Amy Dann Psychotherapy
|Posted on December 17, 2018 at 9:55 AM|
Dictionary definition: (n/vb) belief/ve in the reliability, truth, honesty or ability of someone or something.
If trusting means to believe that something or someone is good, honest, true etc., doesn’t it imply a leap of faith, perhaps in the absence of evidence – of proof that the person, or thing, is trustworthy?
Does trusting start with “trusting myself enough to put myself into everything I do”? This suggests that when it comes to our ability, or otherwise, to trust, the most important relationship is the one we have with ourselves. If I have a strong sense of self, if I feel I know, like and value who I am – if I am OK with myself – the actions and the behaviour of others have less power to destabilise me. This does not mean I cannot feel hurt if an important relationship goes wrong, or someone I am close to behaves in a way that causes me pain. It means that even amidst that pain or grief, the core of who I am remains unaffected, unchanged: I recognise that other people’s behaviour is about them, and not a reflection of my own worth.
So can I trust others only when I have learned to trust myself? Or is trust perhaps something which emerges out of relationship, out of sharing, gradually, our vulnerability and seeing that it is received with love? If I put my trust in someone else, am I liable to forget to trust myself? Is it possible to have such blind faith in someone that we forget to listen to our own instinct, intuition and judgement, and act contrary to our nature, to our own flow?
Certainly trust is central to every relationship. Often hard-won in the first place, it can be easily lost, and difficult to retrieve once lost: “Breaking someone’s trust is like crumpling up a perfect piece of paper. You can smooth it over, but it’s never going to be the same again.”
Mistrust, or difficulty trusting, when we have troublingly low expectations of other people’s behaviour, is sadly usually based on experience. Our capacity for trusting is influenced by our earliest experiences of relationship: with our parents, or whoever cared for us in infancy. When parents or caregivers engage with us from the very beginning, mirroring our facial expressions – our earliest attempts at relationship – and continue to respond to us with genuine warmth, attentiveness, acceptance, consistency and sensitivity as we grow and develop, we form what’s known as secure attachment – think of the toddler confidently running away to play, assured that mum or dad, or whoever cares for them, will still be there if they need to ‘return to base’. This is the basis of trust; we acquire our pattern for trusting within our formative relationships. If our caregivers are unpredictable and inconsistent, or abusive, we will have difficulty learning to trust, and may grow up expecting, either consciously or unconsciously, others to be hurtful, mean or to let us down. Furthermore, we do not learn to trust ourselves. A secure attachment to caregivers over time becomes internalised, and we grow up with a strong and secure ‘sense of self’. Without this, we can lack the self-assurance to rely on others and take healthy risks.
Trust is crucial to therapy: Therapy is a relationship that can be used to heal the damage left by “previous ruptures in relationships”, – by previous betrayals of trust. The therapist needs to be up to the task of earning a client’s trust, with understanding, patience and empathy. Each client who enters therapy takes a leap of faith, sharing private truths that often have not been previously revealed even to close family and loved-ones, and in doing so trusts the therapist, who is in effect, in the beginning at least, a complete stranger.
The client’s trusting must be reflected by the therapist behaving in a trustworthy manner, by being responsible for his/her own actions and requiring the client to be likewise, for theirs. The therapist may say that they are trustworthy, but the client must have proof, and the skill comes in communicating their trustworthiness to the client. Trust is like an interpersonal bridge, carefully constructed across the gap between the therapist and client by the therapist being receptive, empathic, consistent (not perfect), predictable (not inflexible), and maintaining ethical boundaries.
Offering clients freedom of choice, encouraging them to decide for themselves right from the start if the therapist is the right person to work with, communicates trust – effectively saying, “I want you to be free to go away, free to choose to come back”. Trust can only flourish in a non-traumatic, non-coercive environment, and a working alliance is established only once the client has actively chosen the therapist.
So if we recognise in ourselves a difficulty trusting, if our trust was broken so early in life that we were not able to develop a secure sense of self, therapy, which can act like ‘re-parenting’, can help. Self-trust is invaluable, and while it may be something we need to work on more than once, its benefits can be felt in all our relationships, including, first and foremost, the one with ourselves.
Trust in ourselves comes first. Everything else proceeds from that.