Having issues with trusting others is a hallmark aftereffect of childhood abuse. I have yet to meet an abuse survivor who did not suffer from issues with trusting others. Many report the inability to trust anyone for anything, which is not entirely true, but as I mentioned in my previous post, Aftereffects of Childhood Abuse, extremism is the trademark of an abuse survivor.
There are some things in which most people are able to trust. For example, I trust that a waitress will bring me my food after I order it. I might not trust that the order will be correct or delivered in a timely manner, but I really do trust that the waitress who took my order will eventually bring me food. I trust that the mailman will deliver my mail each day. I trust that a policeman will give me a speeding ticket if he catches me speeding. Of course, these are not the relationships that abuse survivors are talking about when they say that they cannot trust.
My therapist helped me to move past the “all or nothing” mindset in my relationships and realize that there were aspects of each relationship in which I did trust. For example, I have always trusted my husband to provide for our family financially even though I did not trust him to provide me the emotional support I needed when I was in therapy. Just because I could not count on him in one area of my life did not make him completely untrustworthy in all areas.
Learning to trust in part was empowering because I could get all of my needs met by trusting different people with different areas of my life. I might not be able to count on my husband for emotional support, but I could trust a friend to do this. I could trust my child to give me safe hugs even when I could not trust an adult to do this. By learning how to trust several people in part, I was able to meet my needs.
Another big part of learning to trust was learning how to trust myself. I have come to realize that the more I trust myself, the less I fear trusting others. Many of my trust issues centered around not trusting myself to recover when another person let me down. As I became more confident in my own ability to be okay even when another person betrayed my trust, I found it much easier to risk trusting in the first place.
Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt