Sunday, November 9, 2008

Self-Betrayal

"Betrayal of yourself in order not to betray another is betrayal nonetheless. It is the highest betrayal." Neale Donald Walsch.

I came across this quote recently and it is refusing to let go of me. It seems almost revolutionary in its possible ramifications. And it clearly points its finger at me and says, "J'accuse." I used to hold several semi-professional titles in the field of self-betrayal and only in the last few years have I attempted to call a halt to it. I don't even want to retain an amateur status. I sacrificed my voice throughout my life in the mistaken notion that I was making others happy. I never made waves, tried to help all and sundry, and forgot that I had any obligations to myself. I betrayed myself on a daily basis throughout my marriage not realizing that this betrayal also betrayed those I had hoped to protect.

Our society has a vested interest in promoting self-betrayal. Naturally, it appears under different labels and guises, but it is valued nonetheless. From the time we are very small, we are expected to mask what we think and feel, especially if it doesn't conform to acceptable norms. Children may not feel angry at adults regardless the provocation and, I believe, this leads to adults feeling unable to express dissatisfaction with figures of authority. It is a direct line from being seen but not heard to swallowing all manner of unacceptable abuse and neglect from anyone to whom one feels obligated. We enshrine the "good girl" who never makes waves, who goes along and smiles, no matter how loudly she is screaming for release inside her own spirit. As long as the surface looks good, the reality is of little importance.

Betrayal is a harsh arena and certainly not an action to be entered into lightly where others are concerned. But the betrayal of oneself is even more insidious and results in still deeper betrayals of others, even if they never know anything about it. By repressing our own needs, our own wants, our very identities in the misguided notion that we are protecting another, we have already betrayed them by withholding our true selves. The person they think they are with doesn't exist and we give life to a lie.

Of course, refusing to betray one's self comes with consequences. Conformity in society, in the work place and in our personal lives is rewarded. The rewards for being true to your self are less widespread and frequently only present internally. This seems backwards to me. Obviously, on the surface, people/society find self-actualization and expression to be a dangerous and unpredictable commodity. And, if one is going against the tide of societal expectations favoring conformity, I suppose it is. However, what if, what if everyone lived out of a sense of who they truly are without wondering if they are fitting the expectations of others regarding their roles and positions in society? What if everyone lived from a place of deep self-knowledge and personal integrity? Wouldn't that lead to a refreshing sense of predictability? We would know what to expect from each other because our behavior would flow from our core; our external self would match our internal self. And maybe, just maybe, we could truly know and trust each other.

3 comments:

Denise said...

Betraying ourselves seems to be demanded and developed mainly in women from childhood.

Knitman said...

I am going to link to this post from my blog. It is excellent. I have to disagree with your first commenter-it isn't a gender thing-it happens to us all. Men are taught to not be themselves just the same as women.

LizzieK8 said...

And when one stops the self betraying the consequences may almost make it not worth it.... It's such a hard thing to call.

Nonetheless, what you say is true. So how do we teach our children to not betray themselves?