Learn to begin working through baggage of past betrayals, in order to be able to move forward and trust again where it is deserved.
Trust is a funny thing. We can trust someone blindly when it is not deserved, and we can also put walls up where walls are not needed. Trust runs on a spectrum, and is not necessarily black and white; trust is complicated. In order to be able to trust again after a betrayal (either trusting the individual that betrayed you who is working at regaining your trust, or trusting a different person), I think it’s important to first understand what it is that makes a person trustworthy. After all, our trust is not deserved if the person is not worthy of our trust.
BRAVING is a way to gauge trustworthiness. It is an acronym for the seven elements of trust as created and defined by Brené Brown, quoted from her book Braving the Wilderness: The quest for true belonging and the courage to stand alone (p.38-39):
“Boundaries: You respect my boundaries, and when you’re not clear about what’s okay and not okay, you ask. You’re willing to say no.
Reliability: You do what you say you’ll do. This means staying aware of your competencies and limitations so you don’t over-promise and are able to deliver on commitments and balance competing priorities.
Accountability: You own your mistakes, apologize, and make amends.
Vault: You don’t share information or experiences that are not yours to share. I need to know that my confidences are kept, and that you’re not sharing with me any information about other people that should be confidential.
Integrity: You choose courage over comfort. You choose what is right over what is fun, fast, or easy. And you choose to practice your values rather than simply professing them.
Nonjudgment: I can ask for what I need, and you can ask for what you need. We can talk about how we feel without judgment.
Generosity: You extend the most generous interpretation possible to the intentions, words, and actions of others.”
After it is determined that the individual is worthy of our trust, by showing us BRAVING, we can begin working on ourselves. In other words, we can begin working through our baggage of past betrayals, in order to be able to move forward and trust again where it is deserved.
The following are ways that can help us with this process:
Be patient: There is no magic wand solution to trust. It can take time. In fact, there may be a grieving process following the betrayal. In order to begin trusting again, you will have to feel and process the grief first. Self-compassion can go a long way here, so be kind to yourself, by not placing any unrealistic expectations or timelines on your healing and trusting.
Forgive: This is especially true if the person you are working on trusting is the same person that previously betrayed you, and now, they are working at showing you BRAVING. In order to trust again, there eventually has to be a letting go of past wounds. Past betrayals cannot be brought up perpetually if you are wanting to move forward with the relationship, because not only does this block healing from old wounds, but it also creates new ones. New wounds are not conducive to building trust.
Approach with curiosity: Regarding someone new, head into relationship building with what’s referred to as a Beginner’s Mind. This means that the new person is not the previous one, so should be approached with a sense of curiosity and open-mindedness, rather than being approached with a sense of already knowing the outcome based on previous experiences. Remind yourself that you are not an expert at predicting this person’s behavior; you are just getting to know them.
Communicate: If the person you are working on trusting is practicing BRAVING, thoughts and feelings will be met with nonjudgment. Meaning, have the hard conversations. If you are struggling with any anxieties or insecurities, talk about it. Let the other person know how you’re feeling and what you need. If we bottle up our anxieties or insecurities, or emotions generally, they tend to leak out in unhelpful ways.
Work on your relationship with yourself: It will be pretty hard to trust anyone else if you don’t trust your own instincts, judgments, and ability to stand up for yourself. Consider what you want or don’t want. Consider your values. Know your self-worth, and be able to implement boundaries around how you deserve to be treated. Also, self-care is a must. Allow yourself space to enjoy the things that bring you joy or help you relax. At the end of the day, your relationship with yourself is most important, and any relationship on top of that is a bonus.
Brown, B. (2017). Braving the Wilderness: The quest for true belonging and the courage to stand alone. Great Britain. Penguin Random House UK.
Written for you, by therapists.
NWO’s source for all things relationships, mental health, wellness, and lifestyle: Kelly Magazine is a mental health outreach initiative created by Kelly Mental Health and supported by Kelly Mental Health Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the community in the area of mental health.
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