Trust: are the hairs on the back of your neck standing up? It can sure send chills down my spine. Seems we’re always asking ourselves and others, “Why do I have trust issues?” We really need to know.
We have trust issues and we know the triggers. That’s great. But what really matters is our emotional, mental, and behavioral responses.
Forty years ago I stood blindfolded in the middle of a circle of 10 people. On the counselor’s cue, two of them stood behind me.
The idea was I’d freely fall backwards. You know, trusting that my spotters would protect me.
I couldn’t do it.
Triggers of trust issues
Throughout our lives: abuse, neglect, trauma, illness, broken promises, betrayal, criticism, bullying – the list of the triggers of trust issues goes on.
This is where I usually start with facts and stats, but I didn’t do any research for this piece. That’s because I want you to feel it. And the only way I can get you there is to make it personal.
So I’m going to share one of my primary trust issue triggers, my response, and management approach.
I get it, we’re all different. But our similarities may surprise you. And if you connect with even one small something here, we’ll have done well.
I’ve always hoped that those I confide in will listen to all I have to say, believe me, not pass judgment, and be accepting.
Agreeing has never mattered.
Over the years, all the way back to childhood, my hopes have been dashed too many times when it mattered. As I came to grips with my trust issues, it wasn’t long before the triggers became obvious.
Let’s take a moment to connect some dots. We know we have trust issues and we know the triggers. That’s great. But what really matters is our emotional, mental, and behavioral responses.
I mean, how does the triggered trust issue express itself?
Here are my responses.
What do trust issues look like?
In painting a picture of trust issues we’re putting emotional, mental, and behavioral responses – how they express themselves – to canvas.
Mine are resistance to opening up and isolating.
Sadly, they’ve cost me plenty over the years in broken or “could have been” relationships, manifestations of stress, and tarnished self-esteem. The negative impact on current and potential relationship partners comes with the package.
All of it cast a shadow to this very day.
The mood and anxiety factor
I’ve tussled with mood and anxiety symptoms for the bulk of my life. Perhaps you have as well.
Well, they’re a major factor in the development and expression of trust issues. And if you consider my responses – resistance to opening up and isolation – you can see the ties to depression, generalized anxiety, panic attacks, social anxiety, and more.
It’s a reciprocating relationship, by the way. Having trust issues can exacerbate mood and anxiety symptoms.
How to manage trust issues
“Hmm, trust issues. Looks like I got ‘em. Okay, time to get to work.”
You decided you’ve had enough of the aggravation and pain.
The first order of business when it comes to managing trust issues is working through the process of identification, framing, and acceptance.
So we want to tune in to our responses for purposes of identifying a trust issue. Then we frame it as a growth opportunity, not a character flaw. Finally, we accept it.
Managing the response
With that structure supporting us, we can begin to manage our response and expect positive results.
For the sake of our work, again, mine are resistance to opening up and isolation. And it wouldn’t surprise me if we’re in the same boat.
Given my background and triggers, I perceive there are too many minefields within, some hidden, for me to risk expressing myself and being with others.
It’s a constant threat, often operating beneath conscious awareness.
Acceptance isn’t acquiescence
Okay, the responses are identified, they’ve been properly framed and accepted. But let’s never forget, acceptance doesn’t equate to acquiescence.
Fact is, my trust issues will never 100% resolve. So instead of letting them eat me up, I’ve chosen management.
It’s too easy to become comfortable living the life of a bottled up recluse. And it seems to me it would quickly turn into a dead end. Then what?
Keeping that in mind, it’s on me to free myself from the chains of any notion that excludes opening up and engaging with others. And it isn’t easy.
I’m working on having faith that there are people out there who would be willing to listen to what I have to say, believe me, not pass judgment, and be accepting.
Of course, I have to be willing to do the same for them.
And with all of the above, the ongoing business of managing my trust issue is well on its way.
We need to know
Trust: hairs standing up on the back of the neck and chills down the spine material.
As long as we’re working on identification, triggers, and responses, there’s never anything wrong with asking, “Why do I have trust issues?”
Our guy looks friendly, doesn’t he? Downright welcoming, if you ask me. Could you refuse his gesture? I’d shake his hand, even if I knew we disagreed on the issues of the day. If you’d take him up on his offer, maybe we’re the exception. Sadly, I’m beginning to think so…
In my opinion, society has been navigating with a broken moral compass for quite some time. In addition, coveting money and power has gotten way out of hand.
So I make my move to get in line at the convenience store yesterday, as another guy did the same. It was a draw. But the man took a step back, looked me right in the eye, smiled, and said, “Go ahead. People get so upset over the silliest things these days.”
I returned the smile, thanked him, and took my place. We went on to shoot the breeze as I waited for my turn to visit the cashier. Sure, the encounter was brief, but it was warming.
Naturally, it got me to thinking…
The Times: They Have Changed
At 65-years-old, I’ve been around the block a time or two (or ten). I can tell you the way we’ve treated each other during difficult times hasn’t always been pretty. Significant trigger events you may not have been around to experience? The assassinations of John and Robert Kennedy, the Viet Nam War, the beginnings of the civil rights movement – to name a few.
But as threatening, scary, and mean as things got during those times, none of it compares to the cold and hateful rage we’re seeing – feeling and reeling from – these days. Believe me, it’s different.
The Polarized Madness
I don’t think it takes a PhD in sociology to figure out that politics is the driving force behind the tornadic circumstances we’re trying to survive. Now, my context is one of living in the United States, but I don’t think it’s terribly different elsewhere.
We’re all so polarized, aren’t we? So either/or, good/bad. I mean, it’s left or right, liberal or conservative, democrat or republican. And, of course, the interpretation of the issues – climate change, impeachment, immigration, abortion, and so on – is largely based upon one’s either/or.
Thing is, there’s no middle ground, no compromise. You’re in or you’re out. And if you’re out, you’re stupid and scorned.
So Why Is This Happening?
I can’t count the number of times I’ve wondered how it came to this. Of course, there’s also the matter of how it’s sustained. Funny, I suppose the answers depend upon who you ask. I mean, where are they in the either/or of it all?
But maybe someone who’s striving to play it more down the middle can provide some worthy answers. And maybe, just maybe in a fleeting moment of clarity the either/or’s will open their minds and hearts to reason. Yes, maybe there’s another way to perceive and subsequently make decisions.
Well, I’m going to stick my neck out and suggest there are three biggie culprits driving the mess we’re in: a broken moral compass, coveting money and power, and social media.
(Man, did I just open one gigantic can of worms, or what?)
Now, one could write a book about any of the three, but I’m just going to make a statement or two. And, again, my point of view is life in the U.S. I’ll also add that I’m speaking in societal generalities.
Let’s dig deeper…
Moral Compass, Money and Power, Social Media
In my opinion, society has been navigating with a broken moral compass for quite some time. In addition, coveting money and power has gotten way out of hand. Each of these culprits influences the other in a cycling chain reaction.
Sad thing is, there’s an endless supply of fuel when it comes to the mobility and growth of these two. And that means an illusion is created that’s there’s so much to lose, so much at stake. That being the case, winning is the only option, because in a society of polarization, yes, one is either a winner or a loser.
Hey, by no means am I a participation trophy kind of guy. However, I strongly believe that “winning” can occur on middle ground.
Social media? What can I say? Where else can you coldly and cruelly rip someone open without having to look them in the eye? Accountability? You’ve got to be kidding. If you want to take a cheap shot, you’re good to go.
And think about what social media has done to our motivation and ability to personally and effectively engage with another human being. It’s become a lost art.
For Mood & Anxiety Disorder Sufferers
What we’ve just reviewed is tough for most anyone to take. However, it can be especially difficult and disruptive for someone enduring a mood or anxiety disorder. Believe me, I see and hear it all the time.
What to do? There’s no shame in turning it all off. Just stay away from the news and social media if you need to. Find other things to entertain yourself and fill your time. No, I don’t believe you’d be burying your head in the sand.
Finally, monitor your own take and behavior when it comes to opposing opinions. If there’s an issue, a little restraint and kindness go a long way.
Let’s Wrap It Up
It’s a tough world, isn’t it? Things can be so cold and hard anymore.
Take a look at our guy again. Could you refuse his gesture? I sure hope not, because we really do need each other. Now more than ever…
Those who would try to control us will stop at nothing when it comes to their cruel power grabs. One of their favorite techniques is gaslighting. You may be a victim, so learn and survive.
You’ve never known someone with this kind of sick nerve, so you figure they must be telling the truth.
Perhaps you’re familiar with the 1944 Academy Award winning film, Gaslight, adapted from Patrick Hamilton’s 1938 play, Gas Light.
In the film, Paula Alquist Anton (Ingrid Bergman) and Gregory Anton (Charles Boyer) are married. What she doesn’t know is her husband is actually Sergis Bauer, who killed her aunt in a jewelry robbery attempt when she was 14.
Seems hubby left the jewels behind because Paula interrupted the proceedings.
Well, Gregory aims to finish the job, so he forces residence in the old homestead. He insists that auntie’s furnishings be stored in the attic.
The gaslighting begins
Gregory’s mission is to have Paula declared insane so he can have her institutionalized and claim power of attorney. He’ll then be able to freely search for the jewels.
So Gregory’s psychological torture of Paula begins. And his tactics include isolation, accusations of poor judgement and paranoia, and inexplicable footsteps throughout the house.
Gregory is responsible for all of it, but pounds home the point that it’s all in Paula’s imagination.
The term is born
Gaslights throughout the house begin to dim and brighten, which is supposedly all in Paula’s head.
In fact, it’s Gregory turning on the attic lights as he searches for the jewels.
With the aid of a Scotland Yard inspector, Gregory’s power grabbing plot is uncovered. And the best part is, Paula regains confidence in her sanity and slams Gregory with a choice taunt as he’s tied to a chair – before being taken away.
So, then, “gaslighting.”
Dr. Stephanie Sarkis on gaslighting
Dr. Stephanie Sarkis is an expert on gaslighting. In fact, she’s written a book entitled Gaslighting: Recognize Manipulative and Emotionally Abusive People – and Break Free. I’ll slip you a link to get to her at the end.
Here’s Dr. Sarkis’ definition of gaslighting: A tactic in which a person or entity, in order to gain more power, makes a victim question their reality.
Paula, played by Ingrid Bergman
She goes on to say anyone is susceptible to gaslighting, and it’s a common technique of abusers, dictators, narcissists, and cult leaders.
Cruelly, it’s done slowly so the victim has no idea just how much they’ve been brainwashed.
The gaslighter often presents one face to their prey and another to everyone else. It leads victims to assume their tale of manipulation won’t be believed, were they to ask for help.
Let there be no doubt, victims are targeted at their very core – their sense of identity and self-worth. So it’s no wonder that gaslighting can cause one to doubt their memory, perception, and even their sanity.
11 common gaslighting techniques
From her book, Dr. Sarkis shares 11 common gaslighting techniques…
Telling blatant lies: With a straight face they’re setting up a precedent to keep you unsteady and off-kilter.
Denying they ever said something, even though you have proof: It’s the beginning of questioning your own reality – and accepting theirs.
Using what’s near and dear to you as ammunition: Usually the first things attacked are your children and identity – the foundation of your being.
Wearing you down over time: A lie here, a lie there. Then a snide remark or two. And it all starts to take its toll.
Actions do not match their words: Look at what they’re doing, rather than what they’re saying. What they’re saying means nothing.
Throwing in positive reinforcement to confuse you: After cutting you down, they’ll toss in some praise every now and then. It’s calculated to keep you unsteady.
Knowing confusion weakens people: Knowing stability and normalcy are important, they uproot it to keep you constantly questioning.
Projecting: They accuse you of all that they are. It’s to make you defend yourself so you’re distracted from their behavior.
Trying to align people against you: They’re master manipulators, finding people they know will stand by them no matter what. They’ll quote these people saying bad things about you. It’s an effort to isolate you from everyone.
Telling you or others you’re crazy: One of the most effective tools because it’s dismissive. If they question your sanity, they know others won’t believe you when you present the truth about them.
Telling you everyone else is a liar: It’s all about having you question your reality. You’ve never known someone with this kind of sick nerve, so you figure they must be telling the truth. It’s manipulation, making you turn to them for “truth.”
Cruel power grabs, all.
Learn, be aware, and survive
I really hope you’re not having to deal with this madness. If you are, perhaps you’re onto it and working on your freedom. This piece, then, can serve as a booster.
But maybe you had no idea what was going on, and now you’re able to connect the dots – and begin the process of breaking free.
Gaslighting: one cruel power grab. Learn, be aware, and survive.
Understandably, we mood and anxiety disorder warriors are full of questions. “Why am I depressed?” “Is there a cure for anxiety?” “Am I mentally ill?” I mean, there are jillions of ’em. But one reigns supreme, and I’m not so sure it gets asked enough, if at all. And everything is riding on it…
I’m in my early-60s and can tell you this ‘Who Am I?’ business has baffled me seemingly forever. And it’s cost me plenty. So many roles played and so many people pleased…
Posted a piece featuring Eric Clapton last week. And I believe anyone struggling with a mood, anxiety, or substance disorder will find his story riveting and hopeful.
But here’s a tidbit I left out…
In his early 50s, clean and sober for 10 years, Eric decided to commence therapy in an effort to somehow “control” a woman with whom a relationship just wasn’t going to happen. Well, little did he know he’d immediately find himself headed in a totally different direction.
So there he sat in front of his therapist for the very first time. And knowing full-well who she was working with, the first words out of her mouth were, “Tell me who you are.” Eric said he felt the blood rush up to his face and he wanted to scream, “How dare you! Don’t you know who I am?”
Later, Eric acknowledged he had absolutely no idea who he was, and was ashamed to admit it. He went on to observe, “I wanted to appear that I was ten years sober and fully mature, when in fact I was only ten years old, emotionally speaking, and starting from scratch.”
As full as his life was, and as huge as it was to rid himself of substances 10 years prior, I’m thinking Eric would agree that his life truly began during that first therapy session.
What About You?
I wonder if you’ve ever asked yourself or others, “Who Am I?” Who knows, maybe it’s been asked of you.
But now that the subject has been introduced, do you understand the power and life-importance of the question, and, of course, the answer?
To the extreme, let me fire a scenario by you…
A young woman was raised by a mother and father, both of whom were scientists and had an “IQ” of 160 (the estimate for Einstein, actually). When she was an infant, her parents declared that she would be equally as intelligent and exceed their academic and scientific accomplishments. I mean, there was never any doubt, this was the expectation – the reality.
So with an assigned “Who am I?” as a budding genius and science prodigy, off to life she went. All the while, her parents pounded-home their declaration day and night.
Now for a couple of facts. Not only did our friend hate science, her IQ was an above average 120.
Given the expectation/reality quotient driving her personal identity, do you think there’s a pretty good chance she’d end up struggling with more than her fair share of inner conflict and its manifestations?
I’d bet the farm.
What About Me?
I’m in my early-60s and can tell you this “Who Am I?” business has baffled me seemingly forever. And it’s cost me plenty. So many roles played and so many people pleased. So much cognitive dissonance, bouts with regression, cognitive distortion, anxiety, and other “unnecessities.”
Well, here, take a look at a poem I wrote some 30 years ago…
Who is This Person
Who is this person so hard to face When in the world did I start on his case
His look so deceiving A harmony smile But deep down inside he cries all the while
A master of costume A genius of wit A challenging puzzle The classic misfit
He’s always a member but never belongs Forgetting the goodness but never the wrongs
So gentle of feeling and tender of touch He longs for the meaning of loving so much
His soul coldly frightened is forced to be brave From every last angry emotion he saved
Who is this person so hard to face Why in the world did I start on his case
Hard he is trying to find me again To start it all over from where he began
Can you at all relate? And if you can, and you’re (still) struggling with emotional and mental distress, can you connect some dots and move toward recovery in a fresh and more efficient manner?
On to Part Two
When I decided to run a piece on “Who am I?” I knew it was going to have to be at least a two-parter. There’s just too much to say about a phenomenon that can generate all sorts of misery and, ultimately, all sorts of calm.
Think about it. Wouldn’t it make the most sense to immediately ask – and answer – the “reigning supreme” question? I mean, once we get that handled, we may be surprised how quickly the other inquires fade away.
You’re wracked with panic attack symptoms and bone-crushing stress. Maybe it’s major depressive disorder. A well-meaning family member chimes-in, “You really need counseling.” You thank her, and as you reach for another Xanax you mumble, “Lotta’ good that’ll do.” So come on, get off the couch!
What a great opportunity to unload what’s on your mind and in your heart – truly be you – in a supportive and non-judgmental environment.
Reality is, seat-of-the-pants counseling/psychotherapy recommendations have become cliché. Talk is cheap. Oh, the intent is likely honorable, but the words flow forth too easily, often without much thought behind them (like “Oh, he’s bipolar…” or “She’s a borderline…”).
And then there are scads of psychiatrists and primary care physicians who under the influence of Big Pharma tell us meds are the answer – “Hallelujah, it’s a murkle!” Finally, the quality of service offered by many counselors is iffy, at best.
Is it any wonder those enduring difficult emotional/mental circumstances choose to thumb their noses at counseling, sticking with the couch and remote?
All that said, I still believe in the power of counseling, and submit pursuing it’s well worth the emotional, mental, physical, and financial investment.
“Well, duh, Bill – you’re a counselor.” True, but I’ve been the recipient in my share of counseling sessions over the years. And I’m testifying to the fact that when counseling doesn’t go well, it often has much to do with client readiness. I mean, let’s not forget about dynamics such as resistance, which we discussed in last week’s piece, Resistance | The Invisible Barrier to Healing (That Begs to Be Seen).
15 Reasons to Keep an Open Mind About Counseling
Hmmm, so how can I convince you it’s well worth it to keep an open mind about counseling? Would you consider the following?
What a great opportunity to unload what’s on your mind and in your heart – truly be you – in a supportive and non-judgmental environment.
Think of the relief you’ll feel when you come to know what you’re experiencing – and you – aren’t at all odd or “freakish.”
Making the counseling commitment sends a powerful internal message that you’re ready for growth and healing.
My money says in fairly short order you’ll realize your situation isn’t as nasty and hopeless as you thought.
Participation in well-documented – and administered – therapies works for millions. Is your brain so unique they can’t work for you?
You’ll learn coping strategies and techniques you can use daily to help you along your journey.
In a safe environment, you’ll be able to try on for size those social dynamics you’ve long-since abandoned.
How good will it feel to be presented with well-deserved positive reinforcement, and hearing nice things being said about you?
You’ll rest assured in knowing someone has your back, no matter the time or where you are.
It’s the perfect environment in which to learn how to trust and be trusted.
Under what better circumstances can you venture out of your emotional, mental, and physical comfort zones, and learn you’ll more than survive?
You can gain insight into who you really are and how to become who you’d like to be.
You can come to understand how special you are, and how deserving you are of healing.
It’s a secure place where you can comfortably share your vulnerabilities and personal challenges, and get supportive feedback.
Seriously, what’s to lose? Deeply consider what you’re calling “life.”
Wellllll, what do you think?
Hey, no doubt, the fulfillment of any of the above requires working with a counselor with whom you have a good fit. Yes, there are some iffy ones out there; however, tons of good ones, as well. And, of course, finding them may take some due diligence on your part. Speaking of which, here’s the first of a series I posted five years ago on finding a counselor. To access ’em all, enter “i need a counselor” in the search box (top right).
And That’s That!
There’s nothing worse than being up to your eyeballs in panic attack symptoms, major depressive disorder, chronic stress, grief, or whatever else may ail you. Okay, meds – guess we have to at least toss them into the equation. But counseling is irreplaceable when it comes to getting you where you want to go.
Next time someone suggests you consider counseling/psychotherapy, hold off on the negative spin pertaining to “Lotta’ good that’ll do.” In fact, it literally may well be true.
So toss the remote, get off the couch, and open your mind!
By the way, if you come up with more reasons to keep an open mind about counseling, please share in a comment. Actually, you can share why you believe one’s mind ought to stay closed.