An issue that comes up time and time again in my counselling practise is ‘the inability to trust others and the inability to trust in one-self’. Having experienced the issue in varying degrees in my life, I have come to a place of understanding with a few nuggets of wisdom that I would like to share.
Let’s start with, ‘what is trust’? Trust is the firm belief in the reliability and truth of someone or something. You believe that the person has your best interests at heart and it is where you expose your vulnerabilities to them, believing they will not take advantage of your openness. Trust is earned through the reliance on the integrity, strength, and loyalty of the person. Confidence is based on the consistency of their character.
Many people’s trust has been betrayed over and over again, which takes them to a place of erecting high walls, so they can’t get out and no one else can get in. It usually starts with the betrayal of trust from our primary care-givers such as our parents. This is where your first impressions of the world are formed. You internalize the message, I can’t trust anyone! No one is there for me! I am alone! I need to take care of myself because no one else will! Our family, school and cultural systems would have also imbibed in us their philosophy of distrust. Never trust anyone! The world is not a safe place! People are out to get you! These become our internalized scripts which operate our lives from the sub-conscious. All around us we see breaches of trust. Leaders and governments make promises and fail to deliver. The media continuously fabricates stories and lies to us.
Without trust in ourselves or our inability to trust others we live in a state of contraction which leads to isolation, loneliness and pain. As the saying goes “no man is an island”. We are all energetically inter-connected and I believe the purpose of our journey here is about building heart-centred connections and Unity. The state of the world today, where many feel lonely and isolated has to do with the fear of reaching out to connect to others to foster relationships due to past pain, where one may have been burnt and trust was betrayed.
In order to start to trust again we need the tools of emotional literacy. This needs to be taught by parents to their children and by teachers in schools. The higher we build our walls, the more fractured and separated we become. Just look around you at the impact that our behaviour is having on each other and on our world. A new paradigm has to be born perhaps these few gems of wisdom about how to cultivate trust, may give you the courage to try. As Mahatma Ghandi once says “Be the Change you Wish to See in The World.”
I believe that trust starts with the ‘self’. Trust in the self is the ability to make decision that are for one’s highest good that are honouring and self-respecting. How well do you know your value system? What values will you compromise on and what are non-negotiable? You need to know this, so that when a situation occurs and someone is trying to overstep your boundaries you are able to say “stop!” When you intrinsically know your value system, which is the foundation of who you are, you will immediately use wisdom to make your decisions. Being a ‘go with the flow” person will at some point or the other get you into trouble. There is a good chance that you do not know where your boundaries lie. So take time to know yourself and your values!
Part of knowing yourself is having an awareness of your body and being able to trust your gut instinct. Your gut feeling is never wrong! When we are present and grounded in ourselves we are aware of what is happening in our bodies. We can sense or energetically feel when someone is being dishonest or there is a situation occurring that is a danger to us. A ‘red flag’ which is a gut instinct coupled with a cognitive thought about the situation needs to be paid attention to. If you rationalize the situation and continue on despite the warning signals you will have to pay the price down the track. For example you are in a relationship and you have the feeling that the person has been lying to you, but because you feel that you love this person and have a vested interest in receiving love from them you choose to ignore the situation, thinking that they will change, you will change them, or the situation will work itself out. Two years down the track, the lies are bigger, nothing has changed and you feel miserable because you know you have compromised your value system. You have sold yourself out! When we have low self-esteem and do not know ourselves and our value system we are more likely to allow another to treat us with dis-respect or to stay in a situation that is detrimental and dishonouring to ourselves. We do this because a part of us believes that we are not worthy of doing better. As Maya Angelou says “when someone shows themselves to you, believe them.” It starts with you. When you value yourself and know your values, other people will value you too.
Trust is about wisdom. It is not about being naïve to openly trust and go into a situation with our eyes shut. There are times when our eyes are open and we are aware and still find ourselves in situations of betrayal. When you are in a relationship be it friendship, love or business and someone does something that is disrespectful, it is important to address the behaviour immediately. Call them on it! This does not need to be done in an angry or aggressive way, but with an open spaciousness of wanting to know the truth.
Sometimes the person is not aware of their behaviour because they might have a different set of values then you do. In an open dialogue there is a greater chance for understanding, of taking ownership and responsibility, a possibility of forgiveness, and a deeper friendship that can be fostered.
If the person does not take responsibility for their actions you have two choices. First, you will need to weigh up the costs. Is it worth continuing the relationship and putting energy into cultivating something that is already on shaky ground? If it is not then walk away. Second, you can choose to stay in the relationship but you will need to have your eyes wide open and have good boundaries and an awareness of what behaviour you will tolerate and what you will have to draw the line on. You can choose to focus on the good qualities the person has but be mindful that they have limitations.
To re-establish trust that has been broken takes time. There has to be a willingness from both people involved to do so. It entails compassion and understanding from the one who has been betrayed. An understanding of where the other person has come from in their journey and where they are now i.e. have they had a challenging life and is it challenging now? Compassion understands that none of us has been spared the ravages of life and we all carry the scars within that at times are responsible for the unconscious things we may do to each other. When the person who has betrayed your trust is willing to take ownership for what they have done, apologises and seeks to continue to foster a relationship, then we must open our hearts up wide to start to build bridges again.
Forgiveness is a key element in this process. For every grudge we bare it is another pound of weight we carry on our back, or the door to our hearts shutting tighter, or the walls that surround us getting higher and thicker. Before we know it, we are living in a dark place of loneliness, emptiness and fear. Practising empathy is the greatest gift that will lead you to forgiveness. Empathy is about putting yourself in the other person’s shoes. To truly understand the pain they bare, the blows they have taken. You realize then they are just like you and so your heart opens to hold the space for forgiveness.
Forgiveness also includes, forgiveness of ourselves, for ignoring the red flags or for giving our power away which resulted in the betrayal. I believe that in every situation we do the best that we can with the knowledge that we have and ‘when we know better, we do better.’ Beating yourself up is disrespectful to yourself and achieves nothing. Every choice that we make carries a responsibility to ourselves, however in whatever road we may choose there is wisdom there to be gained and none of the experience is in vain.
One last morsel of wisdom to add to the pot. It is important to surround yourself with people who bring you up and not down. As I mentioned earlier, we are energetic beings. If you surround yourself with people who are negative or who continuously betray you, who treat you with disrespect and dishonouring, over a period of time it will not just destroy your soul but through osmosis you will embody their values and actions. Remember you always have a choice to walk away. Have compassion and understanding that they are stuck in an unconscious part of their journey that is serving them for a particular part of their growth. Instead surround yourself with people who bring you up! Those who have a similar value system and who are more open to giving than to receiving. You will be able to foster deep trust and build bridges of connection that are unbreakable.