Speaking on: Trust versus Mistrust Stage one of emotional development
by Rob Coombs
Apr 08, 2012 | 1844 views | 0 0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
“Do you trust me?”

The very individual who asks this question raises our suspicions.

“Trust me. This car will run like a dream for the next 10 years.”

“Trust me. This investment will double itself in the next five years.”

“Trust me. A vote for me will be a vote to lower your taxes.”

“Trust me. Marry me and I will love you forever.”

“Trust me. I have the best interests of your child in mind. I would never do anything to hurt her.”

It’s little wonder that all of us are a little suspicious. Trust is violated in every arena — home, church, business, schools, government — so much so that many wonder if there is anyone or anything worthy of our trust.

As a woman told me, “I’m not paranoid. People really are out to get me. I can’t trust anyone.”

Another man echoed the same sentiment from a different angle. “Trust and verify. That’s what you do if you are smart. I tell my children that I trust them, but then I check them out to make sure they are being trustworthy.”

Like G.I. Joe, he would go undercover, making sure his teens were where they were supposed to be, doing what they were supposed to be doing. Obviously, this isn’t trust.

Understandably, a violation of trust with a parent, a minister, a boyfriend, a spouse, a child, a business partner, can create a wound that won’t seem to heal. Reflecting the pain of broken trust, individuals guard against getting hurt again.

We can hear their need for protection in statements like, “Trusting is for the naive.”

“Trusting makes you too vulnerable.”

“I’ll never trust anyone again and expose myself to that kind of pain.”

Certainly, violations of trust do jeopardize our ability to trust again. But, the origins of trust supersede these experiences.

The emotional origins of trust predate any other emotion we may have. Between birth and age 2, a child’s potential for trust and mistrust is developed and which predominates depends heavily upon his/her experiences in the first two years of life.

The infant who finds the world a dependable place, whose needs are met on time and in a consistent fashion, acquires a sense of trust. There is a growing awareness that my parents will be there for me — to feed me, to change my diaper, to encourage my growth, to set appropriate boundaries, to love me without condition. Such a child naturally feels that our world is a good place, a safe place, a place worthy of trust.

The infant whose caretaking has been sporadic, who has been neglected, will likely develop a sense of mistrust in the world, believing it is a fearful and dangerous place where no one can be depended upon. For this child, dirty diapers are not tended to, affection is inconsistent or absent, meals times are unpredictable, dangers lurk around every corner. Such a child naturally feels that our world is a bad place, a dangerous place, a place not worthy of trust.

This abiding sense of trust or mistrust typically carries into adulthood. Our experiences, whether positive or negative, will tend to reinforce our basic emotional response of trust or mistrust. This means that how we view any of the experiences of our life are influenced by the experiences of the first two years of our lives.

Obviously, this is a tremendous advantage for the child who finds the world a trusting place. However, for those who developed a sense of mistrust during the first two years of life, all is not lost.

These individuals can recognize that mistrust was unfairly placed upon them not by their own choosing, but the irresponsible choices of those entrusted to their care. Such awareness can be the birth of genuine trust.