I have read and heard the stories of others. I also have and continue to examine my own life story. I have found a common thread amongst all of our stories, no matter the type or length of abuse and oppression. It is that we all have been betraying ourselves. Specifically, it is how I have been betraying myself all these years.
It is a deeper wound, betraying myself than anything else inflicted upon us. With physical wounds, the deeper the wound, the more likely it is to be infected and to fester throughout the years when not addressed. Betraying myself is no different than a physical wound. That wound sits there, rotting and continuing to poison you with lies.
That betrayal wound results from years and years of internalizing the manipulation and gaslighting that I experienced living in a house of abusers. It is also from a society that does not want to admit that community members commit abusive acts. Not only do we (the community) want to distance ourselves from perpetrators, but from the victims as well. Victims of abuse are ostracized just as much, if not more, so than abusers.
There is a psychology term, self-betrayal. I think it is very different from what I am talking about, maybe similar, but I didn’t see much of a similarity. Self-betrayal seems a lot like people-pleasing. Read for yourself and let me know what you think.
“Self-betrayal is a coping mechanism. We learn this conditioning when raised in homes where we have to deny our needs (or our needs aren’t considered) to receive love.
When we betray ourselves, we feel resentment. People generally feel fear of others’ disapproval — society, family, bullies, or just understandable fear of being different and alone.”1
I have had so many people minimize or downright deny my narrative, my story, for years. That happened when I was younger and trying to get help. The seed of doubt began to nestle itself within me, to spread and grow eventually. It is still there, although now it is more like a tree with long and ever-reaching branches. I am just now learning to push my way through those branches.
It all starts with an abuser looking for a victim. The younger you start, the more you can twist that person’s reality because that is how abusers keep control. I was groomed from an early age to doubt myself. They convince you that how you experience their abusive ways is wrong and that you ‘misunderstood’ them.
I remember having to repeat what had occurred to keep it fresh in my mind so that the false narrative wouldn’t replace reality. But over time, my resolve would falter. Maybe I am this innately horrible person? Perhaps I did screw everything up for my mother? It is a twisted reality, one that the victim is trapped within.
Then, Others Betray Us
First, abusers manipulate and gaslight us, making us doubt our sanity. That creates a malleable victim. Abusers also gaslight victims, so when we seek help to get out of the abusive situation, we are hesitant and unsure of our narrative. Others interpret that hesitancy that we are lying. Unfortunately, if you aren’t confident, then others can’t trust you.
I had seen the look of doubt and skepticism so many times when I tried to reach out for help. I sat on an exam chair and told the doctor that my mother hated me. She paused and said, ‘I am sure that your mother doesn’t hate you.’ I hesitated then, unsure of what to say. I think I frowned and reiterated what I had just said. It didn’t help. My hesitancy, my insecurity about my truth lost me the salvation I so needed.
I hesitated because I was so unsure that what was happening to me was happening. That self-doubt crept in and told me that it wasn’t that bad. And that doctor said to me that my mother doesn’t hate me. The doctor, a person in a position of power and authority, told me that I wasn’t right. How could I be? What mother hates their child?
Then, Betraying Myself
I think it was around the time that doctor told me that it isn’t that bad and that, of course, my mother doesn’t hate me that I hunkered down within myself. I felt that no one would help me. And I fought myself internally. I could believe what my mother was telling me every day, or I could fight against it. Everywhere I turned, some doubted me, doubted what I tried to say to them.
I mean, I still had doubts, so I can’t blame others for doubting too. Why would my mother tell me that I am a horrible person if I am not? And that was the beginning of betraying myself. I started to believe those things, especially during those moments that I had to defend myself. I was still living in the abuse and trying to fight it.
As that wound continued to fester, my hatred and anger towards myself intensified. I continued to betray myself for years. I denied myself my truth because I still doubted myself. So is the ‘gift’ that the abusers give to their victims. It is a lifetime of anger, hate, and self-doubt. It is a trifecta of betrayal. First, the abuser betrays a child’s trust, then society betrays that trust, and then, finally beaten, the child betrays herself. I betrayed myself.