Motivation and emotion/Book/2018/Betrayal and emotion
What are the emotional effects of betrayal and what can be done about it?
Betrayal is the act of being harmed, physically or mentally either by intention or omission by a trusted person. This chapter discusses various categories of betrayal, attempts to define emotion, and examines the emotional effects caused by betrayal. The word "emotion" covers a vast range of conceptual ideas and theories which all attempt to define its concept. It is unlikely that a single definition for emotion will be forthcoming due to the literature world being unable to agree. Consensus would suggest that emotions are both a higher level of cognition which is innate, or comes from a past learnt experiences. It is also known that betrayal is a catalyst for the release of emotions, and that emotions can have long lasting consequences. Every individual is unique and demonstrates their own variance of emotions to any given scenario of betrayal. Yet it would appear that all individuals are "hard wired" to know which emotions to display for any particular situation.
What is betrayal?
From the time individuals reach the beginning of adolescence, it becomes instinctive to want to form a relationship with other individuals. According to Maslow(Lester, 2013) after obtaining the first two stages of needs, (physical and safety), it is essential to attempt to fill the needs of belongingness and intimate relationships. It has long been found that a healthy relationship can promote both physical and psychological well-being. (Lester, 2013) For a healthy relationship to be formed it is necessary for both individuals to invest themselves and commit to each other. This is highly dependent upon trust from both sides, as without trust there cannot be a genuine commitment nor a healthy relationship. A lack of trust within a relationship can ultimately lead to betrayal and bring about emotional upheaval. This chapter looks at the emotional impacts of betrayal and how it might best be overcome.
Betrayal is defined as the sense of being harmed by the omission or intentional actions of an individual who is viewed as a trusted person. (Rachman 2010)This could be a partner, relative, or even a colleague. Betrayal can result in a myriad of emotions ranging from anger and rage, through to denial and avoidance. The degree to which physical and/or psychological harm is experienced depends upon the extent of betrayal, and the way in which an individual interprets the betrayal. Betrayal can have particularly toxic effects on an individual’s mental health and in certain cases can ultimately leave a permanent psychological mark upon an individual. Some such effects include the victim becoming highly guarded, wary and unable to invest the same level of trust in someone again. Trust and self-disclosure are the main features on which relationships are built; thus, a harmful interaction between trust and betrayal can lead to stress, anger, negative thoughts, feelings of loss, shock, low self-esteem, lack of confidence and self-doubt (Rachman, 2010).
Betrayal trauma occurs as a result of a traumatic betrayal, such as childhood sexual abuse.(Lindblom & Gray, 2010)Betrayal Trauma Theory (BTT) suggests that an individual can develop amnesia from their experience of betrayal because awareness of the betrayal could impede their survival by disrupting their attachment to the one who betrayed them . This can lead to long-term negative consequences for the individual’s mental well-being (Whitbourne, 2012). The major categories betrayal falls into include: disloyalty, dishonesty, infidelity, disclosure of confidential and sensitive information, and failure to assist during a significant time. (Rachman, 2010) Betrayal in close relationships is more painful and unexpected for the victim, making it harder to overcome and often leaving a longer-lasting consequence .
Types of betrayal
The most common types of betrayal fall into five unique categories: disloyalty, dishonesty, infidelity, disclosure of harmful confidential and sensitive information, and failure to assist during a significant time. Studies show that in many cases more than one type of betrayal can occur, often a mixture of some of the common categories. Each category has a different degree to which they are likely to affect an individual. The extent of the ramifications felt by the victim is determined by the significance of the relationship and the severity of the damage caused (Rachman, 2010).
The opposite of loyalty, which is the honouring of a social and moral contract of commitment toward a group or an individual. Loyalty requires the maintenance and action of moral standards to live up to the expectations of the individual/s to whom you are loyal. It creates a cause for trust, thus disloyalty breaches that trust (Paquet, 2010; Hildreth & Anderson, 2018; McKercher, Denizci-Guillet, & Ng, 2012).
The use of fraud and/or deceptive statements to act in an untruthful manner. This is the opposite of honesty, which is defined as the use of truthfulness and fairness in one’s actions and speech. Dishonesty toward someone with whom one has a close relationship results in a breach of trust. (Shu & Gino, 2012; Ahearne, 2011)
There is a wide range of definitions of infidelity, all encompassing some element of sexual and/or emotional betrayal toward an individual with whom one is in a committed relationship. Moller and Vossler (2014) state that 3 common classifications of infidelity include "infidelity as sexual intercourse", "infidelity as extradyadic sexual activities" and "infidelity as emotional betrayal".
Disclosure of confidential and sensitive information
This is a common method by which trust can be breached. Norona et al. (2017) states that mistrustfulness and ultimately the feeling of betrayal can occur in a relationship due to harmful gossip or disclosure of sensitive information.
Failure to assist during a significant time
Is another significant way betrayal can occur. Relationships depend on commitment, especially commitment to help and support each other during difficult events. A relationship can be damaged, and betrayal can be felt when an individual does not uphold this unspoken commitment during a significant time (Rachman, 2010).
What is emotion?
The word “emotion” can be understood and interpreted by almost everyone, however when asked to give a definition to this word, most people will flounder when trying to put words to what they already understand. This is hardly surprising when no consensus can be met within the literature community in finding a definition that is generally agreed upon. This word is often taken for granted by the community at large and when presented to give a definition, is often met with words that are products of emotion such as fear, anger, sadness and ambivalence. Thus, there is no clear and succinct definition available to answer the question ‘what is emotion?’. However, research found that “motivational states can be compared to each other by means of a common currency” (Cabanac, 2002).
According to Dantzer (1989), emotions can no longer be defined as simply cognitive function but should now be viewed as a product of mental representation of emotional experience including motor, visceral and cognitive functions. In contrast to this, Schachter & Singer (1962) give a definition to emotions as a state of physiological arousal and cognition appropriation to this state of arousal: In other words, a feeling that matches the physical scenario, i.e. a cognitive feeling of fear when physically presented with a fearful situation, or a cognitive feeling of sadness while faced with a physical and relevant scenario.
Both definitions have a commonality with each other, as they both explain that emotion is a state of mind, even when there are somatic signals. Although emotion is not something that is tangible, it is however known to be an aspect of mental process and is controlled by cognition.
At this juncture it can be established that there is great difficulty in establishing a sound definition for emotion, even though most people think that they understand what it is. As mentioned, most definitions attempt to use similes, or products of emotions such as happiness or fear to define emotion. Griffiths, (1997) believes that emotion comes from a complex higher cognitive function. This would give credence to the concept that physical situation needs to be met by a higher level of cognition that would give a "state of mind" that correlates to that situation. This is why some of the higher levels of cognition are learnt, and others, can be innate 'knee jerk' reactions. Thus a person who is met with bereavement instinctively feels sad; a person who discovers that they have won the lottery feels excitement and joy, and why a bank teller who is in a hold up feels fear and terror.
What types of emotional effects can arise from betrayal
Betrayal, in all its forms can elicit a myriad of emotions. As previously mentioned, betrayal is the physical and psychological manifestation of being harmed by a trusted person, by way of intentional or unintentional actions. Betrayal can range in its intensity from what can be determined as relatively mild, such as a friend who inadvertently discloses a personal secret, through infidelity to the far more severe trauma of childhood sexual abuse. Most acts of betrayal usually come as a shock which tends to elicit deeper emotions. Emotional effects from betrayal often range in its intensity. This is dependent upon the level of betrayal, the vulnerability of the person being betrayed, and the level of psychological sensitivity of the individual. Some individuals may express little emotion when confronted by a high level of betrayal. Conversely, some other individuals may seem to ‘over-react’ to what many may believe to be a trivial act. The reasons from this disparity may be due to either the individuals higher cognitive functioning, or from past experiences. A woman who has been in previous relationships that have ended badly due to infidelity will most likely become more guarded, and not be too surprised when and if it happens again. Alternatively, an individual might express high levels of rage and catastosise what might be a menial situation.
Emotional effects can be described in a plethora of ways including: Shock, loss, grief, low self-esteem and more. However most of these emotional effects are short-term such as joy and surprise. There are though, many more sinister and toxic emotional effects that can manifest, these can include,sadness leading to depression, happiness leading to manic, and even fear leading to phobias. Often, the emotional effects which come from betrayal need to be monitored by a health professional, because, if left unchecked can result in permanent turmoil
Are all emotions similar or unique to each individual?
As mentioned above, betrayal can cause a mixed set of emotions, these emotions can range from fear, sadness, guilt and even shame. While there is a lot of commonality in responses to betrayal between victims depending on the betrayal type and magnitude, unpredictable variations can occur resulting in unique responses between each individual. These emotional responses can vary in different individuals depending on factors which include;an individual’s past experiences, the levels of intensity (high – low) of betrayal, gender and an individual’s personality . These factors can make a huge difference in emotional reactions due to an act of betrayal, thus generally there are often similar elements between betrayal victims but overall reactions to betrayal will vary from subject to subject.
Rachman (2010) explains the case study of a 28-year-old male who experienced betrayal after a close personal friend failed to assist him while he was enduring an emotionally difficult court case. The male was accused of harassing and acting threateningly toward a younger woman. After the case was settled, the male was reported feeling distressed and withdrawn due to the “unwillingness of his friend” to help him during the court case. This study shows a direct example of a unique emotional reaction resulting from a betrayal in a high intensity situation. In another case study a girl who suffered betrayal from her mother reported a different reaction. Grabbe, Ball & Hall (2016) describe how the girl experienced betrayal due to neglect from her mother. While the girl was being physically abused by her boyfriend her mother was unwilling to help, however the girl primarily reported low self-esteem rather than feeling distressed and withdrawn. (Grabbe, Ball & Hall, 2016)This highlights the variation that can occur between individuals’ responses.
How to overcome the emotional effects of betrayal
Betrayal can have a life-long impact. Some effects of betrayal include emotional effects such as shock, anger or grief; damaged self-esteem; and anxiety related disorders such as OCD and PTSD (Rachman, 2010). This can affect many aspects of an individual’s life, one such example is school performance. Grabbe, Ball & Hall, (2016) explain that as a result of childhood sexual abuse, many victims present learning difficulties and behavioural disorders. Treatment of the independent disorders that present themselves may be used, however it is postulated that more effective treatments could include low intensity programs and/or therapy aimed at improving well-being by targeting factors such as behavioural, interpersonal, cognitive or social, etc.
The Community Resiliency Model (CRM) is a proposed program that does not rely on pathological solutions, and instead uses self-mental wellness care. It is noted that this program is particularly useful for people who present with emotion dysregulation (a common symptom of betrayal) and trauma (such as betrayal trauma). In cases of familial betrayal, family intervention is a necessary method to overcome the effect of betrayal. As positive, nurturing familial interactions are an important part of trust, family intervention can assist in the recovery from betrayal trauma . Large scale societal change is also a proposed approach to assisting victims to overcome betrayal trauma, however it is acknowledged that this is likely a lengthy process requiring a change in societal attitudes and engagement from policy makers . Shame and self-blame are common in betrayal victims, societal change is a possible solution to assist in recovery of betrayal victims. (Grabbe, Ball & Hall, 2016)
Test your knowledge!
In conclusion, betrayal is a catalyst for the release of emotions, and that emotions can have long lasting, and toxic consequences to the victim. Betrayal is a devastating event that most people have experienced to some degree within their lives. Whether it be a childhood friend who reveals an inner most secret, through to a more sinister betrayal of infidelity, it leaves a trail of emotions in its wake. Some people may tend to simple'learn from their experience' and move on, while others may dwell and fester and have difficulty in moving on. In all scenarios, each individual would display emotions which become a learnt experience and become guarded so as not to be hurt again, while others may continue to allow this to happen to them, over and over again . Depending upon how individuals react from their experiences and emotions will determine what effects these emotions will have on theirs future lives .
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- Bereavement and emotion (Book chapter, 2018)
- Betrayal (Wikipedia)
- Betrayal motivation (Book chapter, 2017)