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PTSD, Trauma, & Themes - Betrayal

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I’ve got themes of several different kinds on my mind a lot, recently. So I thought I might create a couple few threads to kick around some of those topics with others. None of these are things that can cause PTSD, but they’re often part of the complicated as hell side of trauma itself, or the fallout from trauma (like trust issues, abandonment issues, helplessness, etc.).

We see them come up, time and time again, as we read through threads round these parts. I’m sure most of us could bust out a list of half a dozen or more without blinking an eye, just from our own lived experience, and twice that from kicking it here with PTSD peeps.

(On that note? Please feel free to start a new thread : PTSD, Trauma, & Themes - ABCXYZ123, to get the conversation going, if there’s something you’re interested in. No need to wait for me to get there!)

As this is less about asking for help with my own stuff, or keeping the focus on the OP’s unique situation? And more wanting to start a fireside discussion with diverse experience? I’ll come back and post my own thoughts/challenges/work-arounds/vexations/experience/decisions/etc. in a bit.

Just to get the ball rolling?

(Don’t feel like you have to answer all the Q’s below, or restrain yourself to only answering what’s on the list. Go wild. Do you.)

What’re YOUR thoughts/ challenges/ work-arounds/ vexations/ experience/ decisions/ observations/ etc. with BETRAYAL? Part of your trauma history? Part of your fallout? Is it complicated, for you, or simple, or straight up not a part of your life? How do you define betrayal / what qualifies as betrayal to you, and does that line up with what the people in your life consider to be a betrayal? Trends & Patterns, or things that are adjacent so damn much it feels like their should be?

Friday 😎
Betrayal…it’s complicated.

I’m for doing anything that doesn’t put me in a situation where I can be betrayed because if it can be for me it generally will be. So I trust pretty much no one and therefore can’t be betrayed…in theory. In reality I work toward that goal but as I live in a world that requires social interaction of those in the work force I certainly find it still happens.

I get so angry when it does. I’m likely to cut the person from my life…if I can. However somehow I find family to be the exception to the rule. I’m still working with how I feel about allowing them to be an exception though.

I will say that living your life not letting people close means you live a lonely life. But as anytime I see myself getting anywhere close to someone I want to run the opposite direction, I’d say it’s the way I’m staying.

As far as defining it goes, never thought about it much but I certainly know it when it happens.
I only started to feel betrayal by people when I started recovering.

It had never previously occurred to me that I could expect anything better.

If someone treated me in a way that was disappointing, I used to think that was probably what I deserved, and probably that I should feel gratitude.

Now that I have some standards and expectations about how people should treat me, betrayal happens occasionally. It’s not that I couldn’t be betrayed previously, but when I was, I interpreted that discomfort as (appropriate) self-loathing.

It’s not true that you can’t be betrayed if you don’t trust anyone. You can be, you just aren’t going to recognise it for what it is.
How do you define betrayal
This turns out to be a really good question. "Betrayal" isn't a word I use much and it's not something I've directly thought about much. My take on it? To be "betrayed" by someone, they kind of have to owe you something. Like, it's a step beyond just lying to you or tricking you, because they had some sort of obligation to look out for you, I guess. I'm not sure I think anyone HAS that kind of obligation to me hence, no "betrayal".

I guess it seems like betrayal has to be deliberate. (thinking......) Like "relationship partner wants to make sex tapes and then posts them online after the relationship breaks up". (Which isn't likely to happen to me because I tend to ASSUME "relationship breaks up" and I wouldn't, knowingly, give anyone that kind of ammunition.) So, maybe, in my brain, there's an aspect of betrayal that includes some part of it being my fault because I allowed the other party the ammunition. "Vulnerability" LOL. Something my T used to want to talk about and I didn't. He asked a few times what it meant to me and the first word I thought of was "death". (Which seems like a bit of an overreaction!)

So, I guess "betrayal" is when someone who owes you a level of loyalty turns against you. Or, uses what they know because you trusted them against you.

There IS a cost to never trusting anyone. I think it's reasonable to do a risk/benefit analysis at some point.
I follow the dictionary (M-W) definition of betrayal: "the act or fact of violating the trust or confidence of another"

I recognize betrayal more as an adult than as anything that happened to me as a child. Not sure why, but there you go. For me, I have experienced *deep* betrayal by most of the members of the medical community I've been associated/engaged with. That likely stands out to me because it is the only group of individuals I feel forced to trust. And I absolutely do not anymore.

I don't think of the emotional abuse I endured as betrayal for the most part, except for one particular incident because that betrayal had a major influence on the rest of my life.
individuals I feel forced to trust
This hit a nerve for me, I strongly resonate. I go into fawn overload with medical professionals and even have conscious thoughts along the lines of, “Please don’t f*ck me over, look how I grovel, you will always win,” but unfortunately I do that because I’m conditioned to expect betrayal, and if I fawn then I’m doing everything I can (from a trauma-brain perspective) to manipulate them into at least feeling guilty when they do. I have a butt-load of healing to do in this area but it feels like I’ll be eaten alive if I face it so I avoid it and have meltdowns when they screw me. 🦨
I go into fawn overload with medical professionals and even have conscious thoughts along the lines of, “Please don’t f*ck me over, look how I grovel, you will always win,” but unfortunately I do that because I’m conditioned to expect betrayal, and if I fawn then I’m doing everything I can (from a trauma-brain perspective) to manipulate them into at least feeling guilty when they do.
I used to be like this. Now I am the complete opposite. Because I know they will never feel guilty. The way they behave and treat patients is taught into them, and there are only a very select few who have learned that patients are people too.

Now? I go in with a full agenda, know exactly what I plan to say, what I need, and how I'll respond to their dismissiveness. They don't like it--I've been tagged uncooperative (which basically means "didn't do what I said without questioning it") by many--but I think one of the reasons they are so dismissive is because everyone allows them to get away with it. So, I don't care what they think. And I only go if I absolutely must (and seem to be healthier not going).
betrayal to me is when you expected someone to treat you a certain way and then they don't.
I never felt betrayal for my abuser cause I guess I didn't expect him to treat me a certain way
Featured highly in a lot of traumas - people you should be able to trust who do things to betray that trust.
A friend or relative who should protect a child.
A medical professional/professionals entrusted to care for you when you can not care for yourself.
A superior officer, boss, official, police person, entrusted to look out for others safety.

Any number of people you place trust in to protect, care for, ensure the safety of other people who don't - whether intentionally or otherwise, can betray that trust.
It could also be a friend, lover, SO, BFF, or someone else you have placed trust in to "have your back" who doesn't.
Or.....not telling the truth or lying can be betrayal as well. (two different things there......lying is active....not telling the truth is lying by omitting the truth)

Or all of the above or a combination of the above stacking up to be parts of major betrayal.

I think betrayal features highly in many many traumas - probably almost every case of complex trauma features betrayal in some way. Either in multiple incidents where someone lied, didn't tell the truth or didn't stop what they knew was happening.
It's a word that my therapist uses very often but that I really have no familiarity with. It's not a description I'm prone to using even when other people are talking. Perhaps it's a result of the fact that I don't form trust bonds with others, but I very much don't understand betrayal as there is only ever a likelihood that someone won't hurt you, not a certainty.

I used to describe myself as disloyal precisely because I don't unconditionally bind myself to people or causes, and because loyalty and blind obedience featured heavily in my abuse and resulted in significant moral injury to me once I overcame that indoctrination to my "group." I have a more militant mindset so I actively am careful not to get sucked into traps like this.

Now I think it's possible to keep your word provided you set clear expectations. I will keep a promise unless keeping it means causing more harm, in which case my word really means as much as anyone else's. (That is, it's likely I'll keep it but it's not certain.)
For me I think betrayal is when someone takes something from you which costs you dearly, which isn't theirs to take, for that person's own gain. It can come from a deliberate action with conscious intent e.g revenge in some way. Or it can come from inaction with perhaps less intent to harm but still with awareness that their behaviour can take something from you e.g ignoring you and cutting off emotionally in your marriage for years. I think also there's an element of their being some prior understanding about the level to which you should be able to trust that person (can be consciously discussed - business partners for example - or just assumed e.g child - parent relationship).
people you should be able to trust
This is something I find complicated. Who "should" I be able to trust? It kind of seems it's not a good idea to make assumptions. There is no "should". People even prove to be trustworthy or they don't. But there can be a pretty steep learning curve there...... So trust no one? These days, I think whether or not I trust someone depends on what the cost is going to be if I'm wrong. If the cost isn't too high, I'll take the chance. If it cost more than I'm willing to pay, not going there.
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