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Dealing with Betrayal

By on January 29, 2017

Something happened recently that prompted my friends to ask if I felt betrayed. I said, “It’s not the story I want to tell.” I knew that if I started telling that story, I would feel unpopular, powerless, paranoid, and self-loathing– so I decided not to do it!

Instead, I reviewed The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz, a book well-known for its spiritual wisdom. It helped me change my perspective on the situation. And, it turns out that each of the four agreements is an effective coping strategy supported by psychological research. These strategies can be applied to a wide range of scenarios. Whether you feel betrayed by your best friend, a lover, your boss, or a political leader, try these four strategies to tell a better story.

The Four Agreements Backed by Research


1. Be kind with your words

Research on spontaneous trait transference shows that when we speak disparagingly about some else, the person listening to us is more likely to attribute those negative qualities to US rather than the person we were originally complaining about. So for example, if you are gossiping that someone is a narcissist, the people whom you’re telling will be more likely to think YOU’RE a narcissist when they recall the conversation! Speaking kindly about yourself and others lays the groundwork for future trustworthy relationships.

2. Don’t take it personally

Research on the ego-centric bias in memory shows that we tend to see ourselves as more important and relevant to events than we actually are. Initially it might be crushing to realize you’re not the most important player in the turn of events. But eventually it may feel quite liberating to know that you aren’t responsible for everything bad that happens. People are motivated by a wide array of factors that have nothing to do with you.

3. Don’t make assumptions about others

Believing you know other people’s motives and intentions for doing what they did can lead to a lot of trouble! Without actually asking the people involved, we can spin a variety of stories – that have nothing to do with the actual situation – but much more to do with our own negative views of the world and the people in it. If at all possible, ASK what people’s intentions are and keep the communication open. If we start believing other people are out to cause us harm as a default assumption, it can lead to a self-fulfilling prophesy.

4. Know that you did your best

When something unexpected happens, we can easily go into woulda coulda shoulda mode – believing if only you hadn’t of said that thing or had done it differently, it wouldn’t have happened. Research on the hindsight bias shows that we often believe that we have more control over events that we really do. We tend to ruminate on the details of conversations and actions that we believe led up to the event. The hindsight bias shows that we objectively could not have known what was going to transpire, so thinking we should have known can be a source of unnecessary suffering. Remember you did your best at the time, note what you learned, then cut yourself a break, and look to future opportunities.



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