In this week’s Success Newsletter, I would like to explore one of our automatic responses when someone cheats or betrays us: blaming ourselves and thinking “it’s my fault.”
First a quick update:
“Narcissism and “Generation Me”
Listen to my hour-long controversial interview from last year with Professor Jean Twenge from San Diego State University as we discuss and debate narcissism, self-love and self-esteem, here.
Now, let’s talk about cheating, betrayal and self-blame.
From my audio book, “Secrets to Getting Over It”:
“I was once in a relationship where my then girlfriend lied, betrayed, deceived, and cheated on me. Without going into all the details of the relationship, it’s suffice to say that what she did was to cheat on me and do her best to cover it up and to actually lie and deceive me. Unlike the situation with Paul and Jill, where one could argue there were specific triggers, there were no triggers in my situation. There was nothing directly leading to the betrayal which then leaves me wondering why this happened.
At an intellectual level, I understood why this happened. My then girlfriend, we will refer to her as Anna, had low self-esteem, low self-confidence and a poor self-image. She didn’t really like herself, was raised with constant criticism, condemnation and judgment and she was never told by her father that she was beautiful although her sister was often praised by her father as being beautiful. Thus, Anna grew up with low self-esteem, not thinking she’s special, not even believing that she deserved to be treated as well as I did treat her. Anna also didn’t have a very strong structure. She didn’t have a good example from her father so she didn’t have the strong foundation of morals and values. Thus, at an intellectual level it was obvious why Anna did what she did but nonetheless, as a human being, my automatic response was to question myself, to doubt myself and to ask “Did I contribute to this? Am I to blame? Is there something wrong with me?” After all if Anna really loved me, she wouldn’t do this to me. If I were really truly special, Anna wouldn’t do this to me.
And this is where we get caught up.
This is what truly screws us up: when we start to doubt ourselves, when we start to possibly blame ourselves for the other person’s choices, reactions, and responses. So in the case of Anna who’d never been raised with praise, who’d never been told by her father that she was beautiful, she was constantly insecure and she constantly needed validation and reassurance from anyone and everyone even though at the subconscious level she didn’t believe she deserved it.
And yet still I questioned myself “Is there something wrong with me?
In other words, even if I were to have done something that might have led Anna to feel invalidated or not special enough, it still becomes her choice about how she’s going to respond.
When we blame ourselves and we start to think that it’s our fault, we automatically take on guilt and shame. And when we do this, we will start to punish ourselves: Blaming ourselves, feeling guilty and then punishing ourselves and subconsciously preventing ourselves from getting close to anyone else. At that point, we start to feel sad and depressed and even resentful and bitter, not just towards our self but towards the other person.
So what I’m saying to you now is, first ask yourself “Do you in any way feel that you were to blame or that you contributed to the other person’s response, reaction, choices or betrayal? If so, how? What did you do? If you truly did do something that you feel was wrong then we need to get to the level or forgiveness. In my case, I was trying to help, rescue, and change Anna. I believed that if I could just love her enough, I could change her. And so therefore, at some level I also felt that I had failed. Once we create expectations for ourselves and of others, we set up ourselves for disappointment and for harsh condemnation and judgment. I’m not at this point saying that you don’t set standards for yourself and for others; I’m saying that we need to be clear in knowing the difference between standards and expectations; expectations that either you or someone else cannot meet; expectations of perfection or expectations that simply cannot be met.
To further drive home this point, that we are never responsible for other people’s choices or actions, consider what were my choices upon learning that Anna had lied, betrayed, deceived and cheated on me?
My choices were many.
I could have easily found a way to pay her back to hurt her, I could have done many hurtful, vindictive and vengeful things to her, but I chose not to. If I had done something bad, painful, and hurtful to her, one might argue that, “Yes, she deserved it”, but again it’s not her choice about how I respond, it’s my choice and I am solely responsible for my choices and my behavior, regardless of the level of my pain or the level of my hurt. If you can truly understand this then it becomes easier to forgive the other person as well as yourself. You see, something we forget is that in every moment we have choices and yes, Anna had choices in those moments when she could have cheated or not cheated. I had choices in my moments about how I would respond to learning of the news that she had cheated.
How do you now respond to those people who have betrayed you, rejected you, dumped you, abandoned you, or hurt you in some other perceived way?”
From my audio book: “Secrets to Getting Over It” (available next week on my website)
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I wish you the best and remind you “Believe in yourself -You deserve the best!”
Patrick Wanis Ph.D.
Celebrity Life Coach, Human Behavior & Relationship Expert & Clinical Hypnotherapist
Anointed “The Woman Expert” by WGN Chicago, Patrick Wanis PhD is a renowned Celebrity Life Coach, Human Behavior & Relationship Expert who developed SRTT therapy (Subconscious Rapid Transformation Technique) and is teaching it to other practitioners. Wanis’ clientele ranges from celebrities and CEOs to housewives and teenagers. CNN, BBC, FOX News, MSNBC & major news outlets worldwide consult Wanis for his expert insights and analysis on sexuality, human behavior and women’s issues. Wanis is the first person ever to do hypnotherapy on national TV – on the Montel Williams show.