“As we practice unconditional trustworthiness, we notice a healing result: we are no longer devastated when others fail us. Our focus has shifted from ourselves as victims of others’ betrayals of fidelity to our own commitment to trustworthiness. We still see that some people are not trustworthy, and we feel sad and injured. But as long as we do not follow suit, we are not so hurt as we once were—and we like ourselves more. This does not mean that we have become naive or gullible. It actually shows that we trust ourselves more. Then we become more discriminating in recognizing trustworthiness in others.” —David Richo, author of Daring to Trust: Opening Ourselves to Real Love & Intimacy
Often the word trust is expressed as a fundamental desire to find in other people, but what often is forgotten is how we play a role in both being fully trustworthy, but also trusting ourselves. Having self-trust, David Richo shares in his book Daring to Trust is one of the four types of trust we must possess in order to live a deeply enriching and fulfilling life.
What are the other three types of trust you may be wondering? We will talk about those in today’s post/episode.
Over the course of this podcast, I have shared many discoveries from a vast range of books on how to improve the skills that will improve the quality of our lives (see the list of the most recent, the past two years, below). I found it especially poignant and timely that I read Daring to Trust as the year 2021 wound down.
Often we aren’t certain or cannot pinpoint what exactly is preventing us from living a life of true contentment. Perhaps we have come quite close, have felt it from time to time, but not consistently. There are moments of deep fulfillment and peace, but it eludes us at other times, and we wonder what we have done wrong. For me, after reading the following books listed above (link to the episode each book inspired), I felt confident I had the ingredients to live a life of everyday contentment, and largely I did, but the said contentment would flit away when certain moments would present themselves, and so I kept searching. I told myself, there must be a missing ingredient I have overlooked. I must have missed a crucial skill for holding myself steadily in contentment each day.
Turns out it was understanding what true trust is and how to be fully trustworthy all the while acknowledging that we (and others) are human. Both of these concepts are what will be discussed in today’s episode/post.
First, let’s find common ground on what trust is. David Richo defines it simply as reliance on reliability. He underscores, “[Trust] is not dependency but rather an inner assurance, a confidence that gives us a sense of security.”
1. Strengthen your trust IQ: Know when to walk away
“We trust others when we feel safe and secure in their presence. Our insistence that we will spend time only with those with whom we feel safe increases our trust IQ. Over time, we become more adept at telling the difference between a con artist and a straight-up guy. When we feel unsafe with someone and still stay with them, we damage our ability to discern trustworthiness in those we will meet in the future.”
Understanding true trust in others and exercising trustworthiness in how we live our lives gives us the tools to know when to stay and when to leave. Richo’s quote above brings to our attention the importance of how we hurt this skill of discernment each time we distrust what we know about trust.
When we know we can trust, “we know longer have to protect ourselves” and the cultivation of true intimacy becomes possible.
But first, what is adult trust? In other words, what is the trust we need to understand?
2. What is trust, adult trust?
When I read the first chapter of David Richo’s book I became immediately aware of how I had approached trust incorrectly throughout my adult life. I had placed the responsibility on the other to show trust or to be trustworthy, placing the power in someone else; however, I had it backwards and I disempowered myself in the process. Let me explain:
Adult trust is “I trust myself with whatever you do” instead of “You will never hurt me.” Sounds crazy to choose to let go of the latter statement, but again, you are taking back your power, taking responsibility for being trustworthy and being able to accurately determine if someone is available to be trusted. Richo points out that when we make this shift to adult trust, we remove the victim mentality and own our life, our choices and honor ourselves which improves our ability to observe those who are capable of being trusted as we move forward.
By putting the trust in ourselves to discern if others are trustworthy, knowing we can walk away at the worst of it, speak up with assertiveness (not aggression) we exhibit security in ourselves. And when we demonstrate we are a secure individual, we attract healthier individuals to us as we are not seen as a burden to someone else, not seen as a victim in need of someone else’s care.
3. True trust takes time
As much as we desire to flat out trust the person who captures our eye, our libido, our hopes, to say we fully trust someone so quickly is foolhardy.
In fact, we must count ourselves fortunate if we grew up in a family home where a healthy installation of trust as Richo calls it was part of our upbringing because we will know what true trust looks and feels like in others as we navigate into our adult lives. However, if such a childhood was not part of our life story, it is important to learn what true trust is so that we will begin to seek out those we can trust and let go of those we cannot.
We forget that as a baby, our whole lives were placed in the responsibility and care of adults we didn’t get to choose. Over the course of our childhood – 18 years or so – we either have a mountain of evidence that our parents were trustworthy to provide security and care or we don’t, but it took time, and our parents were not perfect, so they made mistakes, but most likely, they are people you could trust. The imperfection is important to note, as is the time factor. Trust takes time.
No matter how attracted you are to someone, no matter how hotly charged the chemistry that runs between you two, neither have anything to do with whether or not you can trust them. You may want to trust them, but you do not have enough experience with them, time with them or exploration of them to know whether you can or not.
What does taking time to trust look like?
- We open a space to explore and let someone in, but gradually.
- We move forward when appropriate and accept when moving on is what will fit best based on the response or lack thereof from the other
- We keep our ego in check – we are not entitled to someone else’s trust no matter how badly we want them to trust us. The building of trust is a two-way street, and each of us are in different vehicles having traveled different life journeys with trust.
- If someone hurts our trust as we have been open to them, we tell them – clearly but with courtesy – so they can know, and we can set a boundary and we observe if they learn from it (or visa versus – we listen we someone tells us we have hurt them and apply the lesson).
- Let self-disclosure happen in increments, not all at once.
- We are investigating with each interaction, listening closely, opening up gradually, and observing to see if the 5 A’s (shared below) are present all the while exercising the 5 A’s with each engagement.
- We engage with loving kindness, and also are loyal to an “unconditional yes to what is”. We accept reality. We cannot control the other, only ourselves.
- We only have control over our own trustworthiness.
“Our companion practice of the unconditional yes to what is directs us to be thankful for trustworthiness from others when it comes our way and be open to disappointment sometimes too.”
4. Often sex is desired when it is trust we seek
“Regarding touching, it is central to trusting.”
While there are the five languages of love as Gary Chapman talks about in his book which was the central focus of episode #87 – Romantic Love: What is it and How to Maintain It, touch is often something each of us is starved for. Healthy touch, loving touch, a safe touch. Richo brings to our attention that “in adulthood we may look to sex as a substitute for the touch and holding we need” when what we are actually seeking is a heart connection which can happen in many other ways of touching. However, because we know that other forms of touching prompt great emotional response, we are fearful of the emotion that will arise, so the sex gives us temporarily what we long for, but isn’t fulfilling if it isn’t with someone we trust.
On the trustworthy side, which is something we have entire control over (we’ll talk about what that is in the next point), when we trust ourselves (self-trust) we aren’t afraid to express our emotions or let ourselves feel the emotions we have while with another, and so we are able to let go of our unnecessary inhibitions and extend touch – whether in an arm around the shoulder, a touch of the hand or a kiss. All of these actions again are exchanged with someone we trust and motivated by sincere exchange of feeling knowing the person with whom we are exchanging feels safe with us.
5. Be wholly trustworthy in your daily actions
When we are trustworthy, David Richo explains, we are living with and engaging with the world with integrity and loving kindness.
When we act with integrity, we may be rejected, we may even be laughed at, but because we are mature enough to understand how trust can be built with another, the opinions of those who reject or laugh or scoff matter less because we have strengthened our inner resources and know to walk away. We do not take revenge, retaliate or act in a way that is against our integrity, but instead engage with loving kindness. Richo shares this detailed list of the many ways you express loving kindness and integrity. Here is just a taste:
- do your best to keep your commitments, honor your word and follow through on tasks committed to
- take care of your body and your health (mental and physical)
- forgo taking advantage of others in a vulnerable situation simply because I have authority or the power to do so
- refrain from ingratiating myself to gain approval
- appreciate the love given, and have no expectations that I receive it
- ask for what I need with assertiveness, not aggression – ask for the love I long for otherwise how will someone know?
- accept, without judgment, the given of sudden unexplained absence, ghosting, or the silent treatment by others and do not use those styles myself
6. Build a full and healthy life: Rely on your partner for only 25% of your needs fulfillment
It is not just a romantic partner we shouldn’t rely on for more than 25% of our needs fulfillment but any one person. Why? If we remain in the child-parent trust model which is a survival approach, we are in a dependency-relationship which thwarts any attempt for a healthy, fulfilling relationship.
Ironically, we are programmed to have our survival needs met – the child-parent model – but we must shift away from this comfort seeking and step into the challenge approach to living which requires that we become more comfortable with the unknown and cultivate more self-trust (we’ll talk about this type of trust below). The shift occurs when we start seeking safety and security from within rather than outside of ourselves. When we make this shift, our world changes for the better. Our days and relationships more enriching and our contentment grounding. Richo shares a quote from Henry David Thoreau which I found quite succinct and accurate to describe what we seek in relationships, “I will come to you, my friend, when I no longer need you. Then you will find a palace, not an almshouse.”
So where does the rest of our need fulfillment come from if only 25% can come from any one person? It comes from the healthy social circle and self-care you have thoughtfully nurtured over time, and that doesn’t just mean people. In this post, I share a list of different connections and relationships worth investing in and then in this post share the elements of a strong social well-being. Simply put, your friends, family, yes, even your pets, and of course your career, spiritual practice, Mother Nature and any other resource that strengthens your sense of safety and security make up the remaining 75% of your needs fulfillment.
7. Exercise, as well as be able to identify, the five A’s
In episode #287 – 5 Things to Do to Build Healthy Relationships, David Richo’s first book How to Be An Adult in Relationships: The 5 Keys to Mindful Loving inspired the content. Detailing the five A’s necessary to be exercised by both individuals in any mutually satisfying and fulfilling relationships, these 5 A’s play a fundamental part in building trust. What are the A’s?
We are being trustworthy when we express each of these in relationships. We know someone is worthy of being trusted when they exercise them in return. (read this post to explore each of the A’s in more detail).
8. When we have self-trust, there is no need, or desire, to control others
“The yes of surrender to the limits in our relationship leads to serenity, the safety and security that happen from within us. Such surrender is our proof to ourselves that we really can trust ourselves. We begin to redirect our trust, an empowering venture.”
An intimate relationship takes time to build as both involved have taken the time to show they are trustworthy. When we trust the other, we gradually and then more largely surrender, and surrendering is possible because we hold fast and steadily to strong trust of ourselves.
The surrendering has as much to do with being with another human being as it has to do with letting our feelings be what they will be in the midst of all the experiences that will arise. And letting ourselves fully feel these feelings without suppression. I speak largely of the awesome feelings that we may have thought were never possible.
We are more comfortable with surrender because we trust ourselves to respond rather than react, to speak up with assertiveness not aggression when our needs are not being met as well as knowing what our needs are and why because we have done the homework of ourselves as well as acknowledged that we are still growing and learning and evolving.
Richo writes about men in American culture and how often when men deny or step away from the potential of a relationship with a real, healthy and secure individual, stating the reason is because they fear losing their freedom, it is actually an inaccurate reason. Let me explain. If the person they are stepping towards is indeed real, secure and has self-trust, then what men actually fear is not the loss of their freedom, but rather the feelings that may arise when they surrender themselves to what the relationship, what the intimacy, may actually be and who they will become when they surrender to the truth of what they feel.
In other words, two self-trusting adults who exchange all of the 5 A’s create a space, a life of fulfillment without controlling the other. Why? Because we are not forcing the other to be engaged with us. They want to be with us because we each find comfort, affirmation, love and community with each other. It feels good because it is good to feel our best, and if we feel our best with them, even when we unintentionally make mistakes or life trips us up, so long as we are acting with integrity and loving kindness, the intimacy remains and actually strengthens. Such strength in a relationship takes time to build, just as trust does and that is why true intimacy, true fulfillment, true love, takes time and is never at first sight.
9. Strengthen your core trust and become curious about your own life journey
Essentially our core trust is acceptance in the reality of the world. A letting go, a trusting in magic and truth of things beyond our control. It doesn’t mean we do not engage or act passively, but we do not strangle life. We let it unfold while dancing with it.
When we exercise our core trust we “generate a calm abiding, a serenity that energizes. The opposite of being in control is resting secure and being alert to what comes next.”
“To open to reality is to turn toward it and to trust that it makes room for us in that very same moment . . . all this happens as we let go of control and stay with whatever happens until it transforms.”
Understanding what core trust is and how it can open up our lives was an aha moment for me. In many ways over the past 12 years I have been exercising a core trust even though I was doing so unconsciously. When we take our life experiences and mine them for wisdom rather than wallow in them and lament about how things may have been different, we are choosing to embrace our journey and figure out what is our calling, how can we marry what we are passionate about with what the world needs – our dharma as Jay Shetty calls it and in so doing, our journey unfolds in ways we could never have imagined. We are open to possibility and brave enough to explore the unknown while staying grounded in our self-trust – our boundaries maintained, our values held once questioned and evaluated to truly be our own.
“When I give up trying to direct the show and instead keep opening to how it unfolds, I unfold.”
Richo reminds that “without core trust, we can’t relax our grasp and let reality unfold as it needs to . . . with core trust, we gain confidence that nothing can happen to us that does not offer a fulfillment of our ineradicable yearning for wholeness. Thus everything in our lives, whether from events or from people, is just what is needed for our unique story to be told.” How exciting is that! How freeing is that to know that it is in the letting go, engaging, but not demanding or manipulating, that we actually infuse our life with awesome possibility.
10. As your trust strengthens, your wisdom grows
“Wisdom requires us to open to what happens and be discriminating about what we let in.”
As we come to understand what constitutes trust in someone else, as we explore our own feelings to accurately access what our needs are and why we are feeling what we are feeling, as we communicate with assertiveness paired with courtesy our needs, as we experience the walking away and opening up to new people, as our self-trust grows, as our core trust grows, we are better able to know who to begin letting into our lives and who to walk past.
11. Understand where the need to control originates
“Our need to control is actually not a need; it is a panic that our needs will not be met unless we take full charge.”
Richo’s explanation of the truth he states above prompted many lightbulb moments to go off in my own head. I found myself shaking my head in agreement, acknowledging the truth of my own desire to control in a variety of different instances in my life, and I felt grateful to finally have found his insights as they helped me better understand myself.
The truth is, when we demand to control, we let go of the core trust we must have in order to live a life of fulfillment. The ego wins when we require something go exactly our way, and when the ego wins, we are relinquishing the belief in our own powers. We are far more capable than we acknowledge in such moments, and letting the ego win keeps us in a state of dependency rather than trust in the world around us and in ourselves.
12. The four directions we give our trust
In today’s episode so far we have talked about self-trust (#8) and core trust (#9), and now I would like to talk about the other two because once we have all four types of trust being exercised in our lives, the quality of our relationships and our experience of life, thus a life of fulfillment, elevates.
When we exercise self-trust we become better able to determine who is trustworthy and who to continue to get to know in a variety of types of relationships. Exercising self-trust in this way ushers in the third type of trust – interpersonal trust.
- Interpersonal trust – Richo defines it as “we believe that they have our best interests at heart. We trust that they will come through for us, stand by us, and be there for us when we need them. We believe they will not knowingly or purposely betray, disappoint, deceive or hurt us. If they do, we trust ourselves to handle those experiences by grieving and attempting to reconcile if that is appropriate to the situation.”
As we nurture a variety of interpersonal relationships of trust, we make sure not to place more than 25% of our needs in any one relationship. We do so because we trust ourselves, we have a core trust and, to introduce the fourth type of trust, we have trust in a higher power. Do not jump to conclusions. A “higher power” as defined by Richo “can mean belief in a personal God or in any force or spirit in nature or the universe that transcends ego and can be relied upon for grace and support. In many ways, our core trust and trust in a higher power are one. Richo is not saying our destiny has already been pre-ordained or even that there is intervention by something we don’t understand. No. What he is saying is that we can have “confidence that no power on earth can hold us captive to hate or prohibit us from loving.” This does not require us to have faith in a literal God, but rather to understand something we cannot fully understand but have the courage to believe in the ‘friendliness of the universe’.
Richo goes on to talk about Grace-full Coincidence in his epilogue, further encouragement to each of us to let go, act with integrity and loving kindness in each of our days, be engaged with the world, but not demanding, and trust in something magical. He poses this question: Does the universe position things so carefully that our hearts can open at just the right time? What mysterious power makes it all come together just like that? Is it that friendly? How can we ever doubt that we can dare to trust? My immediate response and annotation in my book was, I hope so. And so I am consciously daring to trust, to open my heart to that possibility and take control of what I can, which is only myself and how I engage. Remembering to exercise the 5 A’s, remove the stories from my mind and walk with patience and self-trust along with all of the other trusts, grateful for the gift of being here on this earth. I dare you to do the same and am confident your life journey will delight and amaze you when you do.
Explore the full book here.
—John Coltrane’s Giant Steps album