“Learning to trust is one of life’s most difficult tasks.”
The above quote by Isaac Watts speaks perfectly to a struggle I see almost daily in my office. I ask people in their initial session what has led them into coming in and what they would like to discuss during our time together. One of the things I hear frequently is that they have a hard time trusting others. This might not be the central reason that brought them into my office, but it’s often something mentioned in a string of things.
Our trust gets broken so easily, and too many trusts being broken, too many hurts, causes us to put up walls; we tell ourselves that we can’t trust anyone, and that is how we’ll keep ourselves safe. That is a different post for a different day, and one I look forward to having a conversation about! Before we can keep ourselves safe, we need to start looking at how we lost our safety. Sometimes it was from people who have always been a part of our life, people we didn’t choose to let in, but were already there (our family or close family friends, for example). But sometimes, these were people that were brought into our life, either willingly (friends, dating relationships) or unwillingly (co-workers, people on the same committee as us, etc…). Either way, we need to learn see how we became vulnerable to our hurt, and begin to process what we could do differently in the same situation.
The fact is, we are imperfect people living in an imperfect world. If we are close enough to someone or if we are in a relationship for long enough, we WILL be hurt. That’s a promise. Our imperfectness wounds others, and we are wounded by others’ imperfectness. It doesn’t mean we are doomed though!
Shutting ourselves down to relationship and refusing to trust is no way to live a healthy, connected life. We NEED people in our lives, but we want them to be healthy. Life isn’t about figuring out how to ever avoid the hurt, but about trying to minimize the risk.
When we talk about learning to trust people again, we need to learn what a safe person even looks like. How did we let the unsafe person in so close to us? What red flags did we miss? How can we better recognize a lack of safety in the future? These are some of the questions that I work through with my clients.
So that’s where I’ll leave you today. If you struggle trusting people, start to think back to the people who have broken your trust. Are there any warning signs you missed that signal a lack of safety? Are there any similar patterns to behavior between the people who hurt you? What are the characteristics of the people in your life whom you really trust and whom are safe?