Emotional Development 101

 

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Successful Relationship
Reminders
   from Infants
about
 Trust

Pamela Levin, R.N., T.S.T.A, 1/18/11

Pamela Levin is an R.N. and a Teaching and Supervising Transactional Analyst with 500+ postgraduate hours in clinical nutrition, herbology and applied kinesiology. In private practice 42 years, she has seen first-hand the commonalities between the emotional tasks of infants and children and those of adults. She teaches her award-winning work on the process of healthy emotional development throughout life in  Emotional Development 101. [your affiliate link to ed101]

"Who should I trust?" "Who should I not trust?" "When do I switch from one to the other?" "How do I know when to decide?"

These are some of the confusions about trust we often carry as adults. The who, when, how much and even whether to trust ever can seem overwhelming. But for infants, this a no-brainer. What can infants teach us to clear up this confusion?

Why is this confusing for adults but simple and procedural for infants? In a nutshell, it's because as adults we have layers and layers of different experiences covering over our basic trust-building process. And these experiences - many of them painful and perhaps even unresolved and remaining to be healed - often result in our taking on a fixed position about trust.

* "I will never trust no matter what." 
 
* "I just have to trust everyone, no matter what they do or say, otherwise  there's something wrong with me."
* "I should trust people."
* "Trusting others is just plain stupid!"
* "It's inconceivable to me that people just trust naturally."

While these various trust positions are put in place for good reason - to protect the person maintaining them—it is these fixed positions themselves that cause the problem and give rise to all those questions and conflicts about trust.

Infants teach us two simple strategies to address these issues:

1. Remain open and willing to trust or not trust based on one's own intuition in any given relationship.

2. Gather real-time evidence about whether the other person demonstrates trustworthiness or not.

Because infants don't have a fixed position about trust, they are free to assess each situation as it comes up. They take a reading on a person or situation, and in less than a heart beat make up their minds about whether to trust or not. They make no apologies for it. If they don't trust, they put out a wail that can set everybody's teeth on edge until they're sufficiently reassured. And they don't rely on somebody else to decide how much reassurance they need. They just stay upset until they feel sufficient reassurance.

We can translate that into our adult lives by quietly focusing on our trust level in any given situation. In other words, just like infants, we take a trust reading and then let ourselves know what that reading is.

"Hmm, this person seems just fine, but my gut is getting tight and I'm hesitant to trust, so I'm going to listen to that and stay tuned and see what develops."

"This person/ situation is too much like (X situation) in which I got really burned, so even though it might be fine, or fine for somebody else, but I'm not ready to trust yet, so I'm not going to!"

"Sure, I'm willing to trust you - all you have to do is demonstrate to me that you're trustworthy!"

Of course, since we are not infants, we can keep this assessment process to ourselves instead of wailing until sufficiently reassured.

Or, until we trust the other person or the situation enough to share our trust level with them.

Doing so is how we can build successful relationships that are truly supportive and nourishing.
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