Tag Archive: safe people



broken trust

Nothing seems more difficult to recover from then when someone whom you have trusted suddenly, and without warning, does something you did not expect that is life altering or affects the safety of your relationship with that person. The shock of the betrayal of trust from someone whom you expect to be trustworthy, whether it be your parents, a friend, a lover, an abusive encounter, whatever the case may be, when trust is broken, something deep inside of us is altered. And at the time, it feels like permanent damage to our souls.
 
We are internally wired to trust, to believe, to hope for goodness from other human beings with whom we are in relationship with. There is something almost naïve in all of us that assumes that other people will treat us with common courtesy and goodness, loyalty and essentially be trustworthy people in our lives. We were hard wired to trust. Now you may be questioning the truth of these statements as with almost complete certainty, you have at least one, if not two or more stories coming into your mind right now that has proved otherwise that people are genuinely trustworthy. If this is the case, then you have learned the hard lesson through a betrayal that has happened in your life that caused you to challenge this inherent sense of need to trust. The reason for this, is simply this: broken trust has altered you.
 
Before we experience a trauma of any kind, we expect things to be generally good. After a trauma, our sense of personal safety is now the major focus of our life.
 
A simple personal example I will share of something I experienced as a natural phenomenon,  occurred a few months after the major quake in Haiti a few years back. My husband and I were vacationing in the Dominican Republic, and while we were there, we experienced an aftershock earthquake where the ground was literally moving beneath our feet. Now for those of you who live in areas of the world where earthquakes happen more on a regular basis, you would have adapted to the experience and even the expectation of it. But for those of us who do not live in earthquake zones, it can be a little upsetting and shakes your confidence in the earth’s structural integrity. You grow up expecting the earth beneath you to be solid and stable and give little thought to earthquakes in general. So after experiencing an earthquake… suddenly, what once seemed so safe and predictable, has now been called into question. Going through a major experience of an earthquake is enough to alter your expectations. You start looking for it, fearing it, wondering when the next one will happen…. are you safe? This is what I am referring to when I say that we become ‘altered’ by experiences where something we once trusted in completely, has changed, thereby changing our expectations. We begin to believe everyone around us is untrustworthy, and our constant focus becomes protecting ourselves and asking the ever present question: Am I safe? Is this safe? What is safe? We begin to project our expectations of a lack of feeling safe onto everyone in our lives. We expect once trust has been broken that everyone else will be exactly the same as the one who broke our trust. Our confidence in safety has been shaken. Our focus now revolves around the issue of safety. However true or untrue this view of reality is, it becomes the focus of our life post-trauma. We become pre-occupied with the concept of safety, something we barely gave our attention to before we experienced a trust injury. This altered state becomes our new reality, becoming suspicious of everyone and everything, incapable of attaching and making new deep connections with others, because OBVIOUSLY, we are no longer safe with anyone. EVERYONE is no longer trustworthy because of one experience that caused damage to our souls and even self esteem. We begin to doubt  and question whether we are even able to judge or discern who is trustworthy and a seed of self doubt is formed in our psyche. This is just a portion of the damage that broken trust does in our lives.
 
So now that we know that the hardwiring in our brain has been altered as a result of broken trust, the bigger question remains: Can I ever trust again? And what happens if I can’t? broken heart stitched up>
 
In the words of C.S. Lewis, author of the Chronicles of Narnia, and colleague and good friends with the author of the well known movie trilogy series “The Lord of The Rings,” has this to say on the subject of life without trust:
 
“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully around with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable..”
 
In other words, our hearts become hardened, our lives locked up in isolation, intimacy always held at bay. The problem with living in this state is that we lose the ability to feel anything warm at all. We become distant, removed, disconnected. Safe from harm, yes, maybe… but at great personal cost to our souls.
 If you are currently in this state of isolation, depending how long you’ve been there will exhibit different symptoms. If you have been disconnected for a long time, you may no longer even feel any desire to attach and bond to other people, but you likely feel disconnected and alone. You may feel that you don’t even care, but if you were to be really honest, you feel trapped. Part of you wants to no longer be so alone and disconnected, the other part afraid of being hurt again.
 
I would bet that most of you who are reading this article from a search engine are searching for answers because you are in a different state than the completely walled off person mentioned above. You are likely feeling like you hate how disconnected you feel and want to connect or trust again, but the fear is overwhelming…. the desire to risk and trust again wavering back and forth between a yes to trusting again and a “No! it’s not safe” happening in your heart. You are likely looking for information to know how to take baby steps toward trusting again. What you want to know is: Is it possible to trust again after there has been a major trust violation in your life. You may even be thinking, “how can I trust your blog…. experiencing a minor earthquake is nothing like the major betrayal of someone close to you in your life… what do you know about it?” Actually, that is precisely why I’m writing this blog. I’m exactly where you are. I have endured major betrayals on more than one occasion in my life, and lived to tell about it. I wish I didn’t have so much experience in this area. The purpose of this blog for me is to offer to you, the same information I was looking for, in order to heal, to repair, and stop living in the fear of the unknown, of being rejected, abandoned, betrayed, broken hearted all over again.
 
My goal is to share some useful information to pass onto you about whether it is possible to ever trust again. And the answer is a resounding YES!
 
How to heal after a major betrayal
 
If you’ve been betrayed in a major way by someone you have trusted that has seriously called into question whether you can ever trust them again, I’m sure you are asking the following questions whether you are consciously aware of it or not.
  1. How will I ever cope with this?
  2. Does the other person really care about me?
  3. Can the other person really see me and understand how his/her betrayal hurt me?
  4. Can our relationship survive?
  5. Can we make things safer and better between us?
  6. Can I FORGIVE him or her?
 
The answers to these questions are the beginning process to knowing whether trust can be restored with the person who broke trust with you.
 
Think about these questions for the next few days, and then tune in to my next blog which will be a part 2 to this blog, and also doubling as a book review for a book I read that really helped me. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in a more intensive look at the concept of broken trust and how to heal from it. The book is called “I love you but I don’t trust you” by Mira Kirshenbaum. I would also recommend checking out my trauma program on my life coaching website at http://www.freedomlifelove.com which is a six month program to walk you through the stages that occur when a major betrayal or breach of trust has occurred and has broken down a relationship that was important to you. It helps you anticipate what to expect, how to cope, with or without the person who was involved in the trauma you currently are facing.
self esteem hierarchy of needs
 
For today, I merely want to pass on some hope: YES, IT CAN HEAL. YES! YOU CAN TRUST AGAIN… Perhaps you can even learn to trust again the person who caused the trust injury. That will all depend of course, on how much responsibility they are willing to take for their actions and whether they are willing to do what it takes to make amends by becoming a safer person in your life. If they are willing to walk through the long process of becoming more trustworthy and are willing to earn your trust again, there is hope for reconciliation and restoration. Without these ingredients, there is little hope for trust to be restored in that relationship. I encourage you to take a look at an article I wrote last year on finding safe people and the characteristics they possess. Even an untrustworthy person now, over time, can make changes and become a safer, more trustworthy person.
 
 
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baby trusting mommyWhat is trust? Let’s face it, we all are born not knowing how to trust. We learn trust over time from our early caregivers, through mom’s nurturing, gentle loving bond of attachment with us. It is from this state of bondedness that we begin to build trust muscles and the ability to ascertain what is safe and what is not. We learn through trial and error about experiences that are high risk or unsafe. In fact, we never even question or concern ourselves too much with the concept of safety until we have experienced something unsafe. Or for that matter, question what is trustworthy until we have experienced a breach of trust. it’s like we have an automatic cue within us that formats our whole life to confidently expect to trust, and that people are genuinely safe, trustworthy and good… until that fateful day when your beautiful sense of naivety and innocence come crashing around your feet as if your whole world, and your belief system crashed in front of you as you experienced a harsh dose of reality: Not everyone or everything is trustworthy. And yet, we are created with this innate need to trust. it comes naturally to want to trust.

You know it’s true, especially when something has malfunctioned for you in the area of trust. You become aware that something is ‘off’ or not quite right when you experience symptoms such as these:

  • Fear
  • Anger
  • More conscious of feeling unsafe than the ability to trust
  • Cannot trust easily
  • Panic attacks and anxiety
  • More withdrawn than usual
  • Isolated from caring and nurturing relationships
  • Desire to be alone and not have friends or other trustworthy relationships
  • Depression
  • Distraction – doing everything you can not to feel the aloneness you are experiencing in your soul.
  • Hardness of heart. You no longer feel the need for caring, supportive attachments in your life. You feel it is better just to rely on yourself and not let anyone get too close.
  • Self-sufficiency.
  • Irritability with people. Quick to want to run away from or ex-communicate someone from your life when things don’t go the way you want them too.
  • A general sense that something isn’t functioning right within you, which you attribute to why you can’t trust.
  • Avoidance of the issue… close cousins with distraction!
  • The inability to trust or want to. Tied very strongly to a deeply rooted sense of fear of opening up, being known or being vulnerable.

All these and more can be symptoms that you may have a trust issue.broken trust

You may still be stuck at my first paragraph, asking the question, “well how can I trust if I never got that seed of trust planted in my by my early caegivers. I was adopted and rejected by my real parents, or my dad was never there… or my mom was too drunk all the time to nurture me. In fact, I had to take care of her…”

These are all valid points to be sure. For some, it happens later in life… you had the caring parents, but your best friend betrayed you or your spouse is irresponsible with the budget and has racked up a lot of debt with a gambling or shopping addiction, or your wife had an affair…

how can you trust again after these kinds of major betrayals? Stay tuned for my next blog next Friday, as I tackle broken trust more in depth. For today, we will start out with an introduction on what trust is, and how to develop the courage to trust. For further help in the meantime on how to identify what characteristics safe and trustworthy people have, go back and check out my article from several months back on safe people, entitled “Identifying safe people.” or you can also check out my blog on “learning how to attach and bond”. Both deal with how you can repair attachment injuries from early childhood and throughout life that prevent us from entering trusting relationships, as well as giving you some quick identifying tools on how to find safe people and the qualities to look for, when you are ready to take the careful risk of learning to put yourself out there again attempting to build safe and trustworthy relationships.

Trust, in a basic definition, is a skill that can be learned and it always involves choice, and risk. Trust is fragile and can be broken easily through someone not being completely honest, rejection, betrayals, intended to harm, as well as unintentionally.

Trusting requires wisdom and information on how to identify not only what is safe, but the awareness that no one is perfect, and will fail us in small, medium or big ways from time to time throughout the course of our lives. We really need to be aware of not only how much grace others require from us when they fail us, but we also need to see that we are imperfect beings as well, capable of hurting and disappointing others as well. What we need wisdom for is to know the difference between intentional, or major breaches of trust, vs. minor, or unintentional injuries we have incurred.fear vs. courage

Trusting takes great courage and risk, especially if you are still reeling from broken trust, and are still very much in the stage of considering how safe you really are. It takes courage to trust because when you take your guard down, expecting to be met by a compassionate, empathetic understanding of what you have chosen to share that is vulnerable for you, you face the risk of being at least, misunderstood, or at the most, rejected or insulted or yelled at… or even abusive speech or actions.

If your caregivers were able to give you a firm internal sense of safety, dealing with trust issues may not be as devastating as to those who have experienced the loss of love, betrayal or other forms of broken trust. Any traumatic event in your life makes it that much harder to have a sense of trust in others or even yourself. Many people who have experienced broken trust, tend to stop trusting themselves, believing that they are not credible sources of reliability when it comes to identifying who and what is safe. They perceive their ‘radar’ for detecting safety and trust is broken or malfunctioning. This is not necessarily a true fact. It is however, indicative that something has happened that was traumatic enough to disrupt your internal equilibrium, and is evidence that you may need further work on learning to trust yourself again, before you make attempts to trust others. As I mentioned before, information and wisdom are great tools to help you sort out the lies you are now believing about yourself, abilities or discernment as a result of trauma.

What I would suggest is taking some first steps to rebuilding your trust muscle.

First I would recommend to get honest with yourself about the feelings you have, where you feel they originated from, whether or not it is fair of you to place the same expectations of being betrayed onto other people who have not yet betrayed you, as well as considering the facts of the situation… Was it in fact a deliberate betrayal? Perhaps it was merely a momentary carelessness of someone while they are distracted, or self absorbed themselves, which is not a usual characteristic of this person. Was it unintentional? Asking these sorts of questions can help give you a greater sense of clarity of how major the affront was to you. Also, if you are brave enough, you may want to ask the person directly, alone, or bringing someone with you whom you feel safe with, so that you do not receive and dwell on perceived information rather than truth.

It may also help if you can muster up some faith in a positive outcome in the situation you are currently facing. Focusing on your future ability to enter into trusting relationships again, can also take away from the fear of dwelling on past fears of broken trust.

Prepare yourself to face your fears of rejection… and always weigh out what is more important to you in this moment… your need to feel safe, or your need to connect and attach, and determine the risk factors involved with each person you are considering trusting. Do not assume they are all like the person who broke your trust. Watch them from a distance over time to observe their character, and trust with small amounts of information  before you risk giving your all to another person, especially if you have only just  met. Watch your assumptions and judgments. These can lead to a lot of confusion and mixed messages. Always ask clarifying questions so that you are sure that you are not believing false information that you have perceived.

I commend you for reading this article on trust, as it indicates to me, that you are already starting the process of gathering information on how to trust again, which means you have come back to the awareness that no man is an island, and that we are all designed to trust, and in fact, NEED to trust, and have safe and supportive people in our lives. I encourage you to check out my other blogs which give further tips on how to communicate effectively and what the characteristics of healthy relationships look like, as well as the ones I mentioned above. I also invite you to check out my website at http://www.freedomlifelove.com and the link should also be at the top of my blog page as well! Good luck on your journey of trusting again, mustering up that courage and faith to believe that there are in fact trustworthy people out there, and even that those who have been untrustworthy in the past can in fact make changes in their lives and once again become someone with whom you can trust. I must warn you however, that this is not always the case… sometimes those relationships need to end, if there is no repentance or ability to admit their wrong against you and make no attempt of rebuilding trust with you. Trust is built, and earned after a breach of trust. It is never to be given without changes that you can observe in them to see that indeed, they have become trustworthy again. See my blog: Identifying Safe People for the characteristics you will need to see in the person who has broken your trust.

Good luck and please feel free to contact me via my website for any further coaching you may need on finding safe people and working through the trauma of broken trust!

http://www.freedomlifelove.com/Pages/TraumaRecoveryProgram.aspx

Identifying Safe People


Wounded by Relationship

Many of us have at best, been wounded in a relationship at one time or another, whether it be by a friend, co-worker, peer, boss, significant other or a family member or friend of the family. At worst, we may have suffered abuse or severe betrayal by someone. Sadly, what often happens as a result of ‘being burned’, we learn not to trust again, or to harden ourselves against further injury elsewhere and are constantly on the lookout for it to happen again. We have endured trauma. We begin to develop coping mechanisms and hiding patterns and build secure walls of protection around our hearts to prevent re-injury, all the while, looking around every corner expecting it to happen again and projecting past injury onto new people in our lives who are unlikely to be exactly the same as the person who initially injured us.

Why Does This Keep Happening?

While it is true that we do psychologically develop patterns that tend to draw the same type of people to us, because of that feeling of familiarity, the good news is, this cycle can be broken, and changed by identifying characteristics of both safe and unsafe people.

Now, before I go any further and dig a hole for myself, I have to clarify that there are no truly perfect people out there, and we all have flaws and potential to harm each other, which literally means there are no perfectly safe people out there. Everyone will fail you at one time or another. No perfect people exist. If you are looking for perfect, I recommend God.

Now that I have prefaced that, there ARE however, characteristics you can look for to find people who treat you differently than those who have harmed you in the past! This is the good news. The bad news is, you might possess characteristics yourself of an unsafe person. Because we all do, or have the potential to at some point or another. Reality suggests ‘hurting people hurt people.’ Meaning, if you are or have been hurt recently, you have the potential to cause injury to those around you while you try to heal yourself. But hopefully by the end of this blog, you will be able to identify several ‘unsafe’ characteristics and have tools to change them if you find yourself identifying with those patterns, and know what to look for to find the ‘safe’ people, and tools to know how to become safe yourself, for others who need you to be a safe person in their life.

Characteristics of an ‘Unsafe’ Person

Here are a few qualities and characteristics of an ‘unsafe’ person:

-People who act like they have it all together
-Self-righteous
-Demand trust without it being earned
-Controlling
-Treat you like you are less or one-down from them
-Abusive (I will do a series on abuse soon to further unpack what this means)
-Manipulative
-Unreliable
-Competitive
-Defensive, not open to constructive criticism or feedback
-People who ‘may’ apologize but never change their behavior, or who simply never apologize
-People who avoid working on and dealing with their problems
-People who don’t take responsibility for what is ‘theirs to own’ (see previous blogs on boundaries to know what each of us is personally responsible for in life)
-People who lack compassion, empathy or concern for others
-People who do not forgive others ever (we all know forgiveness takes time, I am referring to people who never let go of grudges and offenses and hold it over someone else forever!)
-Blame others for their problems
-People who live a continual lifestyle of lying
-People who are not growing, keeping the same unhealthy patterns and don’t want to change.

Characteristics of Safe People

Compare the above list with the characteristics of a ‘safe’ person:

-People who react to you differently than those who have hurt you, over a period of time (even unsafe people can appear ‘safe’ initially until the ‘romance’ phase of any early relationship wears off.)
-People who are loving and who have a good reputation for being loving over time. Watch their actions. Not just what they say.
-People you can watch and observe from an emotional distance and who are gentle with you during the trust earning phase
-People who are willing to earn trust, rather than demand it.
-People who can accept imperfections in others
-People who have grace for imperfections
-People who have endured pain themselves, but are recovering or have recovered, who can be empathetic to your pain
-People who can speak the truth to you lovingly
-People who bear good fruit in your life… If you find you are becoming healthier and are encouraged to grow and your identity and independence and limits are respected, these are good qualities to look for.
-People who can be intimate, who know the difference between intimacy and enmeshment.
-People who can confront gently, with compassion
-Honest
-Not controlling
-Views relationships equally, rather than a one-up, one-down perspective.

Some of you reading may say to yourselves “where are these people?” And you may be right. They are fewer and farther between. But don’t give up looking. Perhaps you should look in different places than you usually do to find safe people. If you still have trouble finding them, look for a support group you can join in your area in the meantime, so that you can learn to become a safe person yourself. “like attracts like” they say. If you become healthier and ‘safer’ in the way you interact with others, you will begin to attract safe people, and will become less attracted to the ‘unsafe people’ as you begin to value the attributes of what a safe person possesses within them.

How to Become a Safe Person

1. Learn to ask for help, ask for what you need. Asking develops humility, it develops the skill of taking initiative and ownership and responsibility for yourself. It produces an attitude of gratitude when we have received what we asked for. Asking also increases the possibility that your need will be met.

2. Learn to need. Confess how difficult it is, or your inability to express need. This next step is hard… But necessary. Confess the need. If you don’t ask, you don’t receive. People are not mind readers. Here are a couple examples to help you along:
I need to know I matter to you.
I need to know you love me.
I need to know you understand.
I need to know you won’t reject me when I express who I am.
I need to know you will accept that I have different opinions than you sometimes.

3. What evokes your hunger? What is that ache that is unfulfilled? Learn to identify your feelings so you can express your needs. Learn what you like and dislike, and ask for more of what you like.

4. Work through resistances. “Resistance is our tendency to avoid growth”. (Drs..Henry Cloud and John Townsend, authors of ‘Safe People’, where I have gleaned from for this material)
A) Identify your resistances to love. What are you doing when someone is expressing love to you? Are you diminishing it? Dismissing it? Disbelieving it? These are examples of resistances to love.
B) Bring these resistances into relationship.
C) Allow the needs beneath the resistance to get met.
D) do the opposite of what the resistance tells you to do.
Ie. the resistance says “handle it yourself. You don’t need help.” instead, ask for help. Delegate responsibilities, etc.
E) Be open to truth
F) learn to give and receive forgiveness. Both from others and yourself. Forgive yourself!

5. Give something back.
Understand what you have gained from the above exercises and learn how to identify your friends’ and family’s need signals. Ask to help others. Learn to ‘be there’ for others. Be a truth teller, and someone who loves truth.

Many thanks go out to Dr’s Henry Cloud and John Townsend for their extensive work on the subject of boundaries and healthy relationships. I have learned much from their resources over the years. I highly recommend their literature on these subjects.

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Need help with breaking the cycle and identifying safe people?

Check out my one-on-one Boundary Development Program and bring control back into your life!

Katie Meilleur – Certified Relationship Life Coach

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