If hope is the thing with feathers, as Emily Dickenson said, then trust floats on gossamer wings.
Most people lose that child-like trust with the end of a first love, but not all. I have known a handful of souls who maintained it until death, or appeared to, but it’s certainly not the norm. Life intrudes on the fantasy that someone will be an all-loving, supportive parent. Paradoxically, if you had toxic parents, it’s even harder to relinquish this desire as yearning for a kinder, gentler life becomes a mission to get what you missed as a child.
Whether trust is broken by an affair, an addiction, or the gradual departure of someone’s heartfelt interest, it requires a radical shift in your world view. Emotionally adjusting to that cognitive terra incognita takes time and energy, but is worth it as it builds maturity and a commitment to being responsible for yourself.
At the end of the day, if you truly trusted someone and found out he or she was unworthy of that level of faith, you may swing to the opposite side of the pendulum and feel wary of everyone. That’s OK. It’s temporary. When you have been badly burned it’s natural to fear fire. Eventually, you will allow people into your heart again. You may never trust anyone else 100%. That’s fine, because the real task is learning to trust yourself. Before we explore ways to build self trust, let’s look at what trust entails.
Trust may mean your parent, child, mate, friend, business partner will:
- Take care of you when you’re sick or old.
- Tell you the truth.
- Treat you kindly.
- Be faithful.
- Keep your secrets.
- Honestly, and with compassion, share most of their thoughts, feelings, and personal information.
- Listen to your thoughts, opinions, and concerns.
- Have your best interests at heart.
Everyone has their own notion of what trust feels like. On some level, trust is having faith in someone else’s ability to truly know and support you. This may mean nurturing, protecting, listening, contributing financially, knowing what you are thinking without you having to say it, anticipating your desires, etc. As you can see, it’s a tall order. The most realistic approach is to hope someone who loves you will do their best, most of the time, to act for your highest good. It doesn’t hurt to remember that everyone is after their own happiness, and they will usually put that before yours. So, if the relationship is reciprocal and they feel they are getting most of what they want, they will make a bigger effort to please you. If not, they will have less incentive.
There are two important things to remember about trust:
1. Your decision to trust someone is a gift to you, not to them. You do it for peace of mind.
2. If they betray you, it is a reflection of who they are, and says nothing about you.
If you have been betrayed and your trust was breached, it may be a good idea to use the above concepts as mantras until they become automatic. When something bad happens, it is all too easy to let feelings of insecurity, vulnerability, and grief distort your perception. Thinking more clearly will change your feelings from anger, despair, worthlessness, hopelessness, depression, and anxiety to acceptance, optimism, sadness, and concern, all of which will help you adjust to a new reality.
Trusting yourself is much harder than handing yourself over to someone else. After all, you came into the world as a helpless infant who needed adult care and attention, so on some very deep level, it’s tempting to want to feel fully nurtured by someone. Since everyone has some abandonment issues, this desire is heightened by the fear that those we love the most will eventually leave. The good news is until you drop the body, as they say in India, you can always count on yourself. It may take a lot of practice to prove to yourself you are truly capable of healthy self-care, but you are. Keep at it and the emotional rewards will accrue, until, one day, you will automatically guide yourself towards self-loving thoughts and behaviors.
How can you build inner security and self-trust?
- Patiently accept your own pace as you move forward in your journey.
- Take responsibility for yourself emotionally, financially, physically, socially, intellectually, vocationally, and spiritually.
Practice supportive self-talk by saying loving things to yourself. Even if you are lucky enough to have friends, family, or a therapist who repeatedly tells you calming, helpful things, there is something deeply soothing about being able to hear those words in your head, and comfort yourself with them anytime—knowing you really mean them. Either way, the more you hear them, the more quickly they will become second nature, eventually eclipsing the cacophony of internal self-downing you may have been immersed in for as long as you can remember.
Everything, no matter how awful it might feel in the moment, is for your highest good and personal evolution. When you are struggling, miserable, grief-stricken, and saturated with anxiety, it seems almost impossible to remember this deep truth. Even if you don’t believe it, just keep repeating it. Eventually, you will see the way life constantly shifts and changes. It’s just like a seesaw, only now, you know you are the fulcrum.
© Copyright 2011 by By Nicole Urdang, MS, NCC, DHM, LMHC. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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