‘She’s bound to let me down’ ‘He doesn’t really like me’ ‘She’s only saying that because she feels sorry for me’ ‘That’s not what he’s really thinking about me.’
Do you ever have any of these narratives go on in your head? It’s a bit like watching TV. On screen the people are saying one thing, but the subtitles are saying something completely different.
At the heart of this thinking, there may be anxiety or fear. But below that, if you really look hard, it’s the big T word that looms large. Yes, TRUST. There’s something in you that makes it really difficult to completely trust anyone at face value.
So why is that? There can be lots of reasons of course, but when trust becomes an all pervasive issue in your life, it starts having a real impact.
You might find it difficult to believe in the sincerity of friends. Or perhaps that a partner doesn’t mean what they say, or that they’ll let you down or betray you in some way.
Or maybe at work, you won’t believe that your boss or colleague has your best interests at heart, but are doing deals behind your back or cutting you out. All that can lead you to feel very anxious and out of control.
It might be time to ask ‘why?’
Of course all those things might also be true. I’m not suggesting you’re making it up. But when you find it difficult to trust in lots of areas of your life, it might be good to ask the question, why?
Let’s look a moment at the feelings that go with a lack of trust. Often it’s fear, anxiety, sadness, anger. They’re all some of the most difficult emotions to handle.
In a way, the double bind is trying to immunise ourselves against the pain that a breach of trust brings. But of course, that can be futile. As I’ve written elsewhere, you can’t control what others do or feel, however hard you may try. If they’re going to let you down, they’re going to let you down, come what may.
So why this lack of trust? Most commonly, it happens for one of these three reasons: you’ve had your fingers burnt before, as an adult or a child or your not clear about your needs.
1 Recent hurts
Not suprisingly, if you’ve been hurt in your adult life, you might expend a lot of energy to avoid that happening again. As adults you can bring perspective and resilience to the experience and perhaps work through it. However, you can hold on those experiences of hurt and let them define you for how you encounter people now. Thinking about your adult hurts, are there any experiences you need to let go of?
2 Childhood hurts
Deeper seated struggles with trust, tend to go back to childhood experiences. When your caregivers are unreliable or unable to give a consistent response to your needs as a child, your trust starts to become undermined.
In the most extreme examples, you start to question your own take on reality and it becomes a struggle to hold on to what is true for you.
When caregivers acted in unpredictable ways, or said one thing but behaved differently; if they were unreliable in meeting your needs, then mistrust can form very deep roots, which can be difficult to let go of.
3 Not trusting that your needs can be met
Often trust feels undermined when your needs aren’t met. One thing to ask yourself in your current relationships, is whether you have been clear about what your needs are? Perhaps easier said then done, but when those are clear to both parties, it can lay a stronger foundation for a trusting relationship and it gives clearer boundaries too, where both sides no what would be a breach. Is there a place in your life to restate your needs?
Can you trust again?
The good news is that counselling can help heal some of those wounds by allowing you to experience a safe, trusting, intimate experience with someone who won’t reject you for being who you are.
If you want to explore trust, here’s something you can do straightaway.
This week’s lifeline
This exercise involves being outdoors if you can. See if you can find a tree somewhere in a secluded space. Choose a tree that’s big enough for you to sit against, and ideally is a tree you feel drawn to.
When you’ve found that tree, settle yourself against it. Feel your weight supported against the tree. Close your eyes if you are willing and breathe deeply and with awareness.
Feel yourself completely held and grounded with this tree you’ve chosen. Bring into your imagination the word Trust. See it brightly and clearly spelled out. Notice if you can feel where you experience a feeling of trust in your body.
Breathe into that place if you can. With each in breath, breathe in trust and with each out breath, breathe out fear. Continue this for as long as feels comfortable.
When you are done, bring your vision and other senses back into awareness and write about your experience.
So what about you?
What’s your relationship with trust? Is it an easy one or an area you find challenging in your life? How do you build trust with others ?
Want to explore how to rebuild trust in your life?
If you’d like to find out more about your relationship with trust, why not get in touch for a first counselling appointment?