to posttraumatic stress disorder, [3] although the element of amnesia and disassociation is likely to be greater. The key difference between traditional posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and betrayal trauma is that the former is historically seen as being caused primarily by fear, whereas betrayal trauma is a response to extreme anger. Fear and anger are the two sides to the fight-or-flight response, and as such are our strongest and most basic psychological emotions. [ citation needed ]

In romantic relationships [ edit ]

John Gottman’s What Makes Love Last? describes betrayal as «a noxious invader, arriving with great stealth» that undermines seemingly stable romances and lies at the heart of every failing relationship, even if the couple is unaware of it. Gottman computed a betrayal metric by calculating how unwilling each partner was to sacrifice for the other and the relationship. A consistently elevated betrayal metric served as an indicator that the couple was at risk for infidelity or another serious disloyalty. Some types of betrayal in romantic relationships include sexual infidelity, conditional commitment, a nonsexual affair, lying, forming a coalition against the partner, absenteeism or coldness, withdrawal of sexual interest, disrespect, unfairness, selfishness, and breaking promises. [4]

Double cross [ edit ]

Double cross is a phrase meaning to deceive by double-dealing. [5]

Origin [ edit ]

  1. A competitor participating in the fix who has agreed to throw their game instead competes as usual, against the original intention of their collaborators – one «cross» against another.
  2. Two opposing parties are approached, urging them to throw the game and back the other. Both parties lose out, and the perpetrators benefit by backing a third, winning party.

This use has passed into common parlance, so that, for example, in World War II, British Military Intelligence used the Double Cross System to release captured Nazis back to Germany bearing false information.

Do hard drives fail if not used?

Betrayal blindness [ edit ]

Betrayal blindness is the unawareness, not-knowing, and forgetting exhibited by people towards betrayal. [6]

The term «betrayal blindness» was introduced in 1996 by Freyd, and expanded in 1999 by Freyd and then again in 2013 by Freyd and Birrell through the Betrayal Trauma Theory. [6] This betrayal blindness may extend to betrayals that are not considered traditional traumas, such as adultery, and inequities. Betrayal blindness is not exclusive to victims. Perpetrators, and witnesses may also display betrayal blindness in order to preserve personal relationships, their relationships with institutions, and social systems upon which they depend. [6]

The term «Institutional Betrayal» refers to wrongdoings perpetrated by an institution upon individuals dependent on that institution. This includes failure to prevent or respond supportively to wrongdoings by individuals (e.g. sexual assault) committed within the context of the institution. [6]

See also [ edit ]

References [ edit ]

  1. ^Jackson 2000, pp. 72–73
  2. ^Reis & Rusbult 2004, pp. 296
  3. ^ Freyd, Jennifer J. «What is a Betrayal Trauma? What is Betrayal Trauma Theory?». University of Oregon. Archived from the original on July 6, 2010 . Retrieved 2010-09-26 . [Link is now: Retrieved 2014-03-08]
  4. ^
  5. Gottman, John (2012). What Makes Love Last. pp. xvii, 14.
  6. ^
  7. «double-cross». Merriam-Webster . Retrieved 2010-07-18 .
  8. ^ abcd
  9. «Definition of Betrayal Trauma Theory». . Retrieved 2016-12-02 .

Bibliography for references [ edit ]

  • Arnett, J. J. (2000). Emerging adulthood: A theory of development from the late teens through the twenties. American Psychologist, 55,5, 469–480.
  • Festinger, L. (1957). A theory of cognitive dissonance. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
  • Freyd, J. J. (1994). Betrayal-trauma: Traumatic amnesia as an adaptive response to childhood abuse. Ethics & Behavior, 4, 307–329.
  • Freyd, J. J. (1996). Betrayal trauma: The logic of forgetting childhood abuse. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
  • Freyd, J. J., & Birrell, P. J. (2013). Blind to Betrayal: Why we fool ourselves we aren’t being fooled. Somerset, NJ: Wiley.
  • Freyd, J. J ., Klest, B., & Allard, C. B. (2005) Betrayal trauma: Relationship to physical health, psychological distress, and a written disclosure intervention. Journal of Trauma & Dissociation, 6(3), 83-104.
  • Hensley, A. L. (2004). Why good people go bad: A psychoanalytic and behavioral assessment of the Abu Ghraib Detention Facility staff. An unpublished courts-martial defense strategy presented to the Area Defense Counsel in Washington DC on December 10, 2004.
  • Hensley, A. L. (2006). «Contracts don’t always begin on the dotted line: Psychological contracts and PTSD in female service members in Iraq». Archived from the original on November 24, 2010 . Retrieved October 10, 2010 .
  • Hensley, A. L. (2007). Why good people go bad: A case study of the Abu Ghraib Courts-Martials. In G. W. Dougherty, Proceedings of the 5th annual proceedings of the Rocky Mountain Region Disaster Mental Health Conference. Ann Arbor, MI: Loving Healing Press.
  • Hensley, A. L. (2009a). Gender, personality, and coping: Unraveling gender in military post-deployment wellbeing (preliminary results). In G. Dougherty (Ed.). Return to equilibrium: Proceedings of the 7th Rocky Mountain Region Disaster Mental Health Conference (pp. 105–148). Ann Arbor, MI: Loving Healing Press.
  • Hensley, A. L. (2009b). Gender, personality and coping: Unraveling gender in military post-deployment physical and mental wellness. Ann Arbor, MI: ProQuest UMI.
  • Hensley, A. L. (2009c). Betrayal trauma: Insidious purveyor of PTSD. In G. Dougherty (Ed.). Return to equilibrium: Proceedings of the 7th Rocky Mountain Region Disaster Mental Health Conference (pp. 105–148). Ann Arbor, MI: Loving Healing Press.
  • Hersey, B. & Buhl, M.(January/February 1990). The Betrayal of Date Rape. InView.
  • Jackson, R. L. (2000). «The Sense and Sensibility of Betrayal: Discovering the Meaning of Treachery through Jane Austen» (PDF) . Humanitas. National Humanities Institute. XIII (2): 72–89.
  • Johnson-Laird, P. N. (1983). Mental Models: Towards a Cognitive Science of Language, Inference, and Consciousness. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Maslow, A. (1954). Motivation and personality. New York: Harper.
  • McNulty, F. (1980). The burning bed. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
  • Musen, K. & Zimbardo, P. G. (1991). Quiet rage: The Stanford prison study. Videorecording. Stanford, CA: Psychology Dept., Stanford University.
  • Reis, H. T.; Rusbult, C. E. (2004). Close relationships: key readings . Psychology Press. ISBN978-0-86377-596-3 .
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Further reading [ edit ]

Look up betrayal in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.

  • Robin Marie Kowalski (2009). «Betrayal». In Harry T. Reis; Susan Sprecher; Susan K. Sprecher (eds.). Encyclopedia of Human Relationships. Vol. 1. SAGE. pp. 174–176. ISBN978-1-4129-5846-2 .
  • James Allen Grady (2008). «Betrayal». In Yudit Kornberg Greenberg (ed.). Encyclopedia of love in world religions. Vol. 1. ABC-CLIO. pp. 74–76. ISBN9781851099801 .
  • Freyd, Jennifer J. (2008). «Betrayal trauma». In G. Reyes; J.D. Elhai; J.D.Ford (eds.). Encyclopedia of Psychological Trauma. New York: John Wiley & Sons. p. 76.
  • Nachman Ben-Yehuda (2001). Betrayal and treason: violations of trust and loyalty. Crime & society. Westview Press. ISBN978-0-8133-9776-4 .
  • Gilbert Reyes; Jon D. Elhai & Julian D. Ford (2008). «Betrayal trauma». The Encyclopedia of Psychological Trauma. John Wiley and Sons. ISBN978-0-470-44748-2 .
  • Alan L. Hensley (2009). «Betrayal Trauma: Insidious Purveyor of PTSD». In George W. Doherty (ed.). Return to Equilibrium: The Proceedings of the 7th Rocky Mountain Region Disaster Mental Health Conference. Loving Healing Press. ISBN978-1-932690-86-6 .
  • Malin Åkerström (1991). Betrayal and betrayers: the sociology of treachery. Transaction Publishers. ISBN978-0-88738-358-8 .
  • Warren H. Jones; Laurie Couch & Susan Scott (1997). «Trust and Betrayal». In Robert Hogan; John A. Johnson & Stephen R. Briggs (eds.). Handbook of personality psychology. Gulf Professional Publishing. ISBN978-0-12-134646-1 .
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