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
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"Who should I trust?" "Who
should I not trust?" "When do I switch from one to the other?" "How do I know when to
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
* "I will never trust no matter
* "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
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
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
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
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