The best books on betrayal

Who am I?

As a psychologist and university professor teaching internationally, I’ve had opportunities to listen to people’s stories globally, and impart wisdom gleaned from my own cross-cultural experiences. Invitations to share ranged from teaching others inner and spiritual healing methods to being Reader’s Digest’s “Online Ask an Expert about Infidelity”, to training local recovery workers during the two deadliest disasters of this century. Therefore, I cannot say I ‘chose’ to become an expert on betrayal. It chose me. From childhood on, betrayal gave me opportunities to personally experience and learn from interpersonal infidelities, health crises, social injustice, and mass trauma. The school of hard-knocks tests us first—then we get the teaching.

I wrote...

Betrayal, Trust and Forgiveness: A Guide to Emotional Healing and Self-Renewal

By Beth Hedva,

Book cover of Betrayal, Trust and Forgiveness: A Guide to Emotional Healing and Self-Renewal

What is my book about?

When your life has been shattered by betrayal it can evoke many reactions that damage trust and disrupt your life further: *Obsessing about the betrayal—seeking vindication, vengeance, or retribution. * Demonizing or dehumanizing your betrayer. *Generalizing negative traits to others—through stereotyping, cynicism, or bigotry. *Self-betrayal—no longer trusting yourself. *Suspicion—fear, control, or manipulation to protect against future betrayals

If you’ve suffered betrayal — infidelity, family issues, social injustice, or even physical ordeals and global disasters — you can get past the trauma and build a new life based on truth and Self-trust. Full of practical, step-by-step exercises woven together with ancient wisdom, myths and real people’s stories, this book’s inner healing techniques map out how to free yourself from pain and injury. 
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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Loose Ends: Primary Papers in Archetypal Psychology

Why did I love this book?

Hillman’s essay on Betrayal sat inside my belly like an irritating grain of sand that turned into a pearl of inner Wisdom. He said trust cannot be fully realized without betrayal because prior to betrayal we are naive. It is only after betrayal when we know the risks—only then, is genuine trust established. However, this is not about trusting your ‘betrayer’ …it is about learning to trust yourself — your inner source of wisdom and creativity that inspires you to create value out of all of life’s experiences, and rewards you with the courage to create your life anew, independent of circumstance.

Though Hillman focused on father betrayal wounds, the message is universal: “Forgiving is not forgetting…it is the remembrance of the wrong within a wider context."

By James Hillman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Loose Ends as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Blending case histories with myth, clinical fact with imaginative meaning, this book, with its profound appreciation of history and biography, of the arts, ideas, and culture, trains the senses to perceive the face of the soul. In papers on abandonment, nostalgia, betrayal, schism, failure, and masturbation, Hillman shows that pathology belongs intrinsically to the psyche and that it reveals the unchanging, necessary, fecund depths of human nature. A brief note on story pleads for a 'story sense,' a deeply therapeutic awareness of how mythic persons and archetypal events influence the psyche by conditioning perceptions, generating meanings, and shaping our lives,…

Book cover of The State of Affairs: Rethinking Infidelity

Why did I love this book?

In my counselling practice, I am privy to intimate details—the pain and agony of betrayal—for both the betrayed and the betrayer. When a client is in the thick of it, I recommend Esther Parel’s book. Peppered with a multitude of examples from real people’s lives, well-researched facts, and stats, Perel provides a reality – check: a contemporary snapshot into what happens in our high-tech media-driven society, when the contradiction between our hyper-sexualized culture and our ideals about fidelity collide, and how blurred the boundary between the two has become, regardless of sexual orientation and gender.

Instead of easy cookie-cutter advice, this book breaks through the feelings of isolation, hurts, shame and regrets by opening the gate to honesty and genuine intimacy.

By Esther Perel,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The State of Affairs as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


Is there such a thing as an affair-proof marriage? Is it possible to love more than one person at once? Why do people cheat? Can an affair ever help a marriage?

Infidelity is the ultimate betrayal. But does it have to be? Relationship therapist Esther Perel examines why people cheat, and unpacks why affairs are so traumatic; because they threaten our emotional security. In infidelity, she sees something unexpected - an expression of longing and loss.

A must-read for anyone who has ever cheated or been cheated on, or who simply wants a new framework for…

Book cover of Myths, Rites, Symbols: A Mircea Eliade Reader, Volume 1

Why did I love this book?

Among the proliferation of contemporary self-help books, Myths, Rites and Symbols elucidated what I consider to be a 'missing link’. As Eliade described ancient and indigenous initiatory rites of passage I discovered there are specific stages of transformative growth after the shock of betrayal. Initiation ceremonies often begin with isolation and separation—an existential crisis designed to train a novice (and the reader) to confront symbolic death and embrace the unpredictable vicissitudes of life’s ordeals as spiritual tests. The process awakens self-discovery and inner wisdom, which inspires a spiritual rebirth, renewed creativity, and a purpose-driven return to life.

Eliade planted a seed in my imagination: reframe separation as a ‘sacred separation’—and use the shock of betrayal (and its many ordeals) as part of a grand, personal ceremony of initiation.

Book cover of Man’s Search for Meaning

Why did I love this book?

This is the best book to help us reckon with the ruthless cruelty engendered by betrayal of our innate humanity through inhumane actions. By chronicling the ignominy of being a Jew incarcerated in a Nazi concentration camp—dealing daily with life-threatening realities, witnessing genocide, and hoping to survive—psychiatrist Viktor Frankl observed how we wrestle with suffering. Finding the capacity to be with our suffering without denying it or diminishing it, offers opportunities for “turning life into an inner triumph” that no one can take from us.

Suffering, and our response to it, determines our destiny. In clear, precise story-telling Man’s Search for Meaning invites the reader to look at their own life through a purposeful lens in which their own self-determined destiny comes into focus.

By Viktor Frankl,

Why should I read it?

36 authors picked Man’s Search for Meaning as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

One of the outstanding classics to emerge from the Holocaust, Man's Search for Meaning is Viktor Frankl's story of his struggle for survival in Auschwitz and other Nazi concentration camps. Today, this remarkable tribute to hope offers us an avenue to finding greater meaning and purpose in our own lives.

Book cover of Dangerous Friend: The Teacher-Student Relationship in Vajrayana Buddhism

Why did I love this book?

Dangerous Friend is an Eastern wake-up call for Western ‘seekers’ and ’would-be spiritual teachers’. Drawing from Vajrayana teachers, Rig’dzin Dorje clarifies betrayal is a “final portal of freedom…in which we are able to question…our narcissistic determination to maintain the illusion of duality.” As a transpersonal psychologist, I’ve noticed sometimes Western seekers who hunger for enlightenment imagine devotion to their Spiritual Teacher will give them a ticket to ride a wave of bliss into nirvana.

A teacher must betray a student’s fantasies, attachments, and delusions, (including those about their teacher), in favor of devotion to the teachings. Despite a desire to have others be accountable to us, and responsible for us, this book confirms the necessity to cultivate Self-compassion and awareness—and to turn inward for liberation.

By Rig'dzin Dorje,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Dangerous Friend as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Although Tibetan Buddhism continues to grow in popularity, the crucial relationship between teacher and student remains largely misunderstood. Dangerous Friend offers an in-depth exploration of this mysterious and complex bond, a relationship of paramount importance in Tibetan Buddhist practice.

According to Tibetan Buddhist tradition, the student must have complete trust in the teacher (the "dangerous friend") if he or she is to achieve any understanding. It is the teacher's responsibility to uphold the integrity of the tradition, the basis of which is compassion for all beings, by transmitting it properly to an appropriate student. Likewise, it is the student's responsibility…

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