HOW to foRgive a betrayal
This is writing exercise. Write stream of consciousness, quickly, without thinking.
1. Write out the story details of the betrayal from your point of view. Don’t worry about perspective. This is about your experience. How it felt to you.
2. Write out all your judgments and blame. Direct it at the person. “How dare you do this to me!” “You’re a terrible human being!” “You’re a liar!” etc. Go all the way into it. Get it all out.
3. See if you can find the part of you that wants to punish them for what they did. How do you want to punish them? Be specific. It may be as simple as pulling away. (Withdrawal is a form of punishment). Or you may have fantasies about wanting to hurt them, emotionally and physically. Don’t be afraid of letting it get dark. These are the unconscious thoughts you want to discover and own. We all have them. They are defensive responses to traumatic experiences and the unprocessed pain around it.
4. You might need to take a break, go for walk — you may even need a few days — but when you’re ready, see if you can let go of the judgment, anger, and blame, and just write about how it hurt, the pain of it. Write to the person. The Language you use here is important. For example, “You hurt me”, even if it’s true, still has a quality of blame. Use simple statements like, “It hurt”, or “It was a painful experience for me.” Go slow and feel into it. Image yourself standing in front the person who hurt you, open and vulnerable. Let them see your pain. If any judgment or anger comes, including self-judgment, try to let it go and return to the pure feeling of hurt. You’re trying to take full ownership of your pain, separate from the story of what happened.
5. Now see if you can identify a moment leading up to the betrayal that you held back saying something. Was there a thought or impulse you ignored? A faint signal you did not listen to? Did you stop yourself from saying or doing something in a moment? In my experience, we are rarely betrayed without first betraying ourselves. In those moments we co-create the event, set it in motion. Seeing this requires a willingness to let go of any place we still hold onto being a victim. This is full self-responsibility, and it will set you free.
6. “Why did I betray myself?” What did you imagine might happen if you didn’t hold back? What would you have lost? Where did you learn to hold back that impulse? Feel into your history and see if you can make a connection. All children betray themselves to stay in connection with their caregivers. We shape ourselves to fit what our environment demands from us. See if you can discover the pattern you learned as a child and how you play it out as an adult.
7. Take an inventory of all the ways you’ve betrayed yourself throughout your life. Then FORGIVE YOURSELF. Know that self-betrayal was a learned behavior, a survival strategy. You had no choice. It became your unconscious way of being, and then you went out into the world and recreated it. Have compassion for that child and for the adult you are now. Accept, embrace, and love your humanity. Write about it.
Once you forgive yourself, forgiveness of the other is automatic and effortless. You’ll begin to see that the world is just a mirror for your internal state and that nothing happens to you that you do not, in fact, co-create. We do this so we can see it, so we have the chance to work it out, resolve it, grow. The people we attract who cause us pain are giving us a gift. Can you find the gratitude in that? Can you love them for what they taught you?