A woman approached me after I was speaking at a conference. She was wearing a bright yellow pin that proclaimed “IWLA.” She told me a story about her husband leaving her for her best friend. That was bad but that wasn’t the biggest problem for her — they were next door neighbours! Her husband moved his stuff over the fence and into a new woman’s bedroom and kitchen and bathroom.
She bumped into this new couple at Safeway and on Facebook and she found herself examining every car that drove into their shared cul-de-sac. Hate was being nourished.
There is a lot to the story, much of it tough and some of it inspiring; but to be brief, she made the decision that she would love people again, especially people difficult to love. She would even love men. She would even love best friends. And that takes trust in oneself and every other self she might meet.
We all know that once love has been betrayed, people will be less trusting the next time and some will never get over the betrayal. The degree of mistrust that is engendered varies between individuals and with the enormity of a particular betrayal. However, trust can be rebuilt with repeated positive experiences.
Note this: trust and distrust are experiences and not feelings. To cry, “I just don’t trust anymore!” is to more truthfully say, “I am still royally pissed off and I have not recovered!” The experience of broken trust produce fear – hurt – anger (this amalgam is “bitterness”). But trust is the practice of getting over through these emotions without overwhelming residue. If you have been abused by betrayal, you have to do something for the feelings to change.
Here is what I tell people who are trying to figure out trust and re-trust.
The first step of re-trusting is to do anything with your bitterness. This is the process phase. Talk it out, pray it out, forgive it out, run it out, write it out, garden it out — just get it out. Just don’t nurse it or hook others into saying, “Oh poor you.” Nourishing distrust and un-love builds a narrative that will never set you free.
Step two: do something you have not done before that is better than what you have done since you were betrayed. This is the initiation phase. It is the beginning of loving again. Take up bowling (5 pin is fun); drink lattes in designer coffee shops three times a week and write an online journal with pics about the best and worst; join a cult (that is not really a good idea); do stranger interviews (see another post). The thing is, if you think of yourself as a Victim in life, then you will surely become one. Change your narrative. Get a tattoo that says IWLA and tell yourself that you can overcome rejection and stupidity — yours and the others.
Step three is the toughest step: forgive the rat. (You can tell by that description that I am undifferentiated and totally on your side.) This is the new beginnings phase. Forgiveness is hard. It is not a transaction (“I forgive you, you rat!”) but a thought-out behaviour change. You decide to experience your pain, own it as yours, and do something with it (see step two). Forgiving is bearing pain, deciding to face it and determining to change. Bearing-deciding-determining — verbs of re-trusting.
So you get into an intimate relationship and you are afraid, or you avoid intimacy because you are afraid. What do you do? You initiate. This is what loving and trusting is. You start something rather than wait for the world to change. You make decisions based on character and consistency. You re-trust in increments over time. You let yourself feel love and you wonder about the future.
I think you can re-trust. I see it in my practice and sometimes in my own life. Take ownership and step-by-step face life. You can trust again.
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