Dealing with Stress

Many people in our society have trust issues.

We’ve shared stories about how we’ve been mistreated and how those experiences have resulted in the lack of trust between members of families and friends, and certainly strangers. Not wanting to be hurt again, we do not allow ourselves to trust anyone. We believe this keeps us safe, and it may seem like a good idea, however, this kind of thinking isolates each of us.

As a result of our negative experiences, we tend to think the worst of others and we’re on guard, believing threats are all around us. As long as we continue to think like this, we are becoming more socially and emotionally isolated. One bad thought can lead to a
host of others. Unintended negative issues then spread wildly as our brains assume the worst about everyone.

Let’s look at this problem differently. We are not in control of trust. No one is to be trusted. Heck, many people don’t even trust themselves. Unless you are able to read someone’s mind, you cannot fully trust the individual, however, nothing is as bleak as it may appear. There is a silver lining. Instead of thinking negative thoughts about everyone or trying to get the world to conform to your definition of trust, since it’s subjective anyway, try instead to control only what you can control.

Trust is an external concept. It exists outside of us. The internal counterpart of trust is vulnerability. When I explain this to my clients, they want to throw something at me. Who can blame them? It’s a difficult concept. Most of us love to talk about how other people should be more trustworthy. We’d prefer not to share our own vulnerabilities. After all, if we’re not vulnerable, we can’t be hurt. It’s difficult to open up and talk about our vulnerabilities; it often hurts and it’s not always fun. However, if we can be vulnerable with only one person, we will trust that particular individual.
What we would most likely say is, “I trust him.” But what we mean when we say that is, “I can be vulnerable with him. I can be me.” When we don’t trust someone, we are also saying we choose not to be vulnerable with that person.

People can be distrustful at any time; it is up to us to choose how vulnerable we will be. If we can be more mindful of our vulnerability levels, we can adjust them accordingly depending upon the other person involved and the situation. If someone proves himself untrustworthy, we can choose to be less vulnerable with that person. If someone proves himself trustworthy, we can adjust our vulnerability levels accordingly. Again, we can’t control trust. We can only choose how vulnerable we will be when faced with an individual we deem untrustworthy and conversely, let our guard down with someone we feel is trustworthy. If we can do this, we will feel more in control of our relationships and emotions. We will then truly be more in control of our relationships and emotions because we can control our vulnerability levels; we will be internally focused. We will no longer be frustrated when others don’t meet our high ‘trust’ standards.

Focusing on what we can control will provide us with the ability to be more flexible and adjust to changes in our relationships. This opens up the possibility to think about others in a more positive light; we are not imposing our standards on them.
Surprisingly, this empowers us!

John Christie is a Licensed Professional Counselor who has practiced and lived with his family in Parker for the last 15 years.

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