Recently, I was chatting with a close friend about the powerful impact of betrayal, hurt and abandonment and the many ways it affects a person’s life and their identity.
I found myself talking about the “victim frame of mind” that, at times, I have needed to avoid slipping into during my own experience with betrayal. It is so natural to slip into and is completely understandable when you feel as though the one you love has chewed you up and spat you out and when you have witnessed such cruelty from them. It is also a result of feeling so powerless when someone has played roulette with your heart, your life and everything you hold dear.
It’s something that has been on my mind a great deal lately. As time is moving on, I find myself being a little more careful in my conversations with others, not to over-share when discussing my experiences, not to become that person. The person who lets this awful experience of betrayal come to totally shroud and define her.
The word “victim” it is defined as, “a person harmed, injured, or killed as a result of a crime, accident, or other event or action.” It may also be defined as “a person who is tricked or duped.” And when you unpack the word further it can also refer to, “a person who has come to feel helpless and passive in the face of misfortune or ill-treatment.”
I have suffered greatly as a result of my husband’s actions. I was deceived, and cheated by my husband’s betrayal. I was a victim of my husband’s choices and behaviours. However, I have also become aware that when I focus too much on the cruelty and hurt that I experienced during my divorce, it can take me back to a powerless state of mind. Putting myself back in the place that I was in at the height of my husband’s destruction, how I felt; weak, vulnerable, utterly powerless to stop his destruction of me. It makes me feel uneasy and displaced. It makes me feel helpless. Passive. Sometimes I whirl around in the place for hours or days, sometimes weeks.
It takes an active effort, on my part, to snap out of it. I have to remind myself, “his behaviour didn’t end you; his behaviour was the beginning of you.”
Deep inside, I know I can’t and won’t, downplay or excuse the hateful behaviour of my ex-husband and the devastating impact that it has had on my life. It feels like this massive gouge in the timeline of my life, that I will never be able to think about without my mouth becoming dry or my stomach churning. This battle often plays out in my mind. The battle between embracing moving on in my new identity of overcomer and being back in that place of powerlessness. Sometimes acting strong and moving on almost feels like a betrayal to the level of hurt I experienced.
Sometimes people see me, how well I look now, how strong I am when I talk and they comment on how well I’m doing in overcoming. Two thoughts can flit through my mind when I hear this; sheer relief that others are seeing my healing and yet worry that it’s a false testament to the love I really did feel for my ex-husband and the loss I have experienced, the injustice I had felt. It’s a very strange mixture of feelings and I’m sure so many of you reading this can relate.
However, I have gotten to a point where I have decided to reframe the way I see myself in this situation, not as a victim but rather as an escapee. I escaped dishonesty, I escaped disloyalty, I escaped additional pain and cruelty from someone who didn’t love me the way I should have been loved. I escaped a future with someone who would treat me like that.
It’s such a fine line I walk in my mind and I can tip either way, depending on the day. Victim? Or, escapee?
My friend related what we were speaking about to a quote by Joyce Meyer, “You can be pitiful or you can be powerful, you can’t be both.”
I had never heard this quote before but it struck me powerfully. It reinforced everything I know I feel in my heart. How can I be strong when I am telling myself I am weak? How can I be victorious when I feel like a loser, like he won? How can I heal when I believe I am forever damaged?
As human’s, our feelings can dictate so much of our identity. It puts me in mind of a Dolly Parton song, “Eagle, When She Flies” and the lyrics, “she’s a sparrow when she’s broken but she’s an eagle when she flies.” We can become the embodiment of our experiences, our wins and our losses, our joy and our pain.
Those that know me well, know I am quite a sensitive soul. I love deeply, I’m very family oriented and would truly rather myself get hurt before hurting another. By nature I am soft rather than tough, easy going rather than forthright and timid rather than ‘ballsy.’ My nature at times can mean I sink (even momentarily) into that passive state of mind. Where I’m on the ground and can’t get up, each hurtful realisation of the betrayal pushing me back down, each memory of his hateful words pinning me to the ground.
It’s in those moments, that luckily the escapee within me kicks in and I quickly realise how uneasy and powerless I feel in that state of mind and I know that I need to “get up off the ground.”
This man took so much from me, his actions forever changed my life and who I am. That kind of hurt will surely lay heavy on my heart but do I let it shape it? So much was stolen from me but do I freely hand him over my future as well?
Victim? No, escapee.
I know what a sensitive thing this is to write about as so many truly are victims. Victims of abuse, of crime and hate. I am talking about a state of mind but please don’t underestimate how powerful this state of mind can be. How it can trip you up and keep you feeling stuck, weak and wounded. God wants us to understand we are whole, which is something we may struggle with when we feel someone ripped us apart and has stolen pieces of us that we can never reclaim.
It has taken time for me to understand this and I have had to go through the very natural and very healthy stages of hurt and loss to reach the point of stepping into a different frame of mind.
When I did step into it, I saw my life start to change and the benefits to my mental and physical health .
I am beginning to understand at this point (which took time) that the victory really is in living again, in letting ourselves be healed and by ripping away the power from the person that hurt us to define our lives going forward. It’s in drawing that line and stopping ourselves from being cloaked in hurt, betrayal and injustice. It’s in shaking off the shackles they placed on us.
This isn’t easy and I’m working at it every day but I know inside I can’t remain on the ground helpless. I have to stand, I have to fight, I have to be free of it.
I know I need to reclaim what was stolen.
Reclaim the peace, the magic, the hope, the innocence, the fight, the expectation, the wonder, the joy, the energy, the confidence. Reclaim me.
I pray that you will know the walking miracle that you are, that you will find strength to understand that you are powerful, that you are the victor. I pray that God gives guidance so you can find the full freedom, wholeness and truth that was always meant to be yours.