Who do you trust? Why do you trust them? Do you trust your best friend, your spouse, your partner? How about your family, the government, your boss, your coworkers? Do you trust the weatherman, your landlord? Me, well I do not trust many people. I trust myself, I trust my daughter and that is about it. I am not sure if it is a normal way to be, not trusting, or if I have an “issue”.
I hear it a lot, “Oh, it seems like you have trust issues”. What does that mean? I am in search of the answer and I am hoping you can help me out.
Let’s start by identifying some of the signs that may indicate that a person has trust issues:
A total lack of intimacy or friendships due to mistrust
Mistrust that interferes with one’s primary relationship
Several intensely dramatic and stormy relationships in a row or at once
Racing thoughts of suspicion or anxiety about friends and family
Terror during physical intimacy
Belief that others are deceptive and malevolent, without real evidence
It seems that I have ALL of the signs that may indicate trust issues. Now my next step is to identify why I have trust issues.
Often, issues with trust arise based on experiences and interactions in the early phases of life, primarily childhood. A person who did not receive adequate nurturing, affection, and acceptance or who was abused, violated, or mistreated as a child will often find difficulty in establishing trust as an adult.
I was not abused as a child. I had two loving parents, they were young parents with financial woes and struggles, but I was never abused. I was loved, feed, given shelter and clothing. I had a nice childhood. So the genesis of my mistrust could not have started there.
Adolescent experiences of either social rejection or acceptance may shape a person’s ability to trust those around him or her. For instance, if someone is mocked, teased, or treated as an outcast by his or her peers during the teenage years, this will influence later relationships. Being betrayed or belittled by others impacts self esteem, which also plays a significant role in a person’s capacity to trust. Basically, those who experience low self-esteem will be less likely to put their trust in those around them than those who are more self-assured.
Ahhhh now we are getting somewhere. I was an overweight teenager, I never fit into any crowd at school. I was not athletic, I was not artistic and I was not pretty. What I was, was fat and nerdy. I loved to read, I loved words and had an extensive vocabulary. I enjoyed writing and never complained when we were assigned an essay to write. I was the student that did all the assigned readings. No one liked me and more often than not I was ridiculed for being “weird”. I think I am starting to see where my mistrust began raising its ugly head.
As an adult, traumatic life events such as an accident, illness, theft of or damage to personal property, or loss of a loved one may lead to issues with trusting others and feeling safe and secure. Being physically violated or attacked, as in the case of rape or assault, is likely to dramatically impact a person’s trust in the goodness of others. Veterans of military combat may also experience difficulty trusting others following the stresses of wartime violence. And within a committed relationship, being cheated on or left for another will often lead to the development of trust issues.
If my trust issues started as a teenager then they really blossomed in to full bloom when I entered adulthood. I was married very young, 19 years old, to a man I really didn’t know. We dated for a very short time and I got pregnant. We got married because I thought it was the right thing to do, I wanted my child to have two parents. Not even 6 months into the marriage it became physically violent. After a year of marriage I discovered that my husband was cheating on me and had gotten the other woman pregnant. During all of this I kept telling myself if I was thinner and prettier my husband would not have cheated on me. If I was a better wife, a better woman my husband would not hit me. I left my husband when I was told by a police officer that if they were called to my home one more time, child protective services would be notified and I could lose my daughter.
It was not easy but my daughter and I made it. It was through all of this that I realized I only had myself to depend on, I could only believe in and trust myself. My distrust of others was my protection from pain.
Post traumatic stress, which results from a person’s exposure to severe danger or perceived danger, can lead a previously healthy person to experience tremendous difficulty with trust. People may experience and re-experience the trauma in their minds, along with the associated anxiety, and often go to great lengths to create a feeling of safety, sometimes isolating themselves from others or becoming overly dependent.
As if my lack of trust wasn’t already bad enough I was dealt another blow 4 year after I divorced my husband. I was slowly trying to regain my life back and become a stronger, happier, healthier person. I began dating again and met someone I really liked. Time went one and we became very close. He was a good man and treated my daughter and me with respect and kindness. After 6 months or so things started to change. We would have plans to go to dinner or a movie and he wouldn’t show up. He would be gone for days at a time, no phone calls, nothing. His demeanor changed, he seemed to be edgy and moody a lot, he was easily agitated and would lose his temper over little things. I finally had to know what was happening to our relationship. After some prodding he admitted to using drugs. I told him I could not be with a person that was using drugs, I would not have my daughter in that environment. He would have to get into a program and get clean or I could not be with him. Two weeks later I found him with a self inflicted gunshot wound to the head. He lived for 15 hours on life support before his family had him removed from the machines.
The days, weeks, months and years after his death were excruciating. I had physical as well as mental pain that plagued me for years. Sleeping was difficult, every time I closed my eyes I saw him sitting in that chair with blood and brain matter everywhere. I went through phases where I would blame myself for his suicide. If I had only helped him more, if I wasn’t so pushy with him, if I was more understanding about his addiction. 14 years later and I still have these thoughts, I am not sure they will ever go away completely.
So as you can tell my ability to trust has been tested over and over again. I honestly feel that I will never be able to fully trust anyone other than myself and my daughter. I don’t have any close friends, I don’t date, I don’t go out to clubs or bars. I feel safe at home, with my books and my writing. I cannot be hurt, ridiculed or made to feel inadequate at home with my books. I know that this lifestyle I have chosen isn’t the healthiest choice but it is the choice that makes me feel safest.
If any of you have trust issues or feel that you may have trust issues please leave me a comment below ↓. I would love any tips, pointers or suggestions on how to learn to trust again.
Remember, Be Bold, Be Brave and Be GUTsy!
Parts of this post were taken from the following sources:
1.McDonagh, P. (1997, 06). Shared benefits: Group therapy delivers open honest talk with people you trust. Chatelaine, 70, 136. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/214083151?accountid=1229
2.Zak, A. M., Gold, J. A., Ryckman, R. M., & Lenney, E. (1998). Assessments of trust in intimate relationships and the self-perception process. The Journal of Social Psychology, 138(2), 217-228. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/199792384?accountid=1229