Shirah Vollmer MD

The Musings of Dr. Vollmer

More Betrayal

Posted by Dr. Vollmer on June 30, 2010

    Monte, betrayed by Marla,,        Tom, my twenty-four year old patient betrayed by his mother, Christopher, betrayed by his boss,, Teri betrayed by her psychiatrist,, all came to mind as Al described his feelings about his children. Fifty-five years old, three grown children, married for thirty years, Al was relatively content with his life. His oldest son got married a year ago. He and his wife danced at the wedding; “the happiest they have ever been” he says. On Father’s Day, 2009, his wife announced she had a lover, she was leaving him, the kids have known this for the last eighteen months and “they agree it is a good idea” his wife tells him.

     Al came to me with excruciating back pain which followed this news. He was seeing a wise psychologist who felt that since Al had body pain and mind pain, then he needed someone who could work with both. Sure enough, the pain of his separation from his wife exacerbated his underlying pain in his back. Sure enough, as we uncovered the psychological issues, his back pain improved, without medications. Together, Al and I came to understand that although he was upset that his wife left him for another man, the most wounding part was that his kids knew, but they did not tell him; they kept the secret. Al loves his children. He thought he had a great relationship with all of them, but this episode made him seriously question his beliefs. “Why did they not tell me?”  He asked repeatedly. “Why do they not apologize?” He quickly says. The pain in these questions is intense.

    Like Monte, Tom, Christopher and Teri, Al feels that the people he loved, the people he counted on to “watch his back” seriously let him down. An apology could mend the wound, but in all these cases, the apology does not capture the pain inflicted. In Al’s case, the pain was both physical and psychological. Many months later, Al’s kids came around. Each one asked for forgiveness. Al was living alone in the family home. He was working at his job, lonely at night, suffering with chronic back pain,  yet these apologies brightened his mood considerably and diminished his backache. Al feels renewed. He is looking forward to the next chapter in his life. He looks back on his marriage and he now realizes that there was a lot missing. He accepts his divorce; he has understood that for a while. He could not accept his children’s behavior. Fortunately, he does not have to. Al is a new man; up from the despair that he felt when he thought he lost his whole family. Happy ending.

11 Responses to “More Betrayal”

  1. Suzi said

    Betrayal is a bit yucky isn’t it? I’ve been on the giving and receiving end of it… it’s not a difficult thing to do.

    I’m so glad this story has a happy ending. Good for Al!

    It always leaves me shutting down a part of my life to other people. There are times that I feel very lonely even though there are people all around me who care for me very much… it’s obvious they do.

    I hope that Al finds his way. It’s a big walk out of that jungle.

    Cheers… Suzi

    • Shirah said

      Yucky is a great word. Right. Betrayal, as I think about it, is usually a version of selfishness. The offending party is passive; he does not take action to protect his loved one. This omission, rather than comission is what is so painful. Some people are scared to upset the status quo, so they are likely to betray others. One could think of it as a character flaw, rather than a malicious act. Still, it feels so painful it is hard to have sympathy for the betrayor (?word).
      The apology is another point that I want to blog about. The pain of the other needs to be stated. That is also hard for some people to do, especially when they caused it. Still, this is the first step to repair. I am glad that Al’s kids could come forward in this way.
      Loneliness is often a deficit of the “self” meaning that there is a little hole in the ego which needs attention. Sometimes other people can make that feel better, but sometimes one has to invest in life in a new way in order to heal that pain.
      Needless to say, the walk out of the jungle is to and fro. We all manage to meet our predators, even though we try not to be prey. Coping in the jungle is the key.

      Cheers right back at ya!

  2. Shelly said

    What was the psychiatrist’s role in the treatment? How do you treat both the physical and emotional pain?

    • The psychiatrist gave Al a space to look at whether her wife leaving her was the traumatic aspect and/or was it the betrayal from her grown children. The opportunity to reflect on his pain gave him the conclusion that the kids’ behavior hurt more than his wife’s. As Al developed clarity, his physical pain improved. The mind/body connection continues to impress me.

  3. In your article in Psychology Today on Betrayal you talked about revenge and not being passive after discovering one has been betrayed speaks loudly to me.

    Last October I discovered that my sister has been stealing money from my 88 year old mother and me. It has been devastating for me emotionally and financially. To top it off after stealing the money (that she doesn’t need) to pay for trips to Europe, she refuses to help support my mother or take care of her. I live in the USA and my mother and sister live in Mexico. I have to take care of my mother’s care from here (thank goodness for the internet).

    I tried to sue her but it is impossible for legal (I don’t have a written contract with her and anyhow it would be too expensive and difficult for me being so far away) and emotional reasons (my nephews). So I am trapped and unable to act. I wasn’t born to be a victim and it burns me up not to be able to do anything to her and her husband after what they had done to my mother and me.

    Can you please expand on how to deal with the feelings of anger and desire for revenge in a future article?

    I started a bilingual blog ( as a way to deal with the hurt and through the telling of my story alert others to the dangers of trusting somebody blindly as I did. Also I want to provide a forum for others to share their experiences. However, every time she does something outrageous, which she does regularly, I obsess about how to get back at her. Please suggest ways of dealing with these negative feelings.

    • Hi,
      Sorry to hear about your betrayal. Dealing with your negative feelings is a large challenge. At the risk of sounding trite, living well is the best revenge. Not being passive might mean taking an action to make your life better. Take the negative feelings as an impetus for positive change in your life. Easier said than done; I know. Still, as in the martial arts, take the energy you are getting and transform it into a force which enhances, rather than takes away, from your quality of life. Good luck. SV

      • I think you are right. After I wrote to you I realized that if I let her ruin my happiness, then she would have robbed me of something more valuable than money–my life.

        Of course, when I get the bills and have to pay more and more money I get furious, but after a while I come down and keep repeating myself that I cannot let her interfere with who I am. I have always acted the way I think is right and I am going to continue doing so.

        It “ain’t” easy, but I know it is the only way.

        Thanks for your response and for your blog. If you don’t mind I will link my blog to yours. Please let me know if you agree so that I do it immediately.

  4. Adriana said


    This is my first visit to your blog. I have been searching for information on treatment interventions for Betrayal, with very little success. This is my first lead at something helpful.

    I have a young female client, 13 years old, who was raped by a friend; a 12 year old boy she has known since second grade. As far as we have come, she still suffers from feelings of mistrust and especially betrayal.

    I too am surprised to find how little literature there is on betrayal. I’ve read your article in Psychology today. I’m wondering how to help my young client. I find most information related to infidelity betrayal in spouses and couples, but come up empty handed for information on betrayal resulting from friendship rape among young teens. Any thoughts? Thank you.

    • Hi Adriana,
      Welcome to my blog. It is nice to have you. Thank you for your comments. Although I need to become more familiar with Jungian work, I believe that his writing does speak to issues of betrayal. Below is a quote from a book about Jung. You might want to check it out. I will look into it as well. Shirah

      “We can be truly betrayed only where we truly trust-by brothers, lovers, wives, husbands, not by enemies, not by strangers. The greater the love and loyalty, the involvement and commitment, the greater the betrayal. …Wherever there is trust in a union, the risk of betrayal becomes a real possibility. And the betrayal, as a continual possibility to be lived with, belongs to trust just as doubt belongs to a living faith.” Daryl Sharp: Jung Uncorked: Book One

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: