Eric Erickson’s Stages:
Hope: Trust vs. Mistrust: Will I be okay?
Will: Autonomy vs. shame and doubt: Is it okay to be me?
Purpose: Initiative vs. guilt: Is it okay for me to do, move and act?
Competence: Industry vs. inferiority: Can I make it in the world of people and things?
Fidelity: Identity vs. role confusion: Who am I and what can I be?
Love: Intimacy vs. isolation: Can I love?
Care: Generativity vs. stagnation: Can I make my life count?
Wisdom: Ego integrity vs. despair: Is it okay to have been me? (Wikipedia.org)
Many clients I’ve worked with over the years don’t or can’t trust others based on their past experiences whether it’s with family members, friends, school personnel, relationships and community agencies.
One woman in particular comes to mind. I had worked with her daughter and herself for many years. At year seven, she was able to inform me of a particular situation that caused her to feel constant angst.
She hadn’t been able to trust in me about the heartbreaking event that had occurred earlier in her life because of my license and role as social worker. However, she was able to explain to me what the event was and how her anguish had stopped her from discussing her fears.
At this point, I was able to affirm with her ways I can help her adjust and cope. I wasn’t going to make any decisions to change her family constellation. I was honored that she was able to discuss this event and she learned that she could trust me with the confidential information.
Her perception of my role regarding this specific event was wrong. She realized that and actually apologized to me for not informing me earlier. She found she felt better and relieved after discussing the situation with me and identifying a plan to deal with pending changes in her family life that were possible and positive for her to achieve.
The Four I’s in Mistrust
1. Insecurities: This is your sense of who and what you are. You don’t have confidence in yourself. You have poor self-worth and esteem and question everyone’s intentions.
2. Image: Image relates to how you perceive and are perceived by others. If you don’t see yourself in a positive light, it will be difficult to sustain a good impression on others and believe in yourself.
3. Imagination: Some people may spend time creating fantasies of what they wish would occur and with whom they want to be. They avoid the current situation to avoid dealing with reality in order to escape the pain, fear and discomfort.
4. Irrational ideation: This term refers to when one’s thinking process regarding relationships is faulty. It may have traits of narcissism, anxieties and depression. The ability to be introspective and have insight into oneself is limited.
The Negative Side of Not Trusting
Many people don’t trust and act out in order to control others because they have fears. People don’t want to be taken advantage of, used and abused. They don’t want to let down their defenses. People don’t trust because of past events, feeling wronged and failed attempts at personal connections gone wrong. They fear closeness and intimacy and being hurt and use defense mechanisms and boundaries to protect themselves.
Sometimes, an elaborate means of testing occurs to see if the person is or isn’t trustworthy.
The Positive Side of Trusting
There’s a positive side of trusting. You will feel good about yourself, your behaviors and communication is positive with others. You develop good solid friendships and have a strong internal sense of strength.
Four Ways To Be Truthful with Yourself:
1. Acknowledge why you find it difficult to trust. Take a look at family of origin issues and determine how you came to have this difficulty then move forward to function and focus on now, work on those behaviors, attitudes and beliefs one step at a time.
2. Honesty is difficult but very important to have with yourself before you can begin to be honest with others. You will learn to trust your decisions and judgments.
3. Express what bothers you, instead of keeping it inside whereit can cause undue stress, pain, worry and angst. Use clear, descriptive words and don’t be afraid to state your thoughts.
4. Take responsibility for your actions and words. Being able to admit that you’re human is the first step in forgiving yourself for not being perfect.
Developing the ability to trust yourself brings rewards of self-worth and esteem as well as confidence.
It just feels good and will help build positive relationships with others.
But trust needs to be nurtured and fed in order to grow. Practice techniques of strengthening yourself via journaling, reading articles on taking care of yourself, re-evaluating where you started and where you’ve progressed on your journey to be a trusting and trustworthy individual. Then you can look in the mirror and say, “I trust me!” and then you can say to another person, “I trust you too.”
Teen hands photo available from Shutterstock