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“I don’t trust anyone.” 

It’s a phrase I hear quite often, usually by people who’ve had harmful experiences that left them feeling disillusioned or hurt.

It’s natural to build walls to protect ourselves when we feel threatened.  The problem is, trust is often described in black and white terms: it’s there or it isn’t.

In reality, I see trust as having many dimensions.  Let’s think about it for a moment.  If we were facing a zombie apocalypse, who would you most want by your side?  Is it the same person who you’d hire to care for your children or grandchildren?  Probably not.  Mary Poppins and Van Diesel definitely fall into different categories of trust. Trusting someone with your physical safety needs is different that trusting them to care for your children.

I trust my husband Joe implicitly, but he might not be my first choice when it comes to decorating cupcakes (flashback to our wedding where we decorated our own bride and groom cakes.  Joe’s cake consisted of a war scene with Tonka tanks, explosions and GI Joe parachuting down into the middle).  Yeah…I definitely don’t trust my husband when it comes to decorating cakes… but,  I do trust him to be there for me when it comes to the really important stuff.  

I like to think of trust as a three dimensional star with many prongs.  I can trust some people along many dimensions, others along only a few.  That’s okay, as long as I don’t trust people in areas that aren’t their strength.

So if you catch yourself thinking “people can’t be trusted,” try looking for exceptions in this “all or nothing” thinking pattern.  It may be there are some things they do well. See what happens if you modify your expectations accordingly.  

Belinda Seagram, Ph.D., R. Psych.
Founder, Landing Strong

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