“Don’t ever trust anyone ever again!”
That was my mother’s advice to me when I told her about the psychopath. My response was, “How could you want such a terrible life for me?”
As I imagined ‘never trusting anyone again’ because of what the psychopath had done, I had the mental image of being a suspicious, fearful person living an isolated life, one which was destroyed by him. I would be forever his victim, or at least until the day I died, safe and alone.
That would be a tragedy.
I had bigger plans for myself: I would learn from my experience, learn how to trust and who to trust, and develop self-confidence.
The betrayal we experienced was devastating. After something like that, it’s normal to withdraw and question everything and everyone. Our trust was violated, along with our hearts, minds, bodies and souls. We close ourselves and turn inward. It is a necessary and beneficial part of the healing process.
“Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside, awakens.”
But as humans, we have a drive to connect with others. At some point we will want to come out from our isolation. We will think about taking another risk.
“The risks of betrayal or rejection, though real, are outweighed by the certainty of insecurity and loneliness if we choose isolation.”
How do you know you’re ready to trust again? What does it take to be ready?
It takes confidence. Not confidence in others, but confidence in yourself. Confidence in yourself means you trust yourself.
It’s hard to trust others after what happened. And it’s hard to trust ourselves. After all, we didn’t see the truth of what was going on right before our eyes, and the psychopath was good at filling us with self-doubt even if we did.
But we have learned a lot since then.
What is trust, exactly?
“Trust is the ability to be vulnerable with another person. When you trust someone, you feel certain this person will keep your best interests in mind. You believe they are who they say they are. You believe the deepest parts of you will be safe with them.”
~ Townsend and Cloud, Beyond Boundaries: Learning to Trust Again in Relationships
The psychopath was an expert at gaining our trust. In the beginning, they acted like they were a trustworthy person, so we trusted them. Then, as they changed into an untrustworthy one, it was easy for them to pull it off. Once we have an image of someone as trustworthy in our minds, that image takes precedence over reality. It’s simply a cognitive bias we have, one of the many automatic ways in which our minds work.
Psychopaths know this, and they take full advantage of it. In the words of one very articulate psychopath,
“Trust is absolutely pivotal. I try to cultivate trust in anyway I can. Empaths are blinded by positive emotions and are irrationally attached to the impressions they have of people. They are taught from an early age that there are ‘good’ people and there are ‘bad’ people. A solid sense of identity is extremely important to them, so everyone has to be categorized. Therefore, if someone thinks you are a ‘good’ person, you are automatically put into a box…So, how do you make people see you as a good person? That’s where trust comes in. How do you build trust? In various ways. Random acts of kindness, understanding, and lavishing of attention, to name a few…”
Now we are aware of it. Does it make a difference? Does our experience mean anything at all? Are we still just as vulnerable as we were before?
The psychopath goes on to say,
“Everyone around me is ranked based on usefulness, threat level and various other factors. As soon as someone’s threat level usurps their usefulness level I dispose of them without fail.”
“It is much more preferable to play with an unaware individual than an aware one.”
We are aware now. That makes us much less preferable. It even makes us a threat.
So who should we trust?
Trustworthy people are those who habitually do the things that engender trust. They keep their word. Their actions and words match. They aren’t deceitful. They don’t arouse suspicion. They don’t violate the boundaries they know we have. And they behave this way consistently.
“Trustworthiness is an abiding character state. A trustworthy person is someone who is reliable, consistent, and truthful in his or her actions across the board. It isn’t that this person is perfect. Rather, her actions tend to spring from and reinforce her moral values and commitments.” ~ Peg O’Connor, Ph.D.
“Trust can only be built over time. It grows when we experience repeated and consistent caring behaviour.” Safe People, Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend
A trustworthy person isn’t just worthy of our trust sometimes… they’re worthy of it all the time. On an ongoing basis.
Psychopaths can’t do that because they’re not really trustworthy — they only pretend to be, but their charade fails again and again because no one can keep up an act all the time:
“I can’t imagine even the most skilled manipulator can pretend to be human 24/7.”
~ anonymous psychopath
Instead of losing self-confidence because of what happened, you can have more than ever before. ‘Failure’ can build our confidence because of what it can teach us, if only we are willing to learn, and to believe in our knowledge, our experience, and ourselves.
Having confidence in yourself has a lot to do with trusting yourself.
A bird sitting on a branch is never afraid of the branch breaking, because her trust is not in the branch, but in her own wings.
“The person you need to trust first is yourself. No one can be as consistently supportive of you as you can learn to be. Being kind to yourself increases self-confidence and lessens your need for approval. Loving and caring for yourself not only increases self-trust, it also deepens your connection with others.” ~ Cynthia Wall, LCSW
Other components of self-trust include being aware of your thoughts and feelings and expressing them, following your personal standards and ethical code (in other words, sticking to your boundaries), knowing when you need to care for yourself first, and knowing you can survive mistakes.
Self-confidence is the state of self-assuredness and trust in yourself and your strengths and abilities. Your experience with a psychopath shouldn’t decrease your self-confidence — it should increase it, as you learn and grow throughout the healing process.
“When your whole life, the very fabric of your ‘being’ is a lie, you have much to be suspicious of. Every prolonged look is a highly trained P.I., every snapped twig a psychiatrist with straight jacket in tow.”
~ anonymous psychopath
*Quotes from ZKM at Sociopath’s Domain, unless otherwise noted. (Warning: Some readers may find this material disturbing)
For more about trust, read How to trust again after a relationship with a psychopath
♥ Will you ever trust again? Please leave a comment and share your thoughts.
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