One of the most difficult aspects of life after trauma is allowing ourselves to trust. And this makes sense. We have been collecting evidence from a very young age. And we have determined that trust is not something we can afford. When we were growing up, nobody said what they meant or meant what they said. I remember shocking my therapist one day when I told her that everything anyone said had a double meaning. I was absolutely adamant about that. And who could blame me? I had grown up in a world of manipulators. I had experienced gas-lighting at its worst. The behavior from the adults in my early life was never trustworthy. And unfortunately, that led to some untrustworthy friends and partners in childhood and adulthood.
So I learned that trust was not a tool available for my toolbelt. My toolbelt was built to carry survival tools only. My survival tools included hyper-vigilance, emotional squelching, inauthenticity, people-pleasing and busyholism. There was no place for trust in my life. It was too risky, too dangerous. It was likely to make me homeless or get me killed. This world was NOT a safe place for such things as trust. So I hunkered down in survival mode and worked myself to the bone. And no matter who I met or how much I achieved, I always assumed it would be gone the next day. I always planned for disaster in my relationships and the world around me. That had always been my truth so why would it change?
But things have changed. Through my recovery, I have come to a place where I can see that trust is possible. It doesn’t stay with me all the time. I still have my manic mind take over at 3 AM some nights. I still occasionally question the motives of people when they treat me with kindness. I sometimes wonder what is coming around the bend to destroy the happiness I have gained. But I continue to inch my way toward that tipping point in my brain. My first instinct is starting to shift. And as that happens, the response I get from others and the world is shifting too. There are setbacks of course. And let’s face it, this world is not rainbows and unicorns. Things go wrong. But change is happening.
And I want to bring that change to others. I know it is possible to live differently and we all deserve that chance. It isn’t our fault we were wired this way, but we can rewire for trust. It starts with an understanding of why we don’t trust. It starts with the knowledge of what currently lives in our unconscious and drives our world. It starts with building awareness of how we don’t trust so we can take steps to change it. Let’s look at the ways we don’t trust.
We don’t trust ourselves. The external world is a mirror to what is happening on the inside. If we have not developed trust with our inner parts, we cannot find that trust in the outside world. It just won’t be there. After trauma, our inner parts believe we are just another adult who wants to harm them, oppress them and shut them down. Why? Most of us are listening to that part who wants to do just that: the controller. We shut down our emotions. We ignore what we really want in life. We prioritize what others want. We ignore our intuition. And we sacrifice ourselves (and our inner parts) in the process. Why would they trust us? There is no reason to.
We don’t trust others. We have never been given any reason to trust others. More than likely, this started very early in our lives. Others were nice when they wanted something. Others made deals with us but didn’t honor their side of the deal. Others said they loved us while they hurt us. So now we have expectations. And those expectations manifest everywhere. We unconsciously attract people who remind us of the past. We do this to resolve our past pain, but we end up repeating it again and again. We don’t understand that we have to do things differently to stop those patterns. Instead, we focus on how other people cannot be trusted. And that is what we get.
We don’t trust the universe. Abusers will often use God, some other higher power or magical force to intimidate and control their victims. Often we come out of childhood believing we cannot trust the universe because it is aligned with our abusers. We believe we are not worthy of support by the universe. So even when we isolate from other people, we can’t let go of the hyper-vigilance and the understanding that disaster is right around the corner. We are always looking for how we will be destroyed by the world around us. With this belief at play, we will translate every random bad thing as punishment from the universe. Our expectations will be reinforced over and over.
But we have a different option. We can come out of these patterns. Once we see them, we can work with our parts and their beliefs to change how we see the world. We can bring our grounded adult self to the surface more and more. We can question whether these beliefs and expectations have to continue to be true. We can start making new choices. But it takes awareness and knowledge to make that happen. This is why I am devoting the month of August to building a foundation of trust. Come join me on the Survivor’s Guide for Life as we explore our unconscious obstacles to love. Click on this link so you can find out How to Build a Foundation of Trust.