The Dragonfly Forest

They have been given names such as devil’s darning needle, ear sewer, horse stinger, skeeter hawk, and the snake’s servant. Actually, Dragonflies are beneficial, peaceful, and stunning. You are a Dragonfly if you are: ADD/ADHD, dyslexic, dysgraphic, Asperger’s, NLVD, autistic…

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Why do we mistrust and distrust?

Why do we mistrust and distrust?   A better question is really- why do we trust at all?   

According to Erik Erikson, the most important period in a person's life is between birth and 18 months old, during the stage of trust vs. mistrust.  Children depend on their parents to protect and nurture them.   Unfortunately, not all parents can be trusted.  Some parents cause their children pain - intentional and unintentional.  This causes children to learn not to trust and yet they still have hope that the person who is put on this earth to take care of them will keep them safe and protected.  

What Erikson seems to miss is how this isn't the only time in a person's life that trust is a vital area of concern.  Yes, children who learn to mistrust during these very beginning years may continue to have trust issues throughout life.  This does not mean that children who develop strong trust during this stage will never encounter times where they struggle with trust. 

Another time in a person's life mistrust and distrust are formed is when a child attends school.  We trust that school districts will protect and educate our children.  We trust that teachers will have enough knowledge to teach each individual child. This trust is broken when the school does not protect children and cannot or choose not to educate children.  Yep, some school districts and teachers actually make a conscious decision to NOT provide a student with their free and appropriate education.  For some this trust is broken just once but for many each year is a repeated betrayal of trust.  Many of these children develop learned helplessness (check out my past article on this to fully understand). 

We also have to trust in our relationship with others. We have all different types of relationships everyday - friends, coworkers, family, romantic...   A relationship with another person is often very tricky because it is not always congruent.  At times, one person is more vested in the relationship than the other person.  Humans are egocentric, so they engage in relations with others to get specific needs met and this requires us to trust that the other person is able to meet those needs.  There are many people who violate this trust.  You will encounter people in your life that will use you for their own benefit.  

What we have to understand is the importance of mistrust and distrust.  Mistrust is often a general sense of unease and apprehension while distrust is based on negative experiences or reliable information that a person is deceptive and their motives and intentions are harmful. 

Some distrust is functional and good for us so we do not get taken advantage of or our rights violated.  - here's a fun example of functional distrust: 

Distrust can also be dysfunctional.  High levels of distrust can cause a person to avoid being vulnerable with anyone and negatively impact relationships. The main reason for this is when a person expects they can trust someone and that trust is violated it causes more psychological damage than if a person was expecting to distrust someone and experienced trustworthiness instead.  

The insight I want you to get from this is that your mistrust and distrust are not necessarily negative thoughts you need to change.  They are there to keep you protected.  The more aware you are about your own levels of mistrust and distrust the better you will be able to know when you have crossed over into dysfunctional distrust.  

My goal is to be more aware of my own levels of trust, mistrust, and distrust so I can keep myself protected.  

We must remember that actions speak louder than words so if someone tells you that they can be trusted pay more attention to their actions.