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Blind to Betrayal: Why We Fool Ourselves We Aren't Being Fooled Paperback – March 1, 2013
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Blind to Betrayal
"In Blind to Betrayal, Jennifer Freyd and Pamela Birrell break new scientific ground, grasping that trauma is caused not only by singular, dramatic catastrophes but by the sometimes slow, subtle, even secret devastation of betrayal. And by uncovering the phenomenon of 'betrayal blindness,' a survival mechanism that turns noxious, the authors shed light on a toxicity afflicting girls and women much more frequently than men. They point the way to healing, too, in this remarkable book that will literally save lives." --Robin Morgan, Author and activist
"Even if, like me, you are less than enchanted with therapy (ANY therapy!) you will find much of value in this courageous path-breaking book that honors the stories of survivors of abuse of many kinds. It is compelling, readable and most important of all, true."--Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson, author of Assault on Truth, Final Analysis and 24 other books.
"Blind to Betrayal dares to say what most of us know, intuitively, about the basic human need to trust in the goodness of others. Fear of experiencing the overwhelming pain of knowing that people to whom we render ourselves vulnerable have exploited rather than cherished our trust makes us "blind" to betrayal even when it's right there in front of us. Drs. Freyd and Birrell have built a critical bridge of knowledge that allows us to take the blinders off and become comfortable in our discomfort. This book is a gift to all who suffer with or support those who feel stuck in the reluctance to know the ugly truth about the people and institutions we entrust with our minds and bodies. Open this book - then open your eyes to the power and liberation that always comes with new insight and truth."--Wendy J. Murphy, JD, New England Law/Boston, Author of And Justice For Some
"Drs. Freyd and Birrell open our eyes to the profound and pervasive human vulnerability of betrayal blindness. They show how it deprives us of key information and realizations, often with catastrophic results; how the scientific research helps us to understand it; and how we can break free of it. These preeminent experts have created a book that will of great help to many people and that belongs on the book shelf of all therapists and coaches, on the reading list of all clinical training programs, and in the hands of everyone who seeks a better understanding of human behavior and experience."--Kenneth S. Pope, Ph.D., ABPP, Diplomate in Clinical Psychology
"Powerful, illuminating, and disturbing, this translation of decades of meticulous scientific research and sophisticated clinical observation is an eye-opener in the best sense for social scientists, clinicians, and any reader interested in understanding the impact of trauma from a unique new perspective. The work Dr. Freyd and her colleagues have done in this controversial and increasingly urgent area of violence and victimization, the description she and Dr. Birrell provide of the paths to recovery that become possible when psychological blindness is recognized and understood, and the compelling case examples in this book, is a groundbreaking and essential contribution."--Julian D. Ford, Ph.D., Professor of Psychiatry University of Connecticut Health Center
"Drs. Freyd and Birrell have created a masterwork for all of us who struggle to comprehend our own experiences of not seeing, not knowing, and not protecting ourselves and others from betrayal. The pervasiveness of both betrayal and betrayal blindness, and the challenges inherent in becoming able to know and see betrayal, as well as the psychological science making sense of these painful dynamics, come to life in this book. It's one that I'll be buying several copies of, because I know that it'll constantly be on loan to clients and students. A must-read for everyone who has experienced betrayal and betrayal blindness -- and that means almost all of us."--Laura S. Brown, Ph.D. ABPP, Director, Fremont Community Therapy Project
From the Back Cover
A penetrating look at a topic that is both fascinating and challenging, from two of the world's top experts on betrayal and abuse
Infidelity, abuse, treachery, workplace exploitation, discrimination, and injustice: all are examples of betrayal. Betrayal can be mundane or a central threat to our wellbeing. When we see it, we hate it. Yet, even though it is often in our very midst and of critical importance, we frequently don't acknowledge or even notice it. Whether the betrayal occurs in our closest relationships, in our workplaces, or in our society, often we are powerfully and surprisingly motivated to remain ignorant. Written by one of the world's top experts on betrayal and child abuse along with a psychotherapist and educator with twenty-five years of experience, Blind to Betrayal explains the many different forms of betrayal, finally revealing why its victims can endure mistreatment, sometimes for years, without seeming to know that it is happening, even when it may be obvious to others around them.
This powerful and life-changing book:
- Examines the fundamental experience of betrayal and its incredibly destructive effects on both individuals and society
- Explains the psychological phenomenon of "betrayal blindness"
- Offers important insights on how to see through betrayal blindness, confront betrayal, and overcome its effects
- Reveals findings from the authors' substantial original research carried out over the last decade, as well as their own stories of confronting betrayal
Betrayal is a source of much suffering. We have a choiceto remain blind or to begin to heal ourselves and the world. Read Blind to Betrayal and start learning how to understand betrayal, confront it, and create a better future.
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But this work did surprise. And it provided the kind of profound insights that informed the work I do in a very different field.
Freyd and Birrell take a complex body of research on betrayal and clearly and accessibly bring it to life through the lives of real people. These are complex human beings, struggling with fully-human contradictions and anxieties, who face nothing less than the collapse of the most basic assumptions about safety, security, and self. Why, they ask, didn't I see that my secure world was about to be shattered by a lie, an infidelity, a betrayal? Freyd's and Birrell's subjects are so richly drawn that what society often caricatures as the implausible gullibility of the betrayed is revealed to be a much more basic and powerful human response, a way we all protect ourselves from the deep hurt of having had a supposedly trusting relationship suddenly ripped apart.
The larger issue I am now stuck on - and the reason I think people from a variety of backgrounds and disciplines need to read this book - has to do with the question of evil with which my colleagues (sociologists and criminologists, for the most part) deal. Much of our work tries to understand large-scale, collective acts of extreme violence that can also rip away our most basic feelings of safety and security. But as I was pulled into the world of individuals who have felt the sting of betrayal, I found myself questioning the most basic assumptions of what constitutes evil behavior. Might our focus on genocides, natural disasters, and acts of terror obscure the extent to which cruel acts of betrayal - sometimes occurring behind closed doors and without explosions and mayhem - are among the most painful and traumatic experiences we can know as human beings? And might the perpetrators of these betrayals fully deserve a fully prominent position in any hierarchy of evil?
I may not have any answers, but Freyd and Birrell have brilliantly brought these questions to life with profound wisdom and insight.
I'm not entirely keen on some of the writing style, but that's a personal thing and doesn't detract in any way from the power of the content of this book.
I salute the authors for bringing this much needed information into the world.
Some of the readers of this reviewer’s postings are Policy students. The notes from this book that follow are for them, as well as the public who wish to learn more in general about this topic. The book goes into far greater explanations and does so in a manner that is understandable to the general public. Complex psychological issues are clearly and expertly presented.
Policy students may wish to note both how governments can be involved in betrayals. Further, the general issue itself creates societal issues that need to be addressed by our intellectual disability services.
For those seeking a review, this is an excellent book for people who wish to learn more about this area of Psychology. It may be useful to learning more if one has experienced betrayal or if one seeks to learn more about others who have been betrayed. This book will be extremely helpful.
For those seeking some notes about some points from this book, my notes are as follows:
Our brains often operate is convoluted ways, according to the authors. Sometimes when the mind deduces that someone emotionally close has evidently committed betrayal, the mind reduces the immediate pain from that recognition by transforming the betrayal evidence from recognizing it towards rejecting it. This though may be worse in terms of long term pain, especially if the betrayal continues and continual emotional pains are inflicted.
The authors recommend that people admit to themselves and others when they discover betrayals. What may emerge from this is hope that the mind may process this towards leading to healing. The alternative of continued blindness may be more emotionally harmful to the betrayed as well as allowing the injustices of further betrayals to continue.
People sometimes suffer from what is known as “betrayal blindness”, which is an “unawareness of information that is present but is somehow “whooshed” away”. It has been a fault of the psychological profession that this has been little studied, leading the authors to note that “Psychology as a discipline may suffer from betrayal blindness” as it is more concerned about individuals and their symptoms than upon interpersonal relations.
Children may suffer betrayal blindness when it comes to being abused or discriminated against.
There is societal betrayal. Children grew up being taught that they exist in a society that awards merit and believes in equality of opportunities. Many, especially people of racial minorities, learn later in this this is not reality.
There is a visual aspect to betrayal blindness. It is possible for someone to see something that one doesn’t want to see and have the mind not register the sight. The mind protects itself by doing that. Often one may intellectually know what they saw, yet a mental defensive mechanism of denial operates that does not properly process the information seen.
People who are betrayed become either confrontational or withdrawn. Those that withdraw may go into denial
People abused by a parent who loves them display betrayal feelings, Psychologists often focus on the resulting symptoms but not the underlying issues of feeling betrayed. Many suppress these memories that may lead to later psychological problems.
Sexual assault victims sometimes react passively to the attack. Fear is often a facto.r When the victim knows the assailant, betrayal is often felt
“Stockholm syndrome”, where a captive develops empathy for the capturer, is a subset of betrayal blindness. The captive person’s mind better registers whatever kindness the capturer shows and reduces the traumatic aspects. In some kidnap cases, seeking to create an attachment bond with the capturer is also a survival skill.
There can be collective betrayal blindness. An example of that was in 2003 when many continued believing our leaders that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction long after this was disproven.
There is institutional betrayal. Employees become blind to workplace injustices. There is institutional blindness, with the child sex scandals of the Catholic Church prominently demonstrating this.
An Institutional Betrayal Questionnaire of 345 female college students found 47% had been sexual assault at least once. Over a third experienced the assault from an institutional source. Those who suffered institutional betrayal had higher level of traumatic symptoms.
In the Penn State child sex abuse, there was public sympathy for the coach who was blind to the assaults and let them occur. Many who opt to remain blind to an assault continue this blindness in subsequent cases.
There have been many sexual assaults within military personnel. This trauma, when experienced in addition to combat trauma, can be devastating.
It is sometimes difficult to criminally prosecute assailants.The freezing defensive mechanism is often labeled by defense attorneys. Many victims, especially when suppressing the memories, make poor witnesses who may have inconsistencies in their testimonies or may not recall details of the crimes.
Bystanders are sometimes blind to betrayals. It is easier to avoid difficulties through “psychic numbing” than to take risks that could be harmful in order to help a victim. A horrific example of this was seen in the collective passivity of people who looked the other way when people were taken away during the Holocaust.
People, when confronted, often choose to fight, flee, or freeze (also known as “toxic immobility”). The freezing action is often seen in response to suffering a betrayal.
Research indicates that trauma exposure creates poor mental health. Such exposure creates increased risk for depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress, dissociation, borderline personality, and physical problems.
Research finds women are usually more affected by betrayal trauma than are men.
If a victim is dependent upon the person committing an assault, the victim may decide it is more important to preserve the relationship. The abuse is then tolerated and sometimes forgotten.
Research shows people with high degrees of alexithymia, which is a difficulty in realizing one’s own emotional feeling and experiences, often exists with people who were abused as children.
“Group-think” creates self-censoring among members of a group. This can lead to institutional betrayal blindness.
Betrayal blindness can cause high dissociations and make one more apt to be forgetful in general and more apt to be a betrayed victim again. It can then be more difficult to form relations with others.
Some victims go on to victimize others. This creates even more stressful problems.
A person who discloses betrayal faces the denials and counter-accusations from the perpetrator. This can further psychologically damage the victim and causes a retreat back into silence.
A betrayed person can help heal by acknowledging the betrayal.
Societal admission of cultural betrayal can create justice. People now recognize the mistakes made during times of genocide and government abuses. This makes people recognize and resist these injustices.
It is important that people listen to dialogues when presented with someone discussing a betrayal. Only disclose something learned when it is safe to disclose it.