Tag Archives: Psychology Today

Before You Trust Again

Before you trust again, hit the pause button.

For some, the experience of losing trust in a loved one is a defining moment. Like those falling dreams where you are tumbling through space fearing there will be nothing beneath to catch you. And then you awake with a start. You’ve landed. You’re alive. The world has tilted on it’s axis. Your question might be ~

Now what? How can I survive in a world turned upside down?

For some, trust is a pretty disposable commodity. We give it and lose it and suck it up and do it again. The self-help industry is testimony to our human desire to rise again once we fall. The second, third and fourth marriage stats are a testimony to folks willing to risk the vulnerability of commitment again, and again, and even again. Your question might be ~

So what! Are there any safeguards against betrayal?”

I hope there are helpful things here for anyone who has ever felt the sting of lost trust. And, I realize I have a particular soft spot for people like my mother – who discovered my father was having an affair in the 1960s’ and had to just carry on. As a Catholic stay-at-home Mum she felt she had no options. Maybe I wish I could have shared these ideas with her back then. Maybe maybe she might have been able to guide her marriage into a more healthy harbor.

So indeed, loosing trust can be one of those moments we choose to gloss over. You know, go all British and bellow with false bravado “I say old chap, let’s . . .”

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Which, while it worked well enough for Britain’s Shadow Ministry of Information to rally morale and tamp down hysteria during World War II, is really not a workable operating instruction for great relationships.

Instead, I’d offer this as your rallying cry when it comes to rebuilding trust.

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WHY?

Great question!

Well, it’s interesting isn’t it  What we want is the depth of trust Piglet has in Pooh.Screen shot 2015-09-30 at 12.09.22 PMWhat we’ve got is doubt, anger and uncertainty. And right there, when you are feeling so sad, betrayed, worried, frightened and alone I’m going to invite you to be curious in three particular ways.

ONE ~ INTERROGATE REALITY

As in, find out all you can about what just happened, from at least 2 points of view.

Think of yourself as the doctor, initially for your own case of pain and breach of trust, and then for the person whose actions have caused this for you.

Get curious about these six things below, for you and for this other person. You are seeking to reduce your uncertainty and confusion by understanding as much as you can about the situation. You are doing the opposite of KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON. You’re investigating with eyes wide open and a determination to understand as much as you can. For each person, let yourself ponder these questions:

  1. ANTECEDENTS – what was happening just before this breach of trust?
  2. BEHAVIORS – what exactly happened? What did each of you do / not do?
  3. COGNITION – what are you thinking? How are you scripting this event? How is the other person scripting this?
  4. DURATION – how long has this been going on… for each of you?
  5. EFFECT – what are some of the outcomes of these actions and reactions?
  6. FEELINGS – what range of emotions have you been through? Have they?

When your trust has been broken, you initially may feel shocked, angry, disappointed. All so understandable. But you’ll also feel frustrated, helpless and uncertain. Letting yourself wrap your head around the initial facts of the situation can really help. There will be a time to go beyond the raw facts, but grasping these things can feel empowering, and even a little hopeful.

TWO ~ LEARN ALL YOU CAN

OK – so now you know the basics of the who / what / when  & where, and it’s time to reach out for some specific help. It could be your child you’ve lost trust with, in which case I’d suggest reading Option A (see below in gold). If it’s your partner you’ve lost trust with, scroll on down to Option B, also in gold.

A)  If it’s your child who’s challenging your trust in them by ~

  • Taking your car without asking
  • Getting a speeding ticket
  • Skipping school
  • Getting into drugs
  • Getting pregnant
  • Hurting or bullying someone else
  • Self-destructing and refusing to accept your (or anyone’s) help

Please do seek help. Here are 3 types of resources to begin with.

BIBLIOTHERAPY

Yes – books are a powerful source of comfort and help so letting yourself do some research up front can make a difference.

Type “Defiant Child” or “Suicidal Teenager” or whatever your particular concern is into your favorite search engine. You’ll see heaps of articles and books.

One caution. Before you read anything (book, blog or article) figure out the credentials of the author. Can you trust this person to be helpful to you? Do they have an obvious bias? Faith tradition? Parenting philosophy” Just be aware that not everything on line or in print is good. That’s why I suggest looking at lots of things. The ones that seem to make sense to you will rise above the others.

Go to the library and search through the books you read about . Stagger out of the place with shopping bags full of books.

Skim the titles, the back cover, the inside jacket. Look at the chapter titles. Dip in and out of whatever catches your eye. Notice the biases of the authors, but hopefully you’ll begin to find some helpful information.

Again, there really is a plethora of good material out there.  I am particularly fond of:

WISE UP

Just because your trust in your child has been challenged or broken, does not mean one of you is “right” and one “wrong.” There’s lots going on with teens and deepening your understanding of what’s happening for them is vital. If the trust challenge has to do with one of the issues below you’ll certainly benefit from the appropriate resource.

PROFESSIONAL HELP

When you reach the limit of your own ability to educate yourself with on-line resources, consulting a professional is enormously helpful.

Two great places to start in terms of finding a qualified professional in your area, with the particular expertise you need, are:

  1. AAMFT (The American Association for Marriage & Family Therapy) Therapist Locator
  2. Psychology Today’s Find A Therapist.

B)  If it’s your spouse who’s challenging your trust in them by ~

  • Not keeping their commitments
  • Being unavailable emotionally or physically
  • Squandering your joint funds
  • Not seeking help for their addictions
  • Having an emotional affair
  • Having a sexual affair
  • Leading a secret life

Please do seek help. Here are 3 types of resources to begin with.

BIBLIOTHERAPY

Yes – books are balm and letting yourself do some research up front is super helpful.

Type “Best resources for rebuilding trust” into your favorite search engine. You’ll see heaps of books. Review some of them that catch your eye. Read the reviews.

One caution. Before you read anything (book, blog or article) review the credentials of the author. Can you trust this person to be helpful to you? Do they have an obvious bias? Faith tradition? Axe to grind? Just be aware that not everything on line or in print is good. That’s why I suggest looking at lots of things. The ones that seem to make sense to you will rise above the others.

Go to the library and search through the books you read about . Stagger out of the place with shopping bags full of books.

Skim the titles, the back cover, the inside jacket. Look at the chapter titles. Dip in and out of whatever catches your eye. Notice the biases of the authors, but hopefully you’ll begin to find some helpful information.

Again, there really is a plethora of good material out there and so much depends upon the nature of the breach of trust.

WISE UP

Just because your trust in your spouse has been challenged or broken, does not mean one of you is 100% “right” and one 100% “wrong.” Life is messy and complex and there are demons within each of us who sometimes take over. If your trust challenge has to do with one of the issues below, learning more about the specifics of the problem is very important.

PROFESSIONAL HELP

If or when you reach the limit of your own ability to educate yourself with on-line resources, consulting a professional is enormously helpful.

Two great places to start in terms of finding a qualified professional in your area, with the particular expertise you need, are:

  1. AAMFT (The American Association for Marriage & Family Therapy) Therapist Locator
  2. Psychology Today’s Find A Therapist.

THREE ~ INTERROGATE YOURSELF

Ask yourself, and really answer, these seven questions.

  1. If there was one thing I was trying NOT to know about my relationship before I lost my trust, what might it have been?
  2. If there was one conversation I ought to have had much sooner, long before trust was broken, what might it have been?
  3. If there was one thing I silently judged about this person, what was it?
  4. If, looking back, there was one change in the way I related to this person who broke my trust – what might it have been?
  5. If, looking forward, there is one change I could initiate now in the way I relate, what do I wish it could be?
  6. If there was one positive outcome almost too good to hope for, that might possibly come about as we heal and move through this breach of trust – what is my most daring wish?
  7. If there was one aspect of my own character I would love to bring more conscious awareness to, what might it be?

So, dear reader, before you trust again, hit that pause button.

Love yourself enough to recognize no matter how powerless and broken you may feel, there is SO much you can do to understand, learn, support and be supported through this journey toward an ever expanding capacity for love, trust, understanding, wisdom, self compassion and that dash of curiosity that will allow you to indeed, after all of this . . .

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FIRST TIME HERE?

This is the latest article in a year-long series on the “12-most-important-relationship-skills-no-one-ever-taught-me-in-school-but-I-sure-wish-they-had.”

Click the box for the full list.  Top 12 Relationship Skills

If you’re interested in reading this blog in sequence, below are links to the series to date, beginning with the first posting at the top.

OVERVIEW

SKILLS FOR UNDERSTANDING

SKILL ONE ~ Recognize (and get to know) the many “yous.”

SKILL TWO ~ Learn how to be pro-active: choose how y’all show up.

SKILL THREE ~ Accept (and get curious about) other peoples’ complexity

SKILLS FOR CONNECTING

SKILL FOUR ~ Master the Art of Conversation

SKILL FIVE ~ Learn How To Listen With Your Whole Self

SKILL SIX ~ Crack The Empathy Nut

SKILL SEVEN ~ Practice Kindness

SKILL EIGHT ~ Negotiate with a Win-Win Mentality

SKILLS FOR RE-CONNECTING

SKILL NINE ~ Build (or rebuild) trust.

Can We Trust Too Much?

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Q   Can we trust too much?

A    Yes!

If you think about your life, I expect you can think of a time when you put your trust in a stranger who let you down.

  • Has a salesperson ever made false promises about a product ?
  • Did you fall for that on-line magical diet only to find you’re still 15 lbs more than you want to be?
  • Has a vacation brochure promised sea views from your balcony but here you are looking at a brick wall?

My guess is however that you still believe strangers, buy stuff, sample new diet aids and are persuaded by good ad copy to take distant vacations.

Why do you do that?

How come you knowingly engage in activities that conned you before?

Possibly, like me, you learn from the feedback you receive each time your trust is betrayed.

You’ll probably consult the Better Business Bureau or talk to friends before believing a particular products’ claims.

If you’re in the market for some self-improvement routine for your body or your mind you’ll probably read the testimonials, or maybe talk at length to some people who have tried what you are considering.

And as for those glossy sea-views or cruise-ship brochures? Two words. Due diligence.

In other words, you cultivate discernment. Hopefully you make fewer dumb purchases, and the economy still thrives because there are so many folks who are on their own particular learning curve so shoddy products, fake diets and ghastly vacations still sell like hotcakes!

Let’s go deeper.

I expect you can think of times when you put your trust in someone you love who then let you down.

  • Did your parents ever say “I’ll be at your game!” only to never show up?
  • Did your partner swear to live within the budget you both agreed to, only to squander $1000s gambling and rack it up as unanticipated debt?
  • Did your spouse promise to be monogamous, only to cheat on you?

Now what?

  1. Did you stop inviting your parents to your events so you’d not feel let down?
  2. Did you invite your parents, give them dozens of chances to redeem themselves, and ride that roller coaster between hope and despair in your childhood home?
  3. Or did you invite your parents, but manage your expectations so whether they came or not you’d be OK?

What about your gambling partner?

  1. Do you file for divorce immediately and unravel your joint finances so you can regain control over your life?
  2. Do you have another budget conversation and trust them to “never gamble again, I swear…”
  3. Or do you create some accountability with a firm-but-fair response that connects your spouse with some version of Gamblers Anonymous and you with resources to help rather than enable the behaviors?

What about an unfaithful spouse?

  1. Do you immediately file for divorce without exploring any of the circumstances because it’s just too darn painful and you feel irreparably betrayed and righteous as in “How could s/he do this to me?”
  2. Do you so fear being abandoned that you put up a modest fight, but let them know you forgive them if they just won’t ever do it again?
  3. Do you insist on clarity, and invite both of you to therapy to explore what led to this affair, to understand what your relationship needs now, begin to heal and renegotiate the contract each of you wants going forward?

It’s not black and white is it?

And while it might seem as if I biased the answers above to favor option 3 in each case, the truth is that how we respond depends upon a whole other layer of trust. We can only end up more or less in alignment with the option 3 responses to the extent we trust ourselves.

We experience our world as predictable enough, as trustworthy enough to the extent three factors are in play:

NATURE – there is mounting evidence that people are born with different predispositions around trust. Don’t take my words for it! Here’s

NURTURE – Since John Bowlby’s work on attachment in the 1950s we’ve understood that parenting matters. Here’s

NOURISHMENT – Is the term I’m giving for this third factor in ones ability to trust. It’s the only one over which you have control, and it’s never too late to begin. Summed up by one of my favorite aphorisms:

“Trust in Allah, but tether your camel first.”

it’s about cultivating conscious awareness for all the factors in play before deciding whether, and how much, to trust.

As Frank Crane puts it ~

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We need that Goldilocks zone of trust.

Believe me, if a couple comes to me so burdened by one partner’s inability to ever trust again after a painful betrayal it greatly reduces the likelihood the relationship will ever recover.

And, if a couple comes to me with one partner totally committed to trusting their sweetie in the face of overwhelming evidence that this is unwise (refusing to recognize when addictions are present for example) it will bring about their mutual assured destruction.

More and more I find I’m working to help individuals learn how to trust themselves enough to be able to make heart-centered yet informed decisions.

This means helping a person learn how to nourish their own feedback systems so they can ~

  1. manage their natural inclination to be either more or less trusting, this Alphabet helps;
  2. manage their attachment wounds, if present, so that the fear of abandonment or abuse is recognized and healed;
  3. cultivate a clear-eyed, robust sense of self so they can wisely discern what level of trust this or that person or situation safely warrants.

What does this look like in practice? Come back NEXT WEEK where I’ll be writing about how to trust yourself more accurately

FIRST TIME HERE?

This is the latest article in a year-long series on the “12-most-important-relationship-skills-no-one-ever-taught-me-in-school-but-I-sure-wish-they-had.”

Click the box for the full list.  Top 12 Relationship Skills

If you’re interested in reading this blog in sequence, below are links to the series to date, beginning with the first posting at the top.

OVERVIEW

SKILLS FOR UNDERSTANDING

SKILL ONE ~ Recognize (and get to know) the many “yous.”

SKILL TWO ~ Learn how to be pro-active: choose how y’all show up.

SKILL THREE ~ Accept (and get curious about) other peoples’ complexity

SKILLS FOR CONNECTING

SKILL FOUR ~ Master the Art of Conversation

SKILL FIVE ~ Learn How To Listen With Your Whole Self

SKILL SIX ~ Crack The Empathy Nut

SKILL SEVEN ~ Practice Kindness

SKILL EIGHT ~ Negotiate with a Win-Win Mentality

SKILLS FOR RE-CONNECTING

SKILL NINE ~ Build (or rebuild) trust.