Is there anything worse than betrayal? To trust someone with your heart, your soul, your children, your money or your well-being and your life? Only to find out that they took or destroyed something that you valued. When this happened, how did you feel? Did you feel anger at the person who betrayed you? Or did you feel anger at yourself for allowing the betrayal to happen? For trusting the wrong person and allowing yourself to be vulnerable.
You probably felt a lot of anger, but when you’ve been duped, you may feel angrier at yourself.
Why do you feel angry at yourself? And why has the general public always felt the need to exonerate the duper and make the dupee prove they have been duped, which makes things even worse?
That doesn’t happen all of the time, but it happens more often than not if the person who had the wool pulled over their eyes by the wolf in sheep’s clothing is an able-bodied adult person.
I flat out hated myself for being so stupid in the fall-out of being let go from my job at the diocese. But here’s the thing…I got pulled in emotionally with my boss. I wanted the love bombing he had given to me back. I wanted my boss’ approval. I wanted to feel special. I didn’t want to be tossed aside and left in a pile of the broken pathetic women who had gone before me who had not pleased him. I wanted him to believe that I was “the one” who stood out from the rest. I wanted to believe that. I did believe that…for awhile. I wanted our secret “love” to be passionate and I wanted to be continuously filled with the emotional high that I once felt when he smiled at me like we were the only two people in the world.
But I also felt conflicted. That pesky voice inside of me kept trying to pry open my eyes and face reality….or what looked like reality at the time.
I think in the beginning, the feelings I had for my boss, Father Jade, were probably similar to those felt by the girls in my 7th grade class when, at the age of 13, after years of being taught by nuns and holy spinsters, were blessed with the arrival of….a male teacher.
His arrival created a quiet, simmering pot of steaming hormones being stirred up in our classroom. There was always that feeling of a safe crush between us girls and Mr. R. There were plenty of stifled giggles and notes passed and embarrassment that had not been experienced before with the other teachers. We could go home and think about Mr. R.’s crooked smile and feel a new warmth inside that would carry us safely into the next phase of adolescence.
There was a quasi-sexual kind of thing going on. Unconsciously we sought his approval, but nothing more. Had the line for his approval been moved further so that it became uncomfortable, it would no longer be a pleasant fantasy, but rather a confusing sort of threatening feeling.
That pre-adolescent phase where girls generally seek safe and distant idols to pin their hearts to….where feelings begin to separate from child to teen….is in a weird way where you end up emotionally with a priest. In that situation, you are the emotional equivalent of the trusting middle school kid feeling perhaps a crush that will never be realized with a person who is your superior. There is that line that cannot be crossed.
I say that because if ever there was an age where you felt intense emotional feelings while at the same time also felt extremely awkward and unsure of how to name those feelings….it would be as a pre-teen or as someone just entering their teens. And an adult with a priest who has crossed the boundaries of appropriateness, for lack of a better word, the confused feelings kind of feel the same as back then…unfamiliar, weird, and like you’ve been picked to clap the erasers after class with someone out to take advantage of the situation.
If you were ever approached by anyone as a child by someone who stepped out of their role with you into something inappropriate….you know that weird split emotion that happens….the love and need for approval versus the extremely uncomfortable, ever tightening screaming vortex inside of you. Kind of that feeling…yeah.
Here is a person who has showered you with approval and all kinds of benefits…whether those benefits are financial, sexual, emotional….whatever you need or lack…they are there to give it to you….and as sexual beings who crave love and security and a connection to someone….as pretty much everyone in this world is wired to do…..we feel like a parched plant when the drops of rain finally come. We soak it up.
And you know what, folks…..there is nothing wrong with those feelings. And from the moment we are hit with our first movies and television and music as children, we are taught to risk it all for love and to allow yourself to be vulnerable and to not let love slip away. And we believe we have hit the mother lode when a person sweeps us off of our feet and love bombs us.
And if we don’t do what they ask….they ask what is wrong with us….and we believe it is us that something is wrong with.
The problem is…..when something seems too good to be true, or the actions and the words don’t match….it’s probably not love.
I was reading something recently about a “player’s rulebook”. It said that a player….that is, someone who is playing with your heart for their own benefit….will see to it that they have you believing that you are the most special person in the whole world. They want you to believe that. Once they have you believing that, they can pretty much treat you anyway they want and you aren’t going to believe that they aren’t a good person because you have already cemented in your head that you are very special to them.
Think about that. Someone can be abusive, neglectful, take advantage of everything and everyone around you….and you will most likely make excuses for them. Because you have it in your head that you are special to them. It will take quite awhile for you to see what is actually happening. That basically, they have groomed you. And once they have groomed you….it’s scary stuff.
But it gets worse. There is the inevitable discard. That is when you realize that there was never a friendship. There was never anything between you. That you were never special. And to a person whose existence has relied on the chemical high that came from being singled out in such a way….along with the perks that came with it…to have the rug ripped out from underneath you and everything gone….it can be devastating.
I look at my situation and it has always been so very difficult for me to do so. To look at the situation that basically turned a spotlight onto all of my own faults and weaknesses and the shame of believing someone and making excuses for their behavior and finally falling into the trap…..I still get a very visceral reaction when I get too close to the emotional memories of what happened.
For me, I think my head was so messed up by the time I realized that I either needed to initiate sex with my boss or that I would lose the job, the money, the friends….and his approval…that actually doing what he wanted me to do seemed like an option at that point.
Although logically I knew that doing so meant totally demeaning myself because his cruel game meant that I would always question what he wanted or what was going on. So just walking up to a priest sitting at his desk and fully initiating sexual contact….which is a cleaned up version of saying that I’d walk in, put today’s work on the desk, close the door behind me, walk over to him, get down on my knees and….I still can’t say it….when you know he is going to act shocked and it’s all going to be you who misinterpreted what he wanted.….but he won’t stop, you either.
I was in a horrible situation. One that I tried to manage on my own. And that backfired. And I hated myself for screwing things up although I don’t think there was an option C that was going to work for me in the end.
I hear stories from other survivors. And while the actual abuse is sad, sometimes it’s the discard that is the hardest thing to accept. Because if you think degrading yourself and doing what the abuser wants will keep you safe, guess again….
For me…I was fired. I was escorted out of the building. Never to see Father Jade or my office ever again. I got to know from the outside, that I was being replaced. I saw the advertisement for my job. I heard that they hired someone to fill my position like I never existed. Never happened. I wasn’t even a memory.
Other survivors have reported being discarded and having to get through the deep dive into depression and at times, hospitalizations, and years of therapy. Because one day all the drama and the connection and the false assumption that you are special to this person is just gone. And you are left wondering what just happened. Wondering how they could love you one minute and replace you the next. Feeling invisible and worthless. And degraded.
And on top of that….seeing the priest who did that to you be honored and revered and be untouchable. All the while you are left empty and broken and when you search for comfort, are either told that you initiated things or what did you expect would happen? You are shunned.
Because the abuse of adults is so very underrated and misunderstood. Unless you have been beaten and bruised and have DNA evidence, it is a he said/she said or he said/he said, etc. situation. And the balance is not in our favor.
They may have said they loved you….but then they said you misunderstood what they said and are crazy. Then they are gone.