Betrayal and Integrity
Not all people with the exile disorder come from a background of severe abuse, or trauma. As Maya’s story shows, even though there is love, the sense of self can be overridden. What is at issue is an underlying dynamic, an intrinsic principle.
Maya talks about an experience with her family:
" My name is Maya, I am recovering from the self in exile disorder and substance addiction.
I think this is important. As I begin to notice it more and more, I feel that that’s the core, that’s what used to happen when I was a child, I can see the pattern.
I think its important because this is what I run after all my life to get that approval, that recognition, ultimately I’m craving, I hunger for it. I understand why I have that.
An incident happened while I was in Syria. We’d called a few family meetings about what the future of the house is going to be, whether to sell it or to rent it, we’re quite a democratic family. My dad was voted out, so the decision was made to rent the house. My dad wanted to sell it because he doesn’t want all the headache that goes with renting it.
He looked at my mum and said "ok, if you want to rent it, then you’ve got to deal with all the different things, looking for tenants, dealing with paper work, and agents.!" Now my dad knows very well that first of all my mother doesn’t speak English, she’s not going to deal with any of this stuff. If me and her are going back to Oxford, … who’s going to deal with it? – its going to be me whose gonna have to deal with it. He knows that very, very well. He didn’t look at me and say ‘you’re going to have to deal with it', he looked at my mother and said to her ‘that’s what you’re going to do’. So I was completely exiled, its like I didn’t exist, I’m not there, I’m not my own whole person. The bottom was I felt betrayed by my father. At the heart of it its really betrayal.
Its like ‘I know I love you dad, and I know you love me’, and I see it in his eyes how much appreciation, how much understanding he has of me and I have of him, - 'and with all that you go and do this!'"
Cassandra: “Why ‘betrayal’, what is it about it that’s the betrayal element?”
M. “I know, I see in his eyes……..like for instance we went out for dinner with dad’s boss. He’s a well known man in Syria, high up in the field, his family were there, and they’re all high class, educated people, and just sitting around with them I feel ashamed that I’ve wasted ten years of my life in drugs and I don’t have qualifications. So we sat down for dinner. I sat with his son and his wife and I had to make conversation with these people. I looked at my dad across the table and I saw and him looking at me, at first I thought he was embarrassed of me, then I saw he was looking in this way with this like – I think he was looking at me with admiration, - the way I held myself, the way I was able to answer questions, in a way…. honestly, but without losing my self. He was just admiring the way I handled myself, he knows about my past, my addictions, he knows all that, and with all that I handled myself about what I’d done in the past, about my beliefs, and I can see the look of admiration and him being proud…. ……and I know he has respect for my ideas and beliefs, and I have for his, . ..so theres this mutual level of understanding and.. (tearful)… . – so I feel really betrayed when theres this level of beliefs and moral standards, you know, my father, he’s in politics, he has strong moral beliefs and we respect eachother for that…..so,……..I feel betrayed for a person like this I have so much respect for to just abandon me like this. But I feel that he does that to support my mother, …. I think he senses my mother is weak he does it to support her. She is my mother, but its like…. (tearful)…. ..why do I have to pay for my mother’s inability and….”
C. “If your mother is sort of borderline, its not her inability so much as……”
M.“….. She enables herself, just like she enables my brother, she’s not even living to her full ability. So he has to pick her up, he has to make her feel good.
C. “Your sense of identity is being sacrificed …….."
M. “…. for my mother, yes"
C. “In a way that will enable her helplessness?”
M. “Yes, …yeah. I mean it happened even in the airport. I actually cried in the airport because he actually shouted at me and disrespected me – because I lost it at my mother. - It was wrong of me to lose it like that y’know, but I just could hear in her voice this undertone thing ……..hahhww! I mean recovery is beautiful but I hate it sometimes, it gives me that intuition – I heard manipulation to get attention. But she masks it with that child-like innocence of not knowing – its like underneath that 'I don’t know’ is ‘....let me ask a question’ Underneath the question theres this manipulation, attention seeking. I mean I did snap, I said “like you don’t know!” and she got angry, she has this reaction, she gets angry when I’m right – when I pick up on what she’s trying to do and I confront her with it.
C. “You confront her addiction to helplessness.”
M. “When I confront it or I catch her out she gets very upset and my father has to stick up for her and defend her.
C. “that leaves you feeling …….. quite alone, in the betrayed situation, in exile …?
M. “ yeah!”
In the family dynamic illustrated by Maya’s story the exile is the one who's needs for acknowledgement is sacrificed to feed, or to protect the over inflated needs of the other. The mothers helplessness catches the father on his own weak point, he feels compelled to protect her even at the cost of his daughter. Maya’s need for recognition are sacrificed and her attempts to fight for healthier behaviour, are unsupported.
"....a profoundly undermined personality...." Guntrip P90
.“…..what is probably the most important, the …….. need to preserve ones individuality at all costs……….. from being overwhelmed by the other person, …..”
adapted from Guntrip P.238
A betrayal of the self is is also a betrayal of principles. This is why our healing must be founded on certain principles.
The 'indissoluble relationship' Guntrip
No relationship can be completely indissoluble, but principles can be. A relationship based on shared aims maintains a link outside itself.
But this is not to say that human needs are to be sacrificed for a 'higher ideal'.
The stable base relationship: .....the outward looking relationship with inward space.
"Hence our common welfare comes first. But individual welfare follows close afterward."
"... ever reminding us to place principles before personalities."
From the 12 Traditions of AA.