Do you always seem to get involved with the wrong people when it comes to friendship, business or your love life?
Do you feel like every time you give someone the benefit of the doubt, they waste that second chance and throw it back in your face twice as hard?
Then you’re lucky! (I know, terrible choice of words 😉 ) Because this will show you exactly how to create a situation for yourself where you can trust the people in your life again.
How Do You Know You Can Trust Someone?
A common answer to this question would be to look at a person’s past behavior. But in my humble opinion, that’s not a very good indicator.
First of all, because people change (otherwise this blog wouldn’t exist). But more importantly:
Imagine you have a million dollars and are world-famous.
You meet lots of people every day. And from the first second you meet them, they always treat you very nicely, without ever doing even one thing that may offend you.
After a year, you can look back at all the nice things they did for you, and you may conclude that because of this behavior so far, you can trust them.
But how do you know what their intentions behind those actions were? Would they keep acting like that if you suddenly went broke and the rest of the world hated you for some media scandal that wasn’t even true?
There is no way of knowing. So past behavior should never be what makes you decide to trust someone or not.
A more adequate way, is to not use your rational mind for this.
A lot of psychopaths, murderers and paedophiles were reported to be the “perfect neighbor”. Because people only look at the facts of their behavior, not the feeling underneath.
On the other hand, your gut feeling about a person can be very outspoken. And rightly so.
We all exhibit very small signals through our body language, tone of voice, and general vibe, that fail to hide how we feel. If something is up, you can tell something’s up. Sad people feel sad, happy people feel happy, creepy people feel creepy. And if they do, don’t get into their van.
I believe our gut-feeling, or intuition here, jumps its conclusions on a combination of things. Some understanding of body language is probably stored in our genes. If you’re a kid, and a threatening person comes out of nowhere, you need to be able to discern in a split second that running away is the way to go. So we definitely have some innate knowledge of that. In crisis situations, grown-ups simply do not have the time to explain to their children that when a cheetah is coming at you at 120 km/h, you need to get away from it. This innate knowledge forms the basis for our gut feeling.
However, over the years, we learn to calibrate it better and better based on our life experience. Our minds detect patterns (E.g: "Note to self. People running around with bloody knives should not be trusted.") and includes these in the complicated detection system that our trust radar is.
This is a good thing. Because genetic heritage can obviously not keep up with the speed of new possible threats coming into this work. However, the system does is designed to look for patterns, not for truth. This means that any accidentally formed patterns will be included as well, even if there is no causal relationship.
This is the reason why some people will have faulty ideas like "Women can't be trusted." "Men can't be trusted." "Jews can't be trusted." “Black people can’t be trusted”. It’s a preposterous idea that skin color would somehow determine your personality in such a radical way. But these people somehow encountered an accidental pattern in their lives that makes their brain believe it.
Why Is It So Rare to Find People You Can Trust?
When you feel like trustworthy people are extremely rare in this world, it means your trust radar has been thrown out of whack a little.
Most likely it has detected some sort of “super pattern”. Probably the pattern that people in general can’t be trusted.
This is a pattern people pick up on when they are presented with lots of bad behavior from others at a young age.
Maybe you’ve had bad luck, people in general don’t have a very good track record with you. I’ve definitely been there myself. Something like that can totally mis calibrate your intuition when it comes to trusting people.
Because the reality is that everyone is different.
But after some of the more shocking breaches of trust you encountered, you simply decided you were hurt enough times, and the smartest thing to do is not trust someone so easily again, am I right?
And somewhere in that sentence, lies the reason for this trust issue.
Why We Choose Not to Trust Again
Even though I just told you so, the real pattern you detected probably wasn’t that “no one can be trusted”. I’m sure you met a lot of people throughout your who never fucked you over even once. We meet people who don’t fuck us over every day, but that’s just hard to notice because most of the time nothing spectacular happens. Especially when you just don’t get into too many situations together that allow them to demonstrate it.
The real problem is that you’ve been hurt one too many times after trusting “the wrong people”.
You chose to give your full trust to someone who you believed you rightly judged to be a good person. And in the end they took your trust, took a dump on it, stomped it to pieces and then wiped their feet with it to get the shit off their feet.
And it fucking hurt.
Maybe one time someone took a particularly large dump on your trust, and it hurt so much you almost couldn’t handle it.
So why don’t people trust other people any more?
It’s not so much because they don’t trust people. It’s mostly because they don’t trust their own gut feeling anymore.
You’ve been wrong about trusting some people in the past (we all have), and now you’re afraid to be wrong again. Because deep down you fear you may not be able to handle the emotions that might come up in case you were being cheated again.
In a way, not being able to trust people is just another way of saying that you feel insecure about your own intuition. You lost the confidence that you can ever let go again. Trust needs that confidence, that courage, that integrity. If you do not believe you can handle the possibility of being hurt again, you protect yourself.
So in that regard, it is not others you don’t trust, it is yourself.
And how can you ever trust anyone else if you can’t trust your own trust? 😉
How to Learn to Trust People Again
Learning to trust people again is not an easy process for most of us.
Imagine there was some magic pill you could take that would make you trust people again, would you take it?
That probably wouldn’t be a very good idea. Because it would reset your entire trust radar, and this would reverse the problem. Suddenly you’d have forgotten about all the negative experiences you ever had with people and you’d become way to gullible for someone your age. This would make you an easy prey for people with bad intentions and quickly bring your trust issues back.
So instead we have to gradually re-calibrate your radar by getting a more accurate view of which people you can trust and which people you can’t.
But how can you figure out if you can trust someone?
Only by trusting them and seeing what happens.
So we have a bit of chicken vs egg situation here. One that makes for a convenient excuse to keep your trust issues in place for years if you want to.
Most people intuitively try to fix their trust issues by postponing the “trusting” until the other person has made them feel safe and proven their trustworthiness.
They change to a mode of relationships where people first have to “earn their trust” first.
The problem with this strategy is that it’s impossible for anyone to actually do that.
Because asking someone to earn your trust is asking them to not make any mistakes. But not only that, you’re asking them to not make any mistakes while you are actively on the look out for any signs that they are doing something wrong.
So why doesn’t this work?
Because both you and the other person are humans. Have you ever met a human before? We’re practically a bunch of mistake-making machines on steroids. Maybe some humans can slip through the cracks long enough to make you feel like they’ve earned your trust, but they’ll make a mistake sooner or later, and then you’ll just feel like going back to not trusting anyone again.
And even if they were the most perfect human being ever who never makes mistakes, they would still hurt you at some point.
Maybe they have different expectations of what is okay in your relationship and what not compared to yours. Maybe your demands are too high and that sets you up for disappointment.
It doesn’t matter what the reason is, when people really like each other, sometimes they get hurt by something the other person does or doesn’t do. Other people feel the same way about you. You make mistakes too (in fact, most people with trust issues are a lot less trustworthy than people without them). But that’s okay. Because deep down, in your core, you know you are good person with good intentions towards the people in your life.
So think about that. You are an amazing person with the best of possible intentions. And sometimes people feel hurt because of something you do. Sometimes people feel like they can’t trust you.
Could it be then, that the same is true for a lot of other people? Because what are the odds that you’ve been magically endowed with a rare piece of DNA that makes you more trustworthy than other people?
A big aspect of learning to trust others is to stop viewing yourself as superior. When somehow hurts you, don’t immediately throw them on the pile of despicable evil people that the world is filled with (except for you). They are probably not so different from you at the most basic level of their humanity. Compassion is a lot easier when you realize this.
And trust is a lot easier when you feel compassion.
I’s also impossible to trust when you condemn everyone who fucks up at times. Because this creates more and more distance between you and the other people on this planet. If you can’t trust people who sometimes do things you don’t like, you can’t trust people period. And a lack of trust means a lack of intimacy, which makes you lonely as fuck. Believe me, I’ve tried it in the past.
For that reason, you can not base your decision about whether or not you should trust someone based on their capacity for making mistakes.
You’ll have to base it on what you feel their intentions are. When you choose to trust someone, what you’re really saying is:
“I believe you are a person who means well. I know that you have the capacity to make mistakes, and those mistakes may sometimes hurt me. But I’ll choose to react with understanding and compassion when that happens, because I know that your intentions are pure. And my emotions are my responsibility, not yours.”
Which brings us to the very last part of learning to trust again: Trusting your own emotional responses and your ability to handle them.
Because when trust is about a person’s intention, and not their mistakes, that means trust is not about finding trustworthy people, it’s about finding the confidence in your own ability to cope with hurt when it inevitably happens.
And let’s be clear on one thing: Avoiding the hurt is not possible. Because like I said, choosing not to trust doesn’t not protect you or keep you safe. It keeps you lonely. And loneliness can hurt even more. So when you’re not trusting, one thing you can be sure of is that you’re gonna hurt yourself in the long run.
The only way to break through this pattern of avoiding hurt while actually creating more, is to work through it. To take a leap into the unknown at times and discover that you were able to deal with it.
Increase your ability to cope with the hurt by taking baby steps. Start by trusting people with little things that make you uncomfortable, but still not quite make you want to punch them in the eyeballs if they were to fail you. Then slowly work yourself up to bigger amounts of trust.
2 important things to remember here:
• When you start with the very small things, don’t forget to communicate that they are important to you. It’s easy for someone to breach your trust if they have no clue this is something you actually find important.
• When someone makes a mistake here, that’s a good thing. Because what we’re trying to do here is actually discovering that when things go bad, you are able to deal with it. That’s the empowerment you need: Having experienced situations you didn’t like, and discovering you still end up fine afterwards.
We’re all scared sometimes. We all get hurt. And you probably got your share already.
What exactly “okay” will look like in a specific is a little but unpredictable, and that may be a little scary. But that doesn’t matter.
Because “okay” you will be. And there’s some pretty cool ways to be “okay” out there that you may have never expected 🙂
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