If I don’t trust you, can you trust me? If you don’t trust me, how could I trust you?
If we want to trust each other, who is going to trust first? I’ll lower my guard if you start by lowering yours!
In relational engagement where trust is the ointment that heals the wounds caused by rupture, taking the first step towards softening can feel mortifying. It can feel unfair that I should be the one to take it. For some of us, it might feel simply impossible.
Connection and intimacy require lowering our defenses for the sake of intimacy. But if we have been hurt and offended, betrayed, neglected, or affronted by someone, how could we trust that they won’t do it again? We know that they will offend us again, from their own defensiveness after being hurt, betrayed, neglected by us… and the circle goes on and on.
Investing in trust by turning towards each other with vulnerability is a radical act. It is a vote of confidence for connection. A powerful signal that teaches the other that we may in fact be safe for them to be tender around. Lowering our defenses and approaching the other with softness is an invitation and permission for them to do the same. It is the only means we have for radiating the safety and kindness that could tame the wild terrified heart in the other.
If they truly are unsafe, it’s time to fight or to run. But if we are caught in a defensive deadlock, we may need to look for the softness within us and let it inform and guide how we relate. This is the relational dynamic of trust: If I drop you, we both fall; if I soften, we can both soften. And this applies to both of us.
Aron Buky-Tompa, M.Couns., RCC