I have been offering guidance and intuitive counseling for 40 years—through which I have seen and experienced enormous suffering and pain—and I find “emotional” suffering to be perhaps the thorniest problem. Emotional suffering or pain of the heart can occur for many reasons: There is the pain and grief of losing a loved one, the sting of being fired (often without good reason), and the damage of abandonment or mistreatment from family.
I think, though, that the anguish and distress we encounter after romantic betrayal is often the most upsetting. Almost everyone has been forced to confront the pain of romantic betrayal (and you are blessed if you haven’t!). There are, of course, varying degrees of this pain—sometimes shocking, sometimes tormenting—but losing a spouse who has left you for your best friend or someone “better looking” or with more money can be understandably devastating. Finding ways to help people overcome the pain that comes from this type of betrayal has been a major focus of my career.
Over many years, I have developed what I call a “spiritual thesaurus,” because there are words that have one meaning in day-to-day life that take on completely different meanings after a spiritual awakening—and remarkably different meanings after an emotional betrayal.
Early in my career, I worked with a client whose family had brought her to me because she had tried to commit suicide. The women’s self-esteem was very low; she had been in an abusive relationship with an alcoholic husband for many years and she finally tried to kill herself after coming home one day and finding her husband with another woman. I met with her and offered the best counsel I could, but this was when I had first started my practice and I was ill-prepared. What could I do to help?
I have never been afraid to ask God questions. I felt a great sadness for my client. I started thinking about all of the good people I had met who had been hurt by rejection—including me! I asked God: “Why do good people have to feel the worst feeling in the world—the feeling that comes from betrayal?” I closed my eyes and meditated. When I was relaxed I started seeing the word “rejection” scrambled with the word “protection”; I saw the word reject turn into the word protect—and I saw the words: “When my children are not wise or strong enough to make the right decisions for themselves, I set up a rejection as a form of protection.”
Boom! It all made sense to me! You don’t feel good if you go to a bank in an attempt to secure a loan and can’t get one, but you probably couldn’t have afforded the loan—or hard financial times were on the way—and you would have ended in deeper trouble. You were, therefore, being protected. You may be hurt if you are turned down when you apply for a certain job, but it may be that that the job would have destroyed you—and you may have missed the perfect job waiting for you just down the road. And if you love someone and they don’t love you back or they do something to hurt you—if they betray you—then you are being protected—and not rejected.
Of course, a fresh rejection or betrayal can sting, and emotions have to dissipate before you can think clearly and decisively, but after some time passes many people can incorporate into their lives the wisdom that comes from rejection. The only healthy way to accept betrayal is to understand that we are being protected—and not rejected.
THE ART OF ACCEPTANCE
How can we heal from betrayal? The old saying, “time heals all wounds,” is true, but when the hurt is new this means nothing. “Acceptance” doesn’t mean trying to force people to think differently and be anything other than who they are. Suffering comes from one emotion: wanting something to be different than it is or wanting people to be someone they are not. The goal is to find well-being through balance. Buddhists refer to this as tatramajjhattata. Tantra means “there,” majjha means “middle,” and tata means “to stand or to pose”; together the word means “to stand in the middle of all this”—and the point is to find equanimity. Locally, we might say, “sometimes it just ain’t”—and I am suggesting the best thing to do is to surrender to the truth.
Jesus taught this in the parables better than any modern-day psychologist by teaching us about the process of forgiveness. Indeed, The Lord’s Prayer focuses on our willingness to forgive (“As we forgive them that trespass against us”). The Ancient Greeks believed “salvation” was dependant on “right thinking”—and “right thinking” or forgiveness is the quickest way out of the pain of betrayal.
Of course this isn’t easy, but the very desire to forgive keeps the process moving. It may sound counterintuitive, but calling upon the emotion of anger, a byproduct of betrayal, can sometimes be useful. In fact, I often teach my clients about non-violent anger. If you are in an abusive situation, feeling angry about it can make you so sick of the situation that you remove yourself from the relationship! This is healthy—because if the anger turns to bitterness, the bitterness can kill you.
There are three types of forgiveness. The first I call “no-cost forgiveness.” Here, we don’t require the offender to pay any price. We say “yes” and mean “no.” We draw boundaries and then ignore them. We feel sorry for someone—and then swallow our emotions. No-cost forgiveness is a cheap forgiveness and offers no peace. Eventually, something goes wrong, we are walked on—and we might even get sick.
The second type of forgiveness occurs when someone offers a sincere and heartfelt apology—and this is the great healer. When the apologizer is genuine, and he or she can and will change behavior, this is ideal. Sometimes, however, this isn’t practical. You cannot receive a real apology from someone who isn’t willing to own up to his or her offenses. For example, you can’t receive an apology from an addict who is not in recovery—and feeling anger about not receiving an apology from an addict is akin to hating moss because it grows on a tree.
The third type of forgiveness is what I call “The God Way.” When you are no longer willing or able to swallow everything, and when you cannot get an authentic apology, you go The God Way. Here, you honor all of the hurt, and you accept that you cannot change your story—you can only use your story. This is why many famous people who have been hurt emotionally can often be so helpful to others, because they use their story by channeling the injustice and anger they feel in order to change history! The God Way allows you to forgive without the participation of anyone else. You surrender and, metaphorically, hand over your sword to God.
Perhaps you are one of those rare people in today’s world who is obsessed with fairness—but, try as you might to be fair, the unfairness of a situation compels you to hang on to anger. Consider that fairness is not in God’s DNA. For example, God allowed disease into the world almost from Day One. That said, it is very important to note that God has never given cancer or disease to anyone. And is it fair that I have seen saints suffer horrible deaths after clinging to life for months on a respirator, while sinners who have never spent a moment in church or prayer live through cancer and return to day-to-day life as healthy as ever?
We know that God isn’t sitting somewhere in the sky playing chess with our lives. (He would have to have shoes and knees—and fingers to move the chess pieces!) I believe God gave free will to the world—and people without a conscience will always hurt people who act fairly and honestly. But unfairness and dishonesty isn’t in God’s DNA either! God’s DNA includes karma, justice, and righteousness. God set the laws of being; people hurt themselves. Remember that if you touch an open wire you may hurt or even kill yourself. If you hurt enough people, by God’s laws you will eventually destroy yourself. God doesn’t force you to hurt yourself or to hurt others; we all do what we do on our own.
I have heard people who have been treated shabbily say, “Why is it that the person who hurt me seems to have such a good life and I always seem to struggle?” I always answer: “The movie isn’t over. Just stay tuned.” Good will come to those who are kind and honest through life. For those who are unkind and dishonest: You will eventually end in a shipwreck. It is simply the Law of Being.
Remember, too, that we are told in the Bible that God wove us in the womb, made us human, and knows us by name. I believe that to be true and I also believe that God placed in each of us some legitimate dreams, hopes, and aspirations with which we come into the world. I have never met anyone who came into the world dreaming of being poor or ugly. No one looks at a baby and sees a drug addict or a serial killer. We see our babies attending Harvard or accomplishing greatness. We never expect to bury our children or to be betrayed by our parents. We say our wedding vows and we mean them; no one marries to get divorced. And yet: sometimes we satisfy our dreams—and sometimes we don’t.
When hope is dashed or our dreams don’t come true, we must forgive. If we don’t forgive, sadness and disappointment stays with you and holds you back from new hopes and dreams. We all need new dreams—but you must let go of the old dreams in order to be renewed.
It is my hope that everyone can pardon the past and learn that when something is over, such as a marriage or a relationship, it is really over. You did the best you could at the time—there is no right or wrong, good or bad. All we have is the here and now—and we must embrace this time.
Bobby Drinnon receives no compensation for his on-going series in Cityview. It is his hope that readers will find something in these articles to help bring them peace.