Are you heartbroken? Have you been cheated on? Abused, hurt, or lied to? Unfortunately, life is full of experiences that can lead a person to believe that it’s not safe to trust anyone. There is a list a mile long of all of the trust destroying experiences that one can have. The problem is, if you want to fall in love and find a healthy relationship, it’s going to take some trust. Actually, a lot of trust. How do you put your faith in someone when you believe you can’t trust anyone?
Know the depth of the wound.
As a therapist, I’ve worked with trust issues in one form or another for years. The first key to overcoming this problem is to first identify the origin of the wound that caused the trust issues. I’ve heard about every kind of accident, trauma, and jerk behavior you can imagine. Despite the endless array of details around how someone develops a fear of trusting others, I’ve found that essentially, there are two different types of trust issues.
The first type typically consists of general trust issues that build over time for most people. You know the kind… you’ve been lied to by a friend, or cheated on by a lover, or you’ve been witness to other human beings in their not-so-finest-moments. This type of trust issue can definitely create fear and a lack of trust in others, but it’s workable.
The other kind of trust issue comes from the deeper wounds that create significant reasons to fear others. Physical, sexual, or emotional abuse, or any kind of traumatic experience can lead to a significant lack of trust in people, or in life in general. These kinds of experiences can indeed rock your world, and make it difficult to find the faith in anyone. The brain can become wired to react in fear and distrust with any reminder of the pain or trauma. Even if you want to trust someone, you may find that you keep people at a distance as a protective measure, or you may even seem to have the opposite reaction and trust everyone, even when it may not be wise to do so. While this type of trust issue is workable, it usually requires professional intervention with mental health therapy.
So if you don’t think your trust issues come from trauma, there are a few things to consider to help you open your heart and move forward in your life.
Rewrite your story.
Every moment of pain or joy in our lives is defined by the story we create about an experience. You have the power to reframe your story about anything that has hurt you, and any of the circumstances surrounding it. If you’re feeling angry, hurt, or betrayed, it’s easy to get stuck in a rut and feel like a victim. It’s easy to build a wall of distrust and believe that everyone else will hurt you too. This only serves to intensify your pain, and keep you in a disempowered state. Instead of feeling angry or victimized by someone’s actions, try to find the silver lining in the experience. There is a gift in every situation, even the worst ones, if you look for it. The heart is a muscle. It only becomes stronger with use, so open up, take a risk, and get comfortable with vulnerability.
Compare trust, or the resistance to trusting, with holding your breath. It takes a lot of energy to hold it in and remain closed. But when you finally let go, and take that breath, you find yourself gasping, and then relieved to do what you’re meant to do… breathe. Trust is no different. We were born to love, not to fear. It is our innate human capacity to love and to trust others, even as a matter of basic survival. We are not born fearing and distrusting others. It is only the experiences that we have throughout our lives that teach us to fear. Sometimes, those experiences are vital to our survival. We learn about what causes physical pain, or what’s dangerous. We learn the basics, like don’t get burned by fire. Don’t walk in front of a car. Don’t walk down a dark alley alone. There’s fear for our basic survival, and then there is fear that’s created from the stories in our minds. Know the difference, and then choose to distrust the stories that keep you fearful and limited. Your mind and your heart will be richer with the exhilaration of taking a risk and finding that it was worth it.
Heal the wounded heart.
If you’ve experienced the second type of trust issue because of trauma or abuse, please know that it is important to seek help. Despite your experience, there are people in the world who will not hurt you. Your brain and your heart may need some extra care in releasing the pain and healing the wounds. The best way to do this is to find a therapist that can help you heal. Sometimes taking the step to talk to a therapist requires an enormous amount of trust in and of itself. However, I hope you can find comfort in the fact that have seen many people learn to trust again, despite unthinkable pain and despair in their lives. It is possible. You just have to take that first step.
Know that it is possible to trust again. Remember, as a human being, you were born to trust, not to fear. It is your birthright. We just get lost along the way. The key is to find your way back. Identify the wound, apply the right medicine, and your heart will learn to open again and again. Trust me.
*Article originally published on MeetmIndful.com by Chelli Pumphrey