“trust” – verb, believe in the reliability, truth, or ability of someone or something.
The word “trust” is both a noun and a verb, depending on the position in which it’s used. In this particular post, I’m using it as a verb because “to trust someone” feels like something larger than “to place your trust in someone” to me.
Five years ago, I went on a three-week 200km hiking trip with my school. It’s a pretty big deal and was possibly one of the greatest experiences of my life and I may well have a blog post dedicated to that at a later date, but there is a particular point I would like to focus on in relation to it.
We were split into three groups of just under twenty girls each and for those three weeks, those other girls and our two leaders would often be the only people you would see for a whole day. This meant that there was a lot of trust required. To travel with close to 20kg backpacks and sleep only in tents or even just under the stars for that long is the sort of thing that you can’t experience together without having a certain level of trust. This meant that in the weeks leading up to our hike, in amongst our various seminars and speeches and “How To Pack a Backpack” workshops, we also had teambuilding.
These team building exercises were mostly harmless obstacle courses and treasure hunts traversing the whole school but on the last day, three days before we went off to pack and prepare ourselves, we had a final day of it and were told to prepare to “Become a Family”. Yet again, mostly harmless and even fun activities, until they pulled out a massive table from one of the classrooms near the field we were all on and were told to jump off the table…
These beautiful creations known as “trust falls” have been a torturous experience for me most of my life and this was no different. I was the absolute last person to go and, though I repeated my fear several times, was eventually pushed up onto the table. My group members had already gathered below, arms crossed and hands clasped right by the table with other girls ready with supporting holds and I stood there for a solid minute before my best friend threatened to come up and push me off. We all laughed and I dropped. It was one of the most terrifying moments of my high school life, right after abseiling down a dam wall or my final drama practical.
But they caught me. And through those three weeks, as cheesy* as it sounds, we repeated to catch each other day after day and that was how we survived those 200km.
As I mentioned, trust falls are not easy to me, and this, obviously, is partly due to the fact that trusting is not easy to me either. There are very few people in the world I trust and, as a cynical being, I am quite happy with this state of being.
Trust has technically been classified by sociologists as a social construct. It’s an entity which doesn’t exist outside of our social reality. There are several similar constructs which trust directly relate to, these include control, confidence, risk, and power. It’s these words that push me to struggle with trusting. I personally agree with those that suggest, as a social construct, we should question if “trust” can be trusted. There is a reason those constructs all link.
To trust someone is to place yourself at risk of betrayal, it’s giving that person an amount of power that I feel nervous to relinquish. That person has the power to control you entirely once you’ve placed enough trust in them, after some time, that trust can develop into dependence. While I know that I didn’t need those girls to literally catch me from falling off a table every day, I did need them to be there for support in case I fell off a cliff (literally), fell ill, fell victim to blisters (one of three people in my group who didn’t actually) or fell to my emotions at any point. At the end of those 200km, our relationships and dynamics within our group had developed and mostly for the better.
Within a week of our return, we had slipped back into the non-dependent kind of trust, which was good. This experience of trust was fairly enjoyable for me if a bit scary at times. This trust was one that was required, if only for a short time. The other kind of trust, the more long-term kind is the type that involves that handover of power and control, it’s the type that leaves you vulnerable.
I am not a person that likes being vulnerable and if I am even willing to be with anyone, that person had better be feeling pretty damn special. I don’t fall off the table easily but I am slowly finding myself trusting people more deeply as I grow up.
Unfortunately, as is to be expected, some of this was misplaced trust which resulted in some terrible consequences. A close friend of mine, who wanted something more from our friendship, was someone I trusted with a lot. After finding out that I was, firstly uninterested, but also now entirely unavailable, he has been responding in poor fashion and is slowly killing me with subtly snarky comments and questions.
I do know what my largest misplaced trust experience was and, “according to scientific studies”, the betrayal of trust early in life by people, particularly family members, in whom you should be able to place your trust, is one of the main contributing factors in a struggle to trust, which correlates. (There were far too many commas in that sentence – I do apologise)
On the opposite end of the spectrum, being a trusting person is one of the “strongest predictors of subjective well-being”…….well shit.
So, essentially, it’s healthy to be able to jump off a table. This is a fact that I’m having difficulty coming to terms with. I am aware of not being a “healthy” person but I had always assumed that everyone had the same level of mistrust I have with most people. The reason I write this post (besides feeling like I need to and not thinking of anything else even slightly relevant or prevalent enough in my life at the moment) is because I am now in positions in which trust is almost essential.
One, in particular, the one which triggered this post, is a relationship with someone in whom I’ve placed more trust than is probably safe or sane and every day I am reminded of how much power I have willingly handed over to this person and feel more and more intimidated and, simultaneously, comforted by this control I’m giving to him in truckloads at a time.
The logical part of my brain has spent the last month screaming that I’m being stupid and need to seriously reconsider my choices and realise that I’m setting myself up for suffering.
There’s a very large part of my brain (and possibly every single other part of me) telling it to shut up and just jump off the goddamn table.
[ Just listen to Stay, Hurts. That’s it.]
((*I am slowly being taught to embrace the cheese in life and will try to integrate it here as well))
Lovely days everyone