Betrayal, a form of deception or dismissal of prior presumptions, is the breaking or violation of a presumptive social contract (trust, or confidence) that produces moral and psychological conflict within a relationship amongst individuals, between organizations or between individuals and organizations. Often betrayal is the act of supporting a rival group, or it is a complete break from previously decided upon or presumed norms by one party from the others.
DefinitionRodger L. Jackson, author of the article, The Sense and Sensibility of Betrayal: Discovering the Meaning of Treachery Through Jane Austen, writes that "there has been surprisingly little written about what we even mean by the term". In psychology, practitioners describe betrayal as the breaking of a social contract; however, critics of this approach claim that the term social contract does not accurately reflect the conditions and motivations for, and effects of, betrayal. Philosophers Judith Shklar and Peter Johnson, authors of The Ambiguities of Betrayal and Frames of Deceit respectively, contend that while no clear definition of betrayal is available, betrayal is more effectively understood through literature. http://www.nhinet.org/jackson13-2.pdf. AI researcher Selmer Bringsjord made betrayal the core of a storytelling program BRUTUS. In Artificial Intelligence and Literary Creativity: Inside the Mind of BRUTUS, a Storytelling Machine, betrayal is defined operationally in computer language as basically as knowingly thwarting another out of something that ought to occur.
Theoretical and practical needsJackson explains why a clear definition is needed:
- ''Betrayal is both a "people" problem and a philosopher's problem. Philosophers should be able to clarify the concept of betrayal, compare and contrast it with other moral concepts, and critically assess betrayal situations. At the practical level people should be able to make honest sense of betrayal and also to temper its consequences: to handle it, not be assaulted by it. What we need is a conceptually clear account of betrayal that differentiates between genuine and merely perceived betrayal, and which also provides systematic guidance for the assessment of alleged betrayal in real life.''
Betrayal traumaBetrayal trauma occurs when people or institutions that are depended on for survival violate human trust. An example of betrayal trauma is childhood physical, emotional, or sexual abuse.
The term was first used by Professor J.J. Freyd in 1991, and today most mental health professionals accept betrayal trauma as a possible alternative diagnosis to traditional post traumatic stress disorder.
[Prof J.J. Freyd's Home Page at the University of Oregon http://dynamic.uoregon.edu/~jjf/defineBT.html]
Political betrayalMost adults living in western democracies place trust in the state of which they are a citizen. If this trust is betrayed, at its worst, the individual can suffer psychological betrayal trauma. Betrayal trauma has symptoms similar to post traumatic stress disorder, although the element of amnesia and dissociation is likely to be greater.
The key difference between traditional post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and betrayal trauma is that the former is historically seen as being caused primarily by fear, whereas betrayal trauma is a response to extreme anger. Fear and anger are the two sides to the fight-flight response, and as such are our strongest and most basic psychological emotions.
Pure political betrayal trauma can be caused by situations such as wrongful arrest and conviction by the legal system of a western democracy; or by discrimination, bullying or other serious mistreatment by a state institution or powerful figure within the state.
In practice, however, it is likely that most people with symptoms of psychological trauma have elements of both fear based PTSD and anger based betrayal trauma, not one or the other. Certainly in the most serious cases of PTSD there is an element of both. For instance, the fact that a soldier is sent to war by the state is an important element in the reasons for war being a major cause of PTSD. In cases where soldiers are horrified by the actions or orders of their commanding officers, or where they are victims of friendly fire, their PTSD is likely to be worse because of the element of betrayal will be that much greater. Similarly, one of the most psychologically traumatising events in history, the Holocaust, is almost certainly so serious a case because the element of state betrayal is as great as the element of fear trauma.
treachery in German: Verrat
treachery in Simple English: Betrayal
treachery in Yiddish: פאראט
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