The Connection Between Mistrust and Blind Trust

Delyse Ledgard, RCCRelationships, Trauma

Many of my clients talk about trusting too easily, especially when something happens where they feel betrayed or let down. Often what follows is an examination about how they trusted this person too much. If they had been less trusting this wouldn’t have happened. 

I believe that blind trust and unhealthy mistrust are sides of the same coin. Both lead to a re-enactment of people not being trustworthy and I can’t rely on myself.  

Let’s explore how this develops. Firstly as with most things, they start in childhood. When trust is continually broken or the environment is unpredictable we can’t trust adults to be there for our emotional or physical needs. We learn that no one can be trusted and we protect ourselves from the pain of being let down and uncared for by learning to take care of ourselves.  

Alongside this, as I experienced, parents consumed by their own paranoia and mistrust pass this on. The only person to trust is them. We learn that our parents can do no wrong and everyone else is at fault. In this scenario, our positive feelings for someone are humiliated and criticised. Trusting our feelings and experience becomes a struggle.

Associated with trust/mistrust is a lot of pain which at it’s core is the terror of being alone in the world. If I can’t trust anyone then I am alone in the word.  I have to take care of myself – no one is there. Children are not equipped to take care of themselves. Taking this on as a child will inevitably lead to a lack of confidence in themselves. If I can’t trust myself this leads to being alone because I can’t trust my feelings about anyone. 

So simply we can say that developing healthy trust leads to connection and mistrust and a lack of safety leads to disconnection and the terror of being alone.

As human beings, we have a basic need to feel connected but because of these early experiences, we are in conflict with ourselves in forming connections. We tend towards an all-or-nothing relationship to trusting someone and ourselves. This all-or-nothing perspective is rigid and absolute. 

So what can happen in our adult life when we meet new people who show an interest in us or some care and haven’t yet caused us to feel disappointed or let down, we relate to this person as someone we can finally rely on. We must guard ourselves against allowing even a small amount of healthy skepticism because it is associated with the pain of being alone in the world. Our blind trust in this person is fuelled by wishful thinking. Our hope is that we can trust our feelings and that there are people in the world that we can trust. The alternative is to be alone not knowing what to do.

So in a way, we could say that what we are doing here is searching for someone to rescue us from the pain of being alone. This all works as long as we can keep this connection in the realm of perfect fantasy because we have split off our mistrust so completely.  However, we are real humans who will inevitably be unreliable in some way, 

As our partner’s humanity becomes more complex and the perfect fantasy begins to crumble our deepest fears arise in another all-or-nothing perspective. What we knew all along, that we can not rely on anyone to be there for us or trust our judgment, is once again proven. Our perfect fantasy and hope is betrayed. So as we connect with the part that carries our mistrust we disconnect and give up on relationships, all be it temporary. 

So in this way not trusting leads to blind trust that leads to reinforcing our mistrust. 

The reality of relationships is, of course, not all or nothing. To remain open to connection we need to learn that we can trust our connection even in the face of unreliability.