I’m considering right now the issue of trust. It feels to me that so often in interacting with people in my life, there can be a worry that I can’t really trust this person to know, understand, accommodate my needs. Along with this goes a lot of anxiety. What’s going on in the mind? Isn’t there some kind of projection of what might happen if my needs don’t get met, of how uncomfortable or difficult that will be? And along with that an attempt to come up with a way to avoid that with this person? Or possibly, if I feel that there is no escape, a lot of energy going into figuring out how I’m going to cope?
Someone may say that it’s a good thing to know what one needs and to plan. I don’t disagree. I think the problem is when it’s not clear that this is what’s going on. When I get really anxious, I don’t really look at myself carefully. All the energy is going into defending myself from what I think is going to happen. This defensiveness is felt by the other person and most likely they will react to it with their own defensiveness.
So this is one reason why I’m looking at this issue here, now. To see the dynamics clearly. Starting from the beginning, something happens – someone says something or does something – that triggers the feeling that an important need of mine is not being understood or met. That something important to me is being threatened by this person. It could be my self-esteem. It could be something practical. Whatever it is, there is a feeling of urgency associated with it – a feeling that this thing is critical to my existence or to my well-being.
So, mistrust is triggered, along with an internal image of the thing that is being threatened and the feelings that go along with losing that thing or experiencing the pain that is anticipated. This is quite a complex image, it seems, but it is usually not seen. It isn’t conscious. So, when I react to the mistrust, I’m reacting to something that I haven’t really seen and don’t really understand. I just lash out in some way, focusing on one aspect of the entire complex set of feelings. For example, I might insist that someone can’t park in my parking spot. If I’m asked what the problem is, I’ll probably talk about the parking spot. It’s the only element of the whole issue of which I’m aware. But the rest of the picture – which might include feeling taken advantage of, or deserving recognition, or concern that the person taking my spot is competing with me for my entire place in my family, and all of the anxiety stored from the past and associated with these feelings – all of that is most likely invisible to me, at least at first. So I think that I’m dealing with an issue of protecting my parking spot and all of my problem solving revolves around that, but that’s not the entire issue. It’s not even the main part of the issue.
It would make sense to stop and take some time and space to let the deeper aspects of the situation unfold before reacting. For some strange reason, this doesn’t often happen. The sense of urgency and need to defend are too strong. By definition urgency is something that requires immediate action, not reflection. But when we see in our lives over and over again that defensiveness, no matter how justified it may seem, leads to more pain, arguments, isolation, then maybe this sense of urgency can be questioned. The question may pop up “What the heck am I really reacting to?”
Interestingly, while all of the turmoil I just described is going on, to what extent am I in touch with what’s going on with the other person? Often it strikes me that they’re not even part of the picture for me. I’ve made assumptions about them and that’s all. Just like I focus on the parking spot as the “real” issue and am not aware of what else is going on for me, I focus on the other person as someone I can’t trust and may not be considering any further what’s really going on for them. It’s really nice when this closed scenario opens up and I being to wonder what’s up with the other person.
Does trust, then, mean that if I don’t react so strongly, I can count on the other person to understand and accommodate my needs? That doesn’t seem likely most of the time. Does it mean that I can trust that things will at least work out smoothly and relatively painlessly? I don’t think that’s a guarantee either. Maybe trust is an irrelevant concept. What’s important is becoming transparent to the fears and anxieties that usually move me and in that transparency, becoming able to understand other people, to see them for who they are, to understand the fears and anxieties that are moving them.
Someone might say, “I do understand that jerk. He’s just trying to feel superior and that’s it.” But this isn’t the whole picture, is it? It’s an assumption, that may or may not have much truth, relevance and perception to it.
Don’t we have a tendency to “trust” in these snap judgements? It’s easier to just believe someone is a jerk and then try to work around that. What happens when we start questioning snap judgements? It may feel uncomfortable, disorienting, vulnerable, unsafe. I wonder if we can learn to work in this “unsafe” realm instead of looking for something to trust. Not sticking to what’s easy, habitual, well known, trusted.