Paying Attention
Bill McDonald’s Website Newsletter
February 2018 - Volume 18, No. 2
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It wasn’t that many years ago, maybe four or five, that a particular thought showed up, and has since stayed close to me. Maybe it was an original thought, or perhaps somebody shared it with me. But this was it:

Every Story Must have a Betrayal

It seems that every story in all of the world’s literature is based on a betrayal of some sort. Every classic novel. Every grand opera. Every movie, TV show, every Harlequin romance, every comic book - there’s a central betrayal. Without it, there would be no interest in reading or viewing it. The Bible is organized around two of them - one at the beginning, and one in the middle.  Both in gardens. Without either betrayal, the one in The Garden of Eden and the kiss of Judas in Gesthemane, there would be very little reason to even read it. The Old Testament has lots of other betrayals as well, as does the New Testament.

Then when recently culling my library, I rediscovered a book I purchased and read 22 years ago, by the Jungian analyst Aldo Carotenuto, To Love, To Betray - Chiron, 1996.  On the back page (paperback) are the words, “Life’s betrayals both define and condemn us to re-create ourselves….(the author) shows us the positive and fundamental role of betrayal in our growth throughout life.”

Having spent an evening pouring through the underlinings and notes I made in the book back then, shows me I’d already been wresting with this question for a long time.

And perhaps, according to Carotenuto, 

Every Examined Life must also face Betrayal.

Almost all of my marital counseling wrestles at base with one sort of betrayal or another, including the various forms of emotional and sexual infidelity. My central working thesis that by wrestling out the various betrayals of hope, behavior, and infidelities, the relationship has entered a phase where the couple is forced to “recreate itself” (or dissolve itself). 

What was generally accepted as trust and compassion, the assumed foundation stones of an undeveloped (immature) marriage, can collapse in ruins leaving only the shadowy rubble of a naïve trust and a false innocence.  

One of the great laws of organic nature is that whatever refuses to grow, will have to die. 

And so it seems must marriages.  A careful perusal of the standard marriage vows reveals that as well.  

Those who work with me on their marriage, whatever the outcome of the specific relationship, need to reach deeply into what’s been happening, making conscious that which has been unconscious before.  We move beyond the ‘right and wrong’ perspectives into the deeper places where each has been responsible for the betrayals, and where the possibility of a “new thing” like a new marriage can be waiting to be wrestled into existence.

I have a great deal of respect for those who accomplish this work with me.

The Question of Trust

As I’ve noted, we often call trust of pre-betrayal time, naïve trust. And I’ll insist we can’t go back there, in a sense because it has died. But like in dreams, if there’s a death, stick around, something new will begin to emerge. It can be like a new birth, pangs and all.

Last month in my January Newsletter, [1] I captured a brief poem attributed to the 13th century poet, Rumi.  

Not until faithfulness turns to betrayal
And betrayal turns to trust
Can any human being
Be part of the truth. [2]

I was intrigued by the emergence of trust only after ‘faithfulness turns to betrayal.’ There was something there that I wanted to trust, but had to take more time with it. I put it there, not because I really understood it, but as a ‘holding place’ so I could go back to it again and again, and often in conversation with clients over this past month.

And then something else began to happen - to me.  

A series of personal dreams showed up, and I began to realize this was about my own life now as well. About betrayal. About trust. About new things ‘emerging.’  

I know and have known betrayals. I’ve both received and delivered them. I’m still coming to terms with learning to “trust” them - as I’ve encouraged in others.  

I’ve seen betrayals leading to a deeper trust, and then to greater truth. Couples, individuals, even myself. Showing up when the time is right, re-forming us again deeply and quietly. And the rest of our lives become more serene, as if living in the shadow of some great secret.  

Pay attention

[Or perhaps it just has to do with Groundhog’s Day. LOL]



[2] see Michael Meade Living Myth podcasts
Podcast #41 - “In the Shadows of Power”.  This reference is at the very end of the podcast.

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Bill McDonald
Fenton, Michigan

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