Ask The Therapist: “How do I build trust in people?”

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In 2016, the number of people estimated to be suffering from mental health issues like depression and anxiety amounted to roughly 1.1 billion. Since then, numbers have likely continued to rise. Moreover, studies have also shown women especially on average are a) more likely to suffer from mental health issues, and b) less likely to talk about them. The taboo in Pakistan surrounding depression and anxiety disorders only serve to aggravate the individuals suffering even more. For the women who cannot seek out full time therapy, or simply need advice about their problems, we’ve enlisted the help of a trained counsellor. You sent us in your questions – here are the answers!

“How can I build trust in people? I have extreme trust issues and this is making me a negative person?”

Haya’s Response:

Dear Anonymous,

Trust is being able to have confidence in someone or something. It is having acceptance of the truth without investigation or evidence and trust is the base of any healthy relationship

But having trust issues is also quite common. Often trust issues are due to a series of events in our lives, stemming from childhood and early life experiences. It could be because of not getting enough care and acceptance as a child, being abused or mistreated in some manner or simply from being let down by others. These type of life experiences can lead to having trust issues as adults, where you feel it’s just easier – and less disappointing – to depend on yourself.

While trust issues stem from early life experiences, forms of social rejection or traumatic experiences during adolescence/adult hood can also lead to trust issues. Betrayal in romantic relationships may also cause trust issues throughout a person’s life. When a person’s trust is repeatedly violated, their belief system can be deeply affected, making it difficult to place future trust in people or places. One feels like they can’t let their guard down, as they’ll just get hurt again.

These kinds of thoughts create unconscious defense mechanisms for us, so we can avoid that pain and hurt, and become social barriers, limiting us from fulfilling relationships.

Here are some signs you may have trust issues:

  • A lack of intimacy or friendships
  • Mistrust in a relationship
  • Dramatic or stormy relationships
  • Having suspicion and anxiety towards friends and family
  • Believing that other people are deceitful and untrustworthy without any substantial evidence

So how do you start trusting others?

1. Trust Yourself

The key to building a trustworthy relationship is first learning to trust yourself and your judgment. Just because someone broke your trust, it doesn’t mean your have poor judge of character. One bad experience should not define your entire life. Take a step back and examine your life and all the good choices you’ve made – in school, in your career, with your finances etc. These are proof that you should trust your instincts! Don’t let one bad experience determine all the rest.

2. Find The Source

Whatever your reason is for having trust issues, recognize that you have an issue. And to be able to progress, you need to understand and explore what caused this mistrust. Whatever it may be, you need to accept your past and move forward. And most importantly, forgive yourself. Seek professional help from a mental health expert if this is proving to be to tough to deal with on your own. They will help you develop effective ways to build trust in relationships.

3. Communication Is Key

I cannot stress this enough! Consistent and honest communication is one of the foundations of building trust. It’s a slow process, not something that happens overnight. But if you don’t communicate with your loved ones, it won’t happen at all! If you’re in an intimate relationship or friendship and you’re having difficulty opening up, tell them why. If the people around you understand why you’re being distant, they’ll be able to help you open up and show you that they’re not going to hurt you. Even if you can’t trust someone immediately, at least be honest with them about why.

4. Surround Yourself With Joy

Take a look at the people who have been around your life for a while – your family and close friends. There are very few relationships that bring us pure joy, so make sure you surround yourself with those people and value them. Sometimes, we forget the ones who have been there for us because we’re so focused on those who haven’t. Don’t take your loved ones for granted and make an effort to show them your appreciation – it will go a long way and strengthen your bond.

5. Have High Expectations

Broken trust often leads us to lower our expectations. If you have low expectations, you can’t get hurt. But that’s not the right approach. You need to realize that you are worthy and deserving of love and trust. Do not lower your expectations just because one person didn’t meet them. Lowering your standards won’t guarantee you don’t get hurt; it’ll only make it easier for people to advantage of you. Keep your expectations high, raise the bar and make sure that you are getting the love and respect you deserve!

You will not learn to trust someone overnight; it’s not a switch you can turn on and off. But you need to remind yourself that there are good people out there; your close friends and family are proof of that. Start focusing on the positive in life and you will automatically exude positive vibes. Keep an open mind when you meet new people and don’t expect disappointment if it’s not even there. Over time, you will learn to trust again. Just be open to the idea and it’ll happen.

Good luck!

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