On trusting...

February 22, 2021
Updated: February 22, 2022
Est. Reading: 4 minutes

A friend of mine recently exchanged funds to purchase a vacation rental she found at a superb discount on Craigslist. She thought it may be too good to be true, and felt skeptical about the advertisement. However, her desire to find a reasonably priced rental may have affected her judgement, and against her own better judgement, she exchanged the funds in spite of her skepticism. She later discovered what she had suspected... It was a SCAM.

This got me thinking about trust. The concept of trust comes up quite frequently in my sessions with my clients. Typically, it is in context to a relationship the client has with another. Trust is a fundamental piece of any relationship, but it is also one of the most difficult for many people. So many of my clients think of trust as an "all or nothing" element, an absolute, either you trust someone, or you don't.

We also typically think of trust as uni-directional, and that direction is outward. But what about trusting yourself?

It is healthiest to think of trust as a bi-directional continuum, a spectrum of sorts, where you can rate how much you trust. Rating can be done with a simple percentage. For example, you may trust an acquaintance 50%, or if you meet a stranger, maybe only 15%, or if you know someone well and they have always been there for you and are honest and follow through with what they say most of the time, you may trust that person 95%.

Also, think about what it is that you are trusting? Honesty? Safety? Accountability? There are different things we may trust about another person. Do we feel safe around that person, do they hurt us physically or emotionally or verbally, and if so, how frequently? If someone says they are going to do something, do they do it? Do they follow through? And how often? If someone makes a mistake, do they hold themself accountable, or blame others? These are some of the areas that people may feel it is important to trust.

Another thing to consider is the type of relationship you have with that person. You may trust your therapist with personal details of your life because they don't betray your confidence, but if your hairstylist is a gossip, you may not trust to tell your hairstylist your personal details of your life. On the flip side, you probably wouldn't trust your therapist to cut your hair, while you trust your hairstylist based on past experiences of quality cuts.

As you may be noticing, trust is based on actions. Should we blindly trust? Well, I wouldn't recommend it, and it is ultimately your call. Some amount of skepticism is healthy, but watch out for that all or nothing thinking. Trust is something that is earned, and the most important person to start with is yourself. Trusting your own judgment and decisions is important. Observing another's behavior and trusting your instincts and judgements and paying attention to how another's behavior makes you feel is critical to developing healthy trust.

Trusting yourself can be a challenge, too. Some folks have an anxiety disorders, trauma histories, or other factors that may affect their trust in their own judgment. They may second guess their choices and decisions, or feel self-doubt. They may negate what their intuition may be telling them. Additionally, desperation can cloud our better senses and interfere with our judgement, causing us to perhaps trust another too much, and not trust (or listen to) what our own intuition may be telling us.

Watch out for over-accommodating thoughts, which are those thoughts that have the words always, never, all the time, everyone, no one, etc. We want to promote balanced thinking, which is things like some times or often as opposed to always; many or several vs everyone; few vs no one, etc. So, in terms of trust, maybe we should sometimes be skeptical, we should often trust our intuition. It is not that we should never trust, or always be skeptical. It is not that everyone is untrustworthy or no-one is trustworthy. It is using our own judgment to approach and determine how much and in what area we are trusting. That is what is in our control, and that is what will lead us and empower us in our journey to figure it out another's trustworthiness.

Remember, a healthy amount of skepticism may be important in certain situations. Like an advertisement. An advertisement is created by someone you don't know. And we will reframe the over-accommodating thought -- you should never trust them -- to "approach with skepticism and trust your own intuition and judgement." Do your own research. Investigate. And, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Like I keep saying, it is not easy being human. Trust is just another area where we need to learn and pay attention. And remember, you don't have to figure it out on your own. Pick up a book, look up an article, make an appointment with a therapist. You can always learn more about trust, and practice new ways of exploring your own potential.

© Rita Haley, LMHC