How do you trust after trauma and abuse?
When the war is over and the intellect knows it but the body needs to catch up , even a safe environment and situation can send your body to tense and contract.
Here are some steps I take towards building trust at the level of my body:
- Hang out with authentic people. Fake smiles and pretence of affection make me shudder (whether I do that, or someone else, or both - you know the reluctant hugs with kissing the air around each other's cheeks?)
- Only get on the treatment table of people whose presence, wisdom, competence and character I trust. The other way round too: only work with clients and students with whom I share affinity, so they can trust me.
- The more dishonest someone is, the more suspicious they are. I practice telling the truth and connecting with people who tell the truth.
- Check my own suspicions. One of the aftermath results of trauma is hypervigilence, and seeing threats where there are none. Where I find myself to fear a threat that I can't tell whether is real or imagined, I look close until I learn the facts. I have proven my own suspicions wrong often enough to not believe them every time they emerge. Giving the benefit of the doubt is the sanest step to well-being.
- Upon encountering dishonesty I mentally list those people close to me whom I trust with my life and my house key. Sometimes I need to remind myself that my mistrust of someone is not a deficiency of mine, but a natural and useful response to behaviours that are unsupportive.
- Bodywork to undo the chronic shrugging, the contraction of long term living with mistrust. It's easier to identify trustworthy people with soft, relaxed shoulders and a flexible neck