Trust is an essential part of any healthy relationship and if we can’t trust another person we will find it difficult to attach to them or allow them to attach to us. For relationships to grow and deepen we need trust to feel safe.
In the start we may not trust and hold people at a distance, perhaps we are sceptical or have been hurt before. Perhaps we trust too quickly and ignore our own sense of judgement or ignore our internal instincts that things are not quite as they appear. How do we respond when someone we believed in and trusted betrays our trust in them?
So what happens when Trust is broken?
Work relationships can break down and be difficult to get back on track. People we have worked with for many years may begin to behave differently and we can find that they are bullying or side-lining us. Sometimes this is due to pressure from restructuring or may be subtle and cloaked in banter like ‘I am only joking.’ This can lead to a sense of isolation and wondering who we can trust and if there is something wrong with us. Self-esteem can be badly damaged. Sometimes people can feel helpless and powerless.
Trust in our Personal relationships – those whom we love and love us. Healthy relationships take time to develop and trust can be broken or lost in a number of ways– lies about finances, perhaps with an affair or something else. Often people are taken by surprise that someone that they have spent many years with and have trusted has betrayed them. Shock and numbness followed by sadness, despair, anxiety and anger are normal responses.
The person who has broken the trust may be apologetic promising never to do it again. They may then expect the other person to accept the apology and that things return to normal. They may be surprised and irritated by the number of questions posed to them, most of which begin with ‘Why?’ This can lead to more upset and distress and ‘Why can’t we just stop talking about this and move on?’
Breaking trust is a betrayal. It is a loss which needs to be processed and grieved. This takes time, just as it does in any bereavement. Before it is possible to go forward it is important to look back at what was going on in the relationship before the betrayal. Looking closely will unearth some clues that can be worked on towards potentially repairing the rupture in the relationship if that is appropriate. People often want to return to ‘the honeymoon period.’ This isn’t possible. Once trust has been broken things can never be the same again. That’s not to say that relationships can’t be re-built but they will be different.
As a Counsellor it is vital that I am able to establish trust with my clients. Often people have experienced a lack of trust and rejection in other relationships and don’t necessarily find it easy to trust another person. I see my role in part as providing a safe place where trust between us can be established. This then enables clients to share their story and process their thoughts and feelings. They are then empowered to make the choices that are meaningful for them to help alleviate their distress.
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