We talked about the inherent trust we are born with. What else can helpless infants do but trust that they've arrived at a safe place? We are predisposed to be vulnerable to our caretakers and our surroundings to implicitly trust that this family, community, city, country, and indeed this world, is a place where our physical, mental, and emotional needs will be met. What happens next, whether we've arrived in a safe, supportive environment, or in a chaotic, confusing, or dangerous one, helps determine how we will see the world and its occupants for the rest of our lives. This trust versus fear continuum is called attachment. And our attachment versus detachment is a key component in our personalities.
Some of us, who have had bad things happen to us as children, become adults who cannot trust at all. We store those hurts not only consciously, but also unconsciously, and even physically; embedded in our nervous systems. Even if we find ourselves in objectively safe surroundings, we cannot feel safe. Our worldview has been tragically conditioned to protect us from danger that isn't there. This is where symptoms can come from, this conflict between what is real and the false reality created by our unfair history. Deep down we know that it doesn't make sense, and to counteract the stress we feel from this nonsensical worldview, we develop counterproductive coping mechanisms: eating disorders, mood disorders, personality disorders, addictions, self-destructive behaviors, relationship problems, and self-hatred.
Others of us trust too much. We become codependent and seek out people and situations that allow us to repeatedly test our worldview in attempt, unconsciously, to prove it wrong. It's as if we think that the more we expose ourselves, the more we give, the more we reach out, then somehow, we can prove that worldview wrong and discover that we live in a safe place after all. But our perceptions of safety, our boundaries, are skewed by our wish for a different world. So we expose ourselves inappropriately, we give too much, we reach out to the wrong people.
This meeting gave us all a chance to be real with each other; to courageously talk about the childhood injuries that contributed to who we are so far. We've been brought together and given an opportunity to be vulnerable again, to draw appropriate boundaries again, to tell our stories, to hear from each other's stories that we are not so different. Sitting together like this, open, honest, empathic and compassionate, is not as comfortable as our old habits feel. But we are wise enough to know that healing isn't easy.
Some of us don’t remember long stretches of our childhoods. But we can infer from the subsequent damage we have endured, that though we have forgotten those times out of self-protection, that damage leaves us ultimately unprotected against repeated, similar harm. The idea of recalling those troubled times brings up even more fear, as we contemplate facing the unthinkable. But that's why we are together. We draw strength and encouragement from positive, nurturing group of people like this, moving together toward a safer future.
Finally, we looked at trust from the inside looking farther inward. Guilt and shame are the insidious remnants of the abusive, neglectful, and tragic histories we carry with us. It is important to know that our childhood was not our fault. No matter what we believe, or what we've been taught, it was not our fault. It can never be our fault. And as soon as we set that burden down, as soon as we decide—despite our habitual self-doubt and self-disdain—we can once again begin to trust ourselves. And when we can trust ourselves, we can see the world in a whole new way.