Trust is hard for people with early childhood trauma and attachment disruptions. As adults who get to choose who we let into our lives, it can still be confusing for us to know who is worth investing our trust in.
While no one person will ever be 100% consistent in their reliability and consistency, there are some general ways to discern if someone is higher up on the trustworthy scale.
Here are some things to watch for over time.
Watch for These Signs
Do their actions match their words?
Are they showing up in the ways that they have verbally expressed that they would? The truth is in the actions—not the promises. For example, do they say they are a kind person, but then are rude and demanding to waitstaff?
Do they tell secrets of people they are close with?
Consider this: Do people in their life seem to rely on them and share deeper thoughts and feelings with them?
When you bring up a hurt or disappointment to them about something they did, how do they react?
Do they get angry, or turn it around and blame you? Shut down and withhold communication? Do you feel really confused after communicating hurts to them? While these might be impulsive reactions that do not always mean a person is not trustworthy, if it is a pattern it might mean you are with someone who has a strong manipulative part to their personality.
Are they able to admit when they have made a mistake?
Do they not only apologize, but also demonstrate self-reflection and attempts at a change in behavior?
Do they communicate any substantial hurts that they have experienced with you in a somewhat timely fashion?
Or do they stay silent and let resentment build—or expect you to mind-read?
A Note on Manipulation
Sometimes when we see someone becoming more manipulative in their behaviors, and there is also a history of addiction, we may have to entertain the idea that the disease of addiction may be controlling their behavior and calling the shots. If this is the case—trust will be very difficult. In these situations it is important to note that their behavior might not be so ingrained in who they are and they may become trustworthy again should they get themselves into recovery.
Look for Authenticity and Listen to Your Gut
When we discuss trustworthiness as a general character trait, we can also look for traits of authenticity and compassion in that person to guide us. When first meeting someone, there is also something to be said about having a gut feeling. This can be tricky, because if we have been hurt in the past, we may be primed to expect the same hurt from someone new. So, what I mean by gut feeling is not a dramatic, fearful feeling, though that kind of feeling may accompany what I’m speaking of. What I am really talking about is that quiet voice inside that just senses and knows things with ease and naturally. This is your intuition. I believe everyone has this, but I think that getting in touch with it can be confusing when we have a trauma history that has grown in us a general mistrust of people. Try to tune into that intuitive, more gentle inner wisdom, and let that guide you.
Written by Lisa "LC" Coppola, LMHC
Boston Post Adoption Resources