Trust is so easy to take for granted. It is the foundation of nearly every professional and social relationship we have. Trust is usually earned through the process of communicating with a person over time and can be defined as ‘an expectation about a future behavior of another person and an accompanying feeling of calmness, confidence, and security’. As employees, friends and partners, we tend to expect people to trust us, and feel hurt when they don’t. We might learn as children that when we lie to our parents or carers we loose their trust and it can take time to re-establish, building trust after it’s been broken and consciously withheld is much harder than building it implicitly over time as we do in most relationships.
Trust is surprising. We earn and offer so much of it without ever paying much attention. It’s beneficial for us to earn the trust of others but more importantly to be highly trusting of other people. People who trust more are less likely to be unhappy, cheat, steal or lie, more likely to make friends, respect the rights of others, and to give people a second chance. Being highly trusting isn’t the same as being gullible and those who trust more are not more likely to be gullible than those who don’t.
When mistrust plays a dominant role in life, past disappointments or betrayals may be at the root of the issue. Mistrust is a valid and reasoned response to feeling betrayed or abandoned, but life can feel adversely affected when feelings of mistrust are pervasive, resulting in difficult feelings such as anxiety, anger, or depression. Building trust in a contained and boundaried relationship such as in therapy can help to rebuild broken patterns in our ability to trust another person. However, it can feel difficult to trust one’s therapist at the onset. You are both strangers to one another, thrown together by a situation which is artificial at best, uncomfortable at worst. You are paying a professional for their experience and expertise to help you at a difficult time in your life. Trust does not always come easily in such a situation. And once trusted, how do you ever live up to your therapist’s expectations or they live up to yours?
Fear is the enemy of trust – an uncomfortable, but quite normal and natural feeling, we seek to avoid fear at almost all costs. But fear is just another human emotion that can be embraced and set free once understood. It’s normal to be a little afraid of a stranger you are coming to for help, and to be a little distrustful at first. Hopefully that fear will fade over time as you work with your therapist and develop a trusting and respectful relationship in which you can truthfully explore the issues that brought you to therapy.