You don’t need to know what’s coming to feel prepared...
You need to trust. But not trust as we know and use it. Trust in ourselves. True trust.
Much of my work with parents and couples revolves around understanding and redefining trust. Parents often talk about the breakdown of trust with their tweens, teens and college age kids. Trust, in its culturally accepted form, is earned and maintained through kids to do the right thing, or behaving properly and responsibly. When children don’t behave as expected, trust is broken and requires even more expectations be met to earn it back. This type of trust is disempowering to all parties involved and becomes a viscous cycle that strains the relationship.
The same dynamic holds true for couples, though the trust most often revolves around a different type of fidelity. In most relationships it goes without saying that partners require and hence trust each other to remain faithful. Once that trust is broken, the actions of the guilty partner remain under intense scrutiny, while the partner that has been wronged or victimized becomes hyper-vigilant, and increases demands for proof of love to regain what was lost. Once this power dynamic sets in the relationship is often unrecoverable.
In both cases how our expectations are met by others forms the basis of trust as we know it. But this makes trust very precarious. Thankfully, ’trusting’ a child to make smart choices, ‘trusting’ a spouse not to cheat (again), or ‘trusting’ an addict not to relapse, has nothing to do with trust. When we remove the moral and virtuous label of trust we can call this idealized version of trust what it is: manipulation and coercion.
We manipulate others in an attempt to exert control over our environment so that we can feel better. From what? The unrelenting fear of what we can’t control (hello COVID) and our concomitant need(iness) for safety, stability and sanity. To unmask this underlying fear, we can replace the word ‘trust’ with ‘need’ (i.e. I trust you / I need you). This will take us from focussing on others' actions and behaviors to being more curious about our own.
Then, rather than blaming another for the breach of trust and abdicating our own responsibility (to such extremes that we will even sacrifice our relationships), we go within to explore why we so desperately need others to conform to our expectations and demands.
Modeling true trust:
When it comes to modeling trust for our kids, we want to make sure we are modeling true trust. In this new and improved version, when we say we trust our kids, this is what we are saying: We are not trusting them to do the right thing (aka what we want them to do), we are trusting in them to handle whatever comes up in life. This can be a result of their own choices and actions or someone else’s - either way we trust in them to handle it. Because trust is now separate from action, it is never shaken. You can trust in your child not matter what they do and the result is pure empowerment, for you and for them, no demands required.
As we practice trusting in our kids to handle whatever arises, we must afford that to gift ourselves as well. In a time when we have no idea what lies ahead, when there is no clear path, trusting in ourselves can’t be hinged on making the right choices, or doing the right things. It must be unconditional.
Moving into true trust sets us free to be with what is, no longer having to prepare, anticipate, plan or have all the answers to be 100% ok. We also no longer have to trust someone or something outside of ourselves. Again, pure empowerment. We got this. We can handle it. I trust me. No matter what. We can 'fail', take chances, make mistakes, have others disagree with us and our self-trust is unaffected. In illness too we can trust in ourselves, and if others get sick we can trust in ourselves to be ok and trust in them too.
If you are experiencing resistance or confusion, not to worry. The brain is not a fan of this conceptualization of true trust. It prefers the manipulative form, that makes demands, blames others for failing to comply, then doubles down on its demands in service of earning back what it lost - all the while knowing that a shattered trust is not recoverable.
But the reason why trust of this kind is nearly impossible to regain is because it should not be regained, it has to die off. What once would have plunged us into unreconcilable fear, pain and heartbreak, can now be met with grace. This upgrade to true trust invites us to own our part in the perpetuation of this false sense of trust, our neediness and the manipulation of others. Blessedly, through recommitting to ourselves, we begin to release others from our demands and come to know the truth that is in our hearts:
True Trust cannot be shattered.
True Trust does not need to be earned by anyone.
True Trust doesn’t need anyone to do or be a certain way.
True Trust in ourselves is all we ever need to be ok.
In True Trust we don’t need to know what’s coming to feel prepared...
PS: After I wrote this blog I was thinking it needed some practice exercises. A few hours later I came across this: The Deep Trust Framework. Sign up is free. Enjoy!!!