Ever find it difficult to trust? Kinda a silly question. I think most of us have been in situations where we’ve found it difficult to trust something or someone. Sometimes, having caution before applying trust is a good idea. It can keep you safe. However, there’s times where exactly the opposite happens and that lack of trust might negatively impact your quality of life or affect your safety.
At the end of June I got this sweet puppy (yes, she’s big, but still a puppy!). She is quite timid and I would definitely say she has “trust issues.” This lack of trust presents itself as fear. When I first got her home she was afraid of everything. Me. The cats. Her tail. I could not catch her, I could not pet her, I couldn’t do anything with her! She is a Pyrenees/Maremma cross. Her purpose is to guard the sheep. She was born in a place that had sheep. She had loving owners that would bring her into the sheep pen and love on her. There was no clear reason why she had so much difficulty trusting. But one thing was clear, that lack of trust was affecting her quality of life. When I brought her home I thought I was being nice by putting her in a nice large pen. What I didn’t expect was not to be able to touch her again for another month and a half! Because I couldn’t touch her, let alone catch her and put her on a leash, I couldn’t take her out to meet the sheep or roam in the large pasture. She shared a fenceline with the sheep and it was clear she was interested in them and would smell them and give their ears a lick through the fence. But that was all she could do – because she wouldn’t trust me enough to put her on a leash so I could actually take her out to be among the sheep. The pups require a lot of training before they can be left alone with the sheep. She likes to be with the sheep. But she couldn’t do what she really wanted to do, because she couldn’t trust me. We’re getting there with her and she’s making progress. But there was certainly a number of times where I wish she could have understood me saying to her, “If you could just bring yourself to trust me, your life will get better.”
As humans there’s a number of scenarios that come to mind when we think of why we don’t trust other people. Usually it involves relationships with other people that have broken our trust and we carry that distrust into future relationships. Whether that’s with friends, parents or significant others. Sometimes, as we’re trying to get over the hurts of one relationship we’ll say to someone, “Give me some time, I’m just having trouble trusting you.” But is it really the other person you’re having trouble trusting? Would it be more accurate to say that you’re really having trouble trusting your own judgement? I’ll give you an example.
Where I live, you can get a learner’s driving permit when you’re 14 years old. This allows you to drive as long as you have a fully licensed driver with you. I was excited to drive and got my learner’s the day I turned 14, in the winter. I immediately began driving with my dad coaching me. I took driver’s training as part of our school curriculum and I got my driver’s license at the first opportunity, 2 weeks after turning 16. I loved to drive! I’d take a truck I’d purchased before I even got my license and would go out in our pasture with my friends and burn doughnuts and drive around in it. When I turned 16 I took that truck and the boys in my class taught me how to burn doughnuts in the snow. We’d drive through muddy pastures, we’d burn doughnuts in the summer on the gravel roads. Weather never stopped me from going anywhere. As I got older I lived an hour away from where I worked. The snow never stopped me from getting to work. Off I’d go on deserted roads and arrive at work to find they’d arranged a replacement for me as they were sure I wouldn’t make it to work because the weather was so nasty. For awhile I attended a Bible school an hour from where I lived. Didn’t matter how bad the blizzards were blowing, I’d be there. I drove in rain or shine, snow, slush or fog for almost 20 years without much incident. Then one day on my way to work, only 15 minutes away at this time, I lost control in the slush and the car I was driving began to fishtail. I didn’t manage that fishtail correctly in my front wheel drive vehicle and I ended up spinning around in the middle of the road and going into the ditch backwards. It had been a year with heavy snowfall and the snowbanks in the ditches were huge. But it had begun to warm so they had melted some and then froze into huge, hard hills. When I went into that ditch backwards it was just at the right angle that my car ended up rolling over onto it’s roof. If you look at rollover accidents, this one was small potatoes. No one else was around me when it happened, so no other vehicles were involved. It all happened really slowly, as I had just taken a corner and wasn’t up to highway speeds yet. I wasn’t injured and was able to crawl easily out my side window. No big deal, right? Many Canadian drivers bite the ditch in our winter weather. Well, my goodness, did I end up with a big case of distrust. I no longer trusted myself. I began to be afraid of winter driving. Of driving on the gravel. Driving in the rain. Any scenario where the conditions might affect the traction of my vehicle. I no longer trusted my ability to manage my vehicle if it were to lose control again. Making it even more difficult, I also lost trust in the ability of others to drive safely. I literally began having panic attacks in the passenger seat when Neil was driving down gravel roads, in the snow, slush or heavy rain. This loss of confidence has severely impacted my life. I live in Canada for pity’s sake!! And for 6 months of the year I’m planning all my activities around the weather forecast. It’s been a few years since the accident. It still affects me, but it’s also slowly getting better.
I don’t have all the answers for regaining trust once it’s lost, but there’s a few things I’ve noticed. For me, it’s kinda come down to a few things. I have to be willing to learn again. Learning can be difficult and it can stretch us in ways we’re not sure we want to be stretched. Using the driving scenario that means driving in situations where I’m not comfortable. I started with slow steps – such as driving down gravel roads at slower speeds. Forcing myself to drive in the winter. Practicing those doughnuts again and putting myself into controlled scenarios that mimic the loss of control. I’ve also had to learn how to separate logic from emotion sometimes. I drove for almost 20 years without incident, Neil drives daily in poor weather without incident. Statistically, each time we go out, the chances are better that we will get to where we want to go without incident than they are of an incident occurring. My emotions like to make me hold my breath, make strange squeaking noises from the passenger seat and grip the steering wheel so hard in the drivers seat that I cramp my hands. My logic lets me relax. Finally, sometimes, despite all our fears, we have to simply tell ourselves that we’re going to choose to trust. The end.
Now I know for some, they may have more challenges with trust in relationships. It’s a lot easier for me to build safeguards and coping strategies around driving than it can be for us to do this with relationships. I get that. I know so many people that have said things like, “I’ve just learned, all men suck,” or “I always seem to be attracted to people that end up hurting me.” That’s where the learning portion is really important. You’ve got to open yourself up to learning about yourself. Open yourself up to allowing trusted friends, family, a counselor or a pastor to teach you about yourself – they’ll often see things you may not be looking at in yourself. Just remember, they’re likely coming at ya with love. Don’t let other’s advice hurt you (when you trust the person) if it could help you. It might be uncomfortable, but that’s part of learning. Separate your logic from your emotion. If you find yourself getting angry or sad towards a new relationship, ask yourself if the facts line up with your emotions. Go with the facts. When the facts point to it, just choose trust. Every time. Sometimes, we’re gonna be wrong. I might hit the ditch again. You might get hurt again. I might get hurt. But I’m still going to have a better quality of life in the time in between then if I carried on allowing that distrust to dictate my life. And it’s ok to take time!! That too.