Trauma and Trust

Trust issues can have an impact on our most important, intimate relationships. Indeed, it is in these relationships where our trust issues are most apparent, because it is these relationships where we are more vulnerable. Trust issues may impact your relationship with your partner, your boss and of course, your relationship with yourself. 

For those who have suffered certain adverse childhood experiences, you may have grown up learning to lie about who you are or what your intentions were. Perhaps you learned that you needed to withhold information in order to be safe. Perhaps you had to withhold your true and most genuine self from others. In doing this you will have erased who you were in childhood. You will have lost your sense of identity, and now, as an adult, you re-enact this loss of identity through your issues around trust – perhaps you don’t trust anyone, however trustworthy. Or at the other end of the spectrum – you trust people and situations that you know are bad for you and that you shouldn’t be trusting. 

When did your trust issues begin?

As children we rely on our parents or caregivers for everything, most importantly to keep us safe. In order for us to learn what is good, bad and appropriate, we rely on these people closest to us to teach us these things. We learn from them by copying their emotional states and reactions. However, if we are being told one thing but feel, think, believe or see something else altogether, this will lead us to doubt our own reality as well as ourselves. If our parents or caregivers do not comfort us when we need comforting, or nurture us in the way we need, we will start to distrust the idea that we will be okay in the world. 

If historically those who were closest to us were not able to fulfil our needs, then we will have grown up to believe that to be the case for people who become close to us as adult. We believe that they too will let us down. In some cases we may force ourselves to be what we are not in order to be acceptable to those who don’t want to accept us, much like we did when we were young. In other cases, we may believe that no one is to be trusted, and that the world is too dangerous a place for us to live in. 

As adults, our adverse childhood experiences can play out in a number of ways. If we felt unaccepted as children, however we behaved, this could manifest in trust issues with our partners. It could also lead us to underperform at work, as we are afraid to stand out for fear of being wrong, rejected or told that we are unacceptable in some other way. We may also be emotionally unavailable in our relationships, especially our relationships with partners and children. On the other hand, we might be overly submissive at the detriment to ourselves and even our children. 

Common trust issues for those who suffered from Adverse Childhood Experiences

You believe you only have yourself to rely on:

You don’t trust anyone else to do anything for you. As a child, you learned only to trust yourself. You don’t like to ask for anything from anyone in case you are perceived as controlling or overbearing. Perhaps as a child you had to take care of an alcoholic parent, or your siblings whilst your parents were absent and neglectful. Perhaps as an adult you are now attracted to broken people that you can’t fix, but you desperately want to, so will try anyway. You continue playing the role of caretaker. Or maybe you have become so independent that you appear unapproachable and cold to others? 

You believe you are unacceptable:

Do you find that you are constantly afraid that people are going to abuse your trust, hurt you, use you or reject you? Perhaps this is because, during childhood, you learned the hard way that your needs and certain emotions had to be kept hidden. Are you often anxious to the point that it can hinder your life on a daily basis? Stressed to be around other people and afraid that every relationship will end with you being hurt or rejected? Do you hide yourself from the world in order to protect yourself?

When you believe that you are innately unacceptable, you probably find it hard to communicate your wants and needs effectively. This inevitably causes many of your relationships to suffer, and although you understand that it might have something to do with you, you can’t pinpoint what it is that you are doing wrong. 

You are too trusting:

This trust issue is the other end of the spectrum from the first two. Being too trusting comes from a deep seated desire to be accepted. Do you often find that the moment anyone begins to get close to you, you tend to overshare. Inappropriately blurting out your life story, or your innermost desires, sometimes even if you barely know the other person? 

Often when someone is overly trusting due to childhood trauma, they expect others to care about them almost straight away, and can feel hurt and rejected if that doesn’t appear to be the case. Boundaries are often an issue for adult survivors of trauma. Often people who are too trusting and as a consequence have very poor boundaries, they put themselves at risk of re-enacting the trauma of their youth – allowing predatory people to hurt and traumatise them, much in the same way they were hurt in childhood. 

Adverse Childhood Experiences can make trusting others an extremely complex issue. Often leaving survivors isolated, unable to form healthy relationships, or in a perpetual re-enactment of their childhood trauma. However, don’t despair. Overcoming trust issues that grew from childhood abuse can happen. 

If your issue is that you find it impossible to trust anyone, when you next meet with a friend, try opening up a little more than you usually would. See what the outcome is. If your trust issues are with yourself, try today to put yourself out there and do something small that you didn’t think you could do. Show yourself that you are more capable than you think and that the world isn’t the terrible place you believed it to be as a child. Finally, if you are consistently being hurt because you are too open and trusting, attempt to put some boundaries up. If people close to you don’t like the boundaries and refuse to accept them, then they are probably people who you want to try and avoid anyway. As adults, we have control of our lives and our past no longer has to define our futures. 

Here at Khiron Clinics, we know that in some cases, rebuilding that trust lost in childhood is going to require more intense work on yourself. If you are struggling to build or maintain healthy relationships, or find that your anxiety around people in social situations is becoming debilitating and you are struggling to achieve your daily tasks we can help you find the solution you’re looking for in trauma treatment. Through effective residential treatment, Khiron Clinics can help you find the path you need so that your trust issues no longer need to define you.