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        Love and the Mystery of Betrayal

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Sandra Lee Dennis:

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Love and the Mystery of Betrayal Book Cover

TITLE: Love and the Mystery of Betrayal:
Grieving the Loss: Tending the Trauma, Healing the Heartbreak, Restoring Trust in Life

AUTHOR: Sandra Lee Dennis, PhD
PUBLISHER: West County Press
DATES OF PUBLICATION: August 22, 2014; December 3, 2018
RETAIL PRICE: $19.95 US (soft cover)
PAGES: 290
ISBN-13: 978-0986068430


Short Description:

What is it like to recover from betrayal of trust today in a culture that is blind to the trauma and impatient with grief? When her long-time partner left her shortly before their wedding, the author found nothing had prepared her for the depth and duration of the pain. Her loss of faith in this one person precipitated an existential and spiritual crisis that called her very understanding of human nature into question, and she wanted to know why.

As she wrested with what turned out to be a collectively unrecognized trauma, she began to keep careful notes of her inner life.  She wanted to capture the paradoxes of love, grief and longing as they mixed with the confusion and what turned out to be significant post-traumatic stress. With bracing frankness and fearlessness, she succeeds.

Love and the Mystery of Betrayal seamlessly blends research and reflection, love and heartbreak, trauma and transformation, and personal experience with collective. This achingly moving chronicle and meditation on the mysteries of grief, love and betrayal shows how the heart can triumph even after the most life-shattering loss. Most importantly, the soulful writing provides the type of solace only a kindred spirit who knows well this territory can.

Long Description:

Betrayal of love inflicts a unique, unprecedented pain you can only comprehend once you have experienced it. If you are suffering from an intimate betrayal, you know. Betrayal is stunning. It is mind-boggling. You feel paralyzed, mystified, enraged, panicked, bewildered; but, mostly, you hurt. Betrayal is a make-or-break event that marks a cataclysmic divide in your life. It changes you. When you believe in someone so completely and then realize they have been deceiving you about their love and loyalty, the worst thing happens: Your faith in yourself crumbles. The shock lifts a veil from your eyes, and you can never see yourself or the world in the same way again.

Anyone who has been there knows: you need all the help you can get to reclaim your life and find the way back to wanting to get up in the morning. This book can help you, as only one written by a kindred spirit who has been there can. It will validate the panic, rage and despair you are going through as a natural human reaction to the shock — not as the personal failing you fear — and will inspire you to keep on when everything in you wants to shut down.

Love and the Mystery of Betrayal has been showered with praise, described by reviewers as “courageous, rare, compelling, deep, original, honest, human, passionate, poignant, pioneering, inspiring, invaluable, beautiful, heart-centered, intelligent, wise, a triumph of spirit,” and more. This powerful book takes you on a descent into mostly uncharted depths of the psyche. These raw places of vulnerability blast into awareness when we have opened ourselves to deep surrendered love, and that relationship is blown away by broken trust. There are minor, everyday betrayals, and then there are the life-exploding disclosures explored in this book, the ones that “break your heart, fracture your world, and threaten to destroy your soul.”

But, be forewarned: this is not a sensational horror story of betrayal and abuse. The author was not cheated on, beaten, physically raped (she calls it a psychic rape), stolen from, yelled at, or bullied into submission, not even abandoned dramatically at the altar. At first, this betrayal of trust seems like a regrettable, but minor loss in the larger scheme of tragedies that we imagine befalling a person. No, she describes a type of profound trauma that goes unnoticed in far too many people. The betrayal described in this book is not necessarily the result then of blatant abuse or infidelity, although it may include both.

The author was motivated to write about her experience to help show how relational trauma and abuse in these days of political correctness and psychological sophistication are often not so obvious. She explores how in a relationship of presumed mutual respect, commitment and love, the hypocrisy and deception that precede most betrayals slowly erode a person’s judgment, identity and self-confidence.

The shock of finally discovering the truth cuts so deeply that it precipitates a spiritual and existential crisis that calls your understanding of good and evil, of human nature itself, into question. For this and other reasons, she classifies betrayal as a “moral crime, akin to torture” (with neurophysiological evidence to support the claim).

Still, while she rails against a culture that is blind to the sanctity of married love and to the damage of bonds broken by shattered trust, she acknowledges the necessity of betrayal in the growth of the soul. Written by a former psychology professor, and long-time spiritual practitioner and teacher, this book takes us into the dark recesses of the psyche to explore betrayal as an archetypal ancient memory we all carry, a rite of passage and initiation into the mysteries of the heart. Ultimately, we see that feelings of betrayal originate in our sense of betrayal by life, by God. The grief and the healing go that deep.

Accompanying her into this “dark night of the soul,” the reader enters the disaster zone of a broken heart, a shattered mind, a mortified identity, and a suffering soul. We recognize ourselves as we join in a journey of reluctant surrender to the generally well-hidden, yet excruciating landscape of betrayal—from the devastation of breakdown to the grace of a spiritual breakthrough.

Rather than describing this ordeal as a theoretician or a detached observer, she speaks with the passion and despair of one abandoned by the person she knew as her soulmate and life partner. Although the author sees betrayal as ultimately a spiritual crisis, she does not sugar coat the pain or offer easy tips, platitudes or spiritual bypass sleight-of-hand to get over it.

There can be so much shame and humiliation surrounding abandonment, betrayal, infidelity or divorce that to share this plunge into the abyss is in itself an extraordinary accomplishment. Love and the Mystery of Betrayal provides so much more, however, than a personal chronicle. Interviews, anecdotes and research, including up-to-date psychological, neurophysiological, and contemplative/spiritual references and reflections are interwoven skillfully, offering background knowledge and information about the little understood subjects of betrayal and the transformation of suffering required to get through it.

These insights, along with the precision and heartfelt thoughtfulness of the writing, will help others to connect their traumatized feelings to their bewildered mind and faltering spirit to put themselves back together again.

Without giving easy answers, this book is a ground-breaking original that provides us with a much-needed map to help chart our way in the dark along this unwelcome, yet ultimately blessed, path to greater love and authenticity. Anyone who has ever felt the sting of betrayed trust or wishes to help others struggling to recover their faith in the goodness of life will benefit from the soul work and wisdom shared in this book.

See Excerpts on this site.

Bios/Photo of Sandra Lee Dennis

Short Bio:

SANDRA LEE DENNIS, PhD, is an award-winning author, teacher and explorer of the interplay of depth psychology and spiritual experience. She was a teacher in the Gurdjieff tradition for many years, an Ananda Yoga instructor, and a longtime student of Diamond Heart work. She has been on the faculty of several universities, as well as the C.G.Jung Institute of San Francisco.  Sandra currently lives and works in the Bay Area.

Long Bio:

SANDRA LEE DENNIS, PhD, obtained her B.A. and M.A. in Psychology from the University of Michigan, and her doctorate in Integral Studies/ Psychology and Religion, from the California Institute of Integral Studies.  She is an author, teacher and explorer of the interplay of depth psychology and spirituality. She was a teacher in the Gurdjieff tradition for many years, an Ananda Yoga instructor, and a longtime student of Diamond Heart work. She has been on the faculty of several universities, as well as the C.G.Jung Institute of San Francisco.

Sandra’s writings have emerged from immersion and inquiry into interior life. As a phenomenologist, her work bridges the world of scholar and visionary.  Her call has been to navigate and bring light to those subtle interior spheres that defy description and often appear frightening, painful, or unreal to the logical mind.  

In translating difficult personal experiences, she tracks them to their collective, archetypal roots.  Her deep-diving explorations and research have helped many to name, understand and heal their suffering with truth and compassion. 

Her first award-winning book, Embrace of the Daimon, Sandra pioneered exploring primeval spaces of the unconscious psyche and their relation to feminine spirituality.  Using a Jungian framework, she offers a rare account of a spontaneous eruption of taboo, wild stories and monstrous characters from the underground of the psyche.  In the descending spirituality that emerges, she presents a practical method for healing the dangerous split between body, soul and spirit that afflicts our times.  Reknown cultural historian, Richard Tarnas described her work as a “significant contribution to the phenomenology of altered states of consciousness.”

Her latest book, Love and the Mystery of Betrayal, was also honored with several awards. Sandra dives again here into dark recesses of the psyche that traditionally resist description, this time to explore grief, abandonment, trauma, and heartache. Casting betrayal as a profound initiation of the heart, she shares her own story while taking us through the classic stages of a “dark night of the soul” passage.  She puts flesh on the bones of existing theories about trauma, trust and forgiveness to assist those journeying through the grief of loss, as well as those who would help them heal.

Sandra currently lives and works in the Bay Area.


Click on photo for a larger version.

Praise for Love and the Mystery of Betrayal

What Sandra Lee Dennis tells us about the transformative power of suffering is so important and so true. She makes it clear that the price is high, but the reward of a heart broken open to a deeper love is worth the cost. I hope that many read this book; many surely are in need of it.
Fr. Richard Rohr, author of Silent Compassion, Job and the Mystery of Suffering, Breathing Underwater, Falling Upward, and more.

This story of heartbreak has a rare quality: it is absolutely honest. Sandra Lee Dennis initially lost her faith in love, in life, in God. She endured the ordeal for more than four years. Coming out of the desert of heartbreak, she regained her life, her God, and her vitality. And she takes us with her on a poignant voyage through those transforming depths. A wonderful accomplishment.
Ginette Paris, PhD, author of Heartbreak, Wisdom of the Psyche, and more.

Discover how the excruciating pain of betrayal can become a portal to unconditioned love and deep inner freedom… A powerful book that will serve many.
Tara Brach, PhD, author of Radical Acceptance and True Refuge

Love and the Mystery of Betrayal is a rare and beautiful book, a powerful guide to anyone sincerely interested in recovering wholeheartedness after the shocking pain of a relationship rupture. With remarkable courage, intelligence and humanity, Sandra weaves her own journey through the many dimensions of personal devastation. She guides the reader through a compelling journey of the soul with up-to-date psychological understanding and spiritual wisdom to support true reemergence. This will be invaluable for anyone interested in harnessing the deepest human heartbreak as a crucible for spiritual awakening. This book is a triumph of spirit. I hope it finds its hands into all who could benefit. I cannot recommend it highly enough.
Miranda Macpherson, author of Boundless Love

Love and the Mystery of Betrayal is a passionate book that delves with a rare authenticity into the clashes of the mind, heart and body that occur when we open ourselves to deep surrendered love and that love is betrayed and blown away. Sandy Dennis probes the subjects of betrayal and abandonment in an almost kinesthetic way, like a dance that is also superbly intelligent. Out of her own suffering, she offers us a way to connect with, understand, and transform our own.
Charlie Fisher,emeritus professor and author of Dismantling Discontent and Meditation in the Wild

What a remarkable book Sandra Dennis has written! I celebrate her courage and discoveries, and welcome her home.
Gangaji, author of Hidden Treasure and The Diamond in Your Pocket<

In this compelling and well-written book, Sandra takes us on a poignant journey into the dark night of the soul. Courageously revealing her authentic feelings and heroic efforts to find meaning, healing, and wisdom by engaging with the darkness of broken trust, this inspiring book offers guidance and hope for those struggling to heal and grow from one of life’s most painful experiences.
John Amodeo, PhD, author of Dancing with Fire and Love & Betrayal

As she learns to surrender to the mysteries of grief and pain, Sandra Dennis works against our happiness-obsessed culture and the self-images that equate suffering with weakness and indulgence. She does not look away or sugarcoat the experience of abandonment and betrayal with easy tips on getting over it or with spiritual bypass sleight of hand. This book offers instead an invaluable chronicling of “the whole catastrophe” from breakdown to breakthrough. I was moved by many passages in this deep, engaging book. A much needed contribution to our collective healing I am pleased to recommend.
Francis Weller, Founder of WisdomBridge and author Entering the Healing Ground

Sandra Dennis offers original insights into the energetic, sexual, psychic and neurological workings that make the experience of love betrayed so devastating. Written from the heart, this very personal tribute to the dark goddess encourages those who feel deeply (and wonder if there is something wrong with them) to stay true to their own feelings, which, in the author’s case, ultimately brings about a transformation and awakening into the heart of Love and equanimity.
Beth Hedva Ph.D, author of Betrayal, Trust and Forgiveness

Sandra Dennis has written a powerful and thoughtful book right from the heart. It will be a source of comfort and assistance to a lot of people trying to figure out why they are falling apart. The shock of the discovery of betrayal and the emotional abuse it implies can leave a person feeling that their entire world has been turned upside down. Sandra offers a deeply sensitive, insightful, and human approach to healing from this heartrending experience. Her book takes you on an emotional, philosophical and spiritual journey that will enrich your life.
Lundy Bancroft, author of Why Does He Do That?

Love and the Mystery of Betrayal has a ring of authenticity that will speak to your heart. Sandra Dennis helps us find our way along the healing path that lays bare the preciousness of ourselves in our fragility. I hope and trust her message will reach and help those who most need it.
James Finley, PhD, author of The Awakening Call and Trauma and Transformation (CD series)

A Reader’s Guide

Questions & Topics for Discussion

1. Why is telling your story an important part of healing from the trauma of betrayal or abandonment? Have you told your story to others who have gone through a similar experience? These are the people most likely to believe you and to understand your pain.

2. Have you had times when you thought you understood someone else’s situation and later discovered when you went through the same thing yourself that you had no idea?

3. What metaphors best fit your experience of betrayal?

4. Discuss examples of how the culture: a) reveres power over love, b) stigmatizes victims and overlooks perpetrators, and 3) downplays the emotional violence and devastation of betrayal.

5. What aspects of your experience do you now understand as symptoms of post-traumatic stress?

6. Have you experienced the conflicting emotions of pain and longing that often arise after a partner’s betrayal, and, if so, how have you dealt with them?

7. What do you think of the idea that sex is like super glue that binds you energetically to your sexual partner? Relate to your experience. What are the implications for you?

8. Do you agree that you do not “heal” from betrayal, like you do from an illness? Has it been your experience that betrayal changes you; that something in you must die, and you come out a new and different person?

9. How have you experienced the “time-release poison” at work altering your memories in light of the deception you were living?

10. How has shame held you back from sharing the truth of whatever emotional or physical abuse you have gone through?

11. In what ways has betrayal put you in touch with the core wounds or “primal agonies” of your infancy and childhood?

12. What did betrayal show you about yourself you had not seen before? Do you think being cracked open helped you become more aware of and identify less with your “basic flaw”?

13. Take a few minutes to tune into any discomfort or pain you are experiencing right now. What do you notice when you bring attention, curiosity and caring to these unpleasant sensations? Can you discern the yearning for freedom and love in pain?

14. Discuss: Nothing is more precious than trusting your own perceptions. How did betrayal undermine your trust in your own perceptions? What are you doing to re-establish that trust?

15. What does “uncovering the grief of a lifetime” mean to you? Betrayal can tap into more grief than you imagined possible. Discuss possible sources of all that unlived pain. How can we make room for regular, healthy grieving in our lives?

16. What practical ways have you found to manage and diffuse resentment, the most common long-term residue of betrayal?

17. Do you blame and castigate yourself for not seeing the signs that your partner was not who they appeared to be? If so, what ways have you found to forgive yourself and find acceptance?

18. What does it mean to you that betrayal and abandonment are “calls of the soul?” What graces have you received in your dark night of the soul?

19. Reflect on any positive shift you have noticed in your inner life as a result of living through the experience of betrayal.

20. Did your betrayal bring on a crisis of faith? In what ways has the crisis brought you closer to God or your Higher Power?