Trust is an interesting topic to ponder. Like other virtues, it feels like something everyone else has a ton of and I seem to lack. There’s also the ubiquitous motto about trusting yourself before you can trust others. Or the one about trust being the way to access things like love, forgiveness, or community.
Do I trust myself? Do you trust yourself? How do we learn to trust if we don’t? Is trust a 24/7 state of being that we’re aiming for?
In preparing to write this piece, I turned my mindfulness practice this week toward trust. I made an effort to be aware of it in my life and to observe the trust process in others. I’ll be honest and say that I was doing a little comparing – but I justify it by saying that my background in counselling has taught me the importance of establishing a baseline.
The first thing I noticed was that we all seem to have sticking points. We continually run into the same conflicts in our relationships and recreate similar patterns in our life. Regardless of our changing circumstances, we manage to find a way back to our sticking points.
Sticking points are often things we don’t even question about ourselves. It feels like ‘just the way life is.’
We All Have a Process
Trust seems to be a process rather than a state of being. I had a frustrating phone call with someone this week and after I hung up I realised that the reason I was so annoyed was because I wasn’t saying what I wanted to say. I was holding back because I didn’t trust my authentic voice and I didn’t trust that this person would receive my authentic voice with kindness or understanding.
Afterwards, I thought about what I wished I had said and made a pact to try to say those things if it came up again. Sure enough, same person, next phone call, and I’m running headfirst into my sticking point of not speaking up. It’s a belief that speaking up is bitchy. Remembering my pact with myself, I give it a shot.
It doesn’t work. I AM bitchy. And the person on the other end can sense it. We hang up with what I can only assume are mutually mixed feelings. I have attempted to trust myself and only succeeded in reinforcing my sticking point. I can’t trust myself to speak from the heart because the mind will just get in the way. And people won’t receive me well.
Extend Your Process
This is where the dialogue ends for most of us. A sticking point is, after all, ‘just the way life is.’ But with my mind on this piece and my practice intention, I dug a tiny bit deeper.
Is speaking with my authentic voice with heart and compassion something I can develop? Absolutely. I’m intelligent, I’m motivated, and I’m mindful. The only things that seem to be stopping me are my belief that I can’t and a lack of trust that I won’t alienate myself by doing it.
So, I made a second pact with myself. At the next phone call, I would take responsibility while also opening myself up and sharing this process. I actually called them back later in the day just to have this conversation.
I apologised for my attitude. I acknowledged the fact that I struggle with saying what’s on my mind. I explained that because believe I won’t be accepted, my natural inclination is to go on the defensive – and they had gotten the brunt end of it that morning.
Now, I could do all this because I had a basically solid, if not particularly close, relationship with this co-worker. To my relief, my confession was well received and gratitude was expressed for my sharing.
My experiment in trust is done for the week. It took me three phone calls to build up enough trust to speak from the heart. But I did it. And it will likely take me three phone calls with the next person. But maybe now that I’ve identified this sticking point, learning to trust will be a little bit easier.
By Nadia Alamo