Displaced Trust: A painful lesson

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Photo: Jenny L.

Only a few things hurt more than a loved person letting you down. Whether it is your significant other, your best friend or even your own family: it hurts, maybe not so much physically but emotionally.

My trust does not come easily and I am sceptical towards most people. A friend who hurts you – even if it’s unintended – feels more gruesome and painful than usual. It is because we were neither prepared nor protected for this fall.
We call people friends and we keep them close for a reason. Ironically, it is that very reason why these moments leave us paralyzed.

I always thought I was a good judge of character and can see through lies. It seems that my vision gets clouded when I have invested a certain amount of trust in people. Why so? Calling somebody a friend – especially close friends – comes with many responsibilities. You tend to be more honest with each other, caring and protective. These are the differences between your friends and a brief acquaintance.

Would I call a person I just met last Sunday when I am having a panic attack? Probably not. The idea of presenting myself that vulnerable to a stranger doesn’t seem pleasant. I guess this is also one reason why therapy tends to needs some time until it progresses: Opening up to somebody we don’t know (yet) and therefore don’t trust is hard. In other words, the act of building trust in a person is a form of work by overcoming your own distrusting nature.

There is a reason why I don’t burst into tears when the bus driver was rude to me this morning. During the day I am aware that I will need some wall to protect me from unfairness. It is sad but the reality we live in. On the contrary, I had tears many times when a friend said something equally rude in the heat of a discussion.

Besides the trust and love we feel, we also see a set of expectations towards our friend. Or maybe it’s just me. I tend to assume that my friends and I have similar values. Whatever I would do for them I like to believe they would do the same for me. This concept of mirrored devotion does not work. The abilities that I have and the circumstances I’m living in are not the same as the ones my friends face. We are different and I forget about it. This concept is meant to disappoint. When you build up a set of expectations on this theory it can differ from the reality a lot.
I guess I need to look at it from a different point of view: How is the other person supposed to know the extent of my devotion if we never talked about it? Therefore, how is the other person supposed to know what I expect from them?

With that in mind, I try to recover from my current disappointment. Somewhere torn between “This just can’t be true! This is a big misunderstanding!” and “Wow, that person was my friend and did it anyway.” I try to evaluate what happened. For now, I feel that my expectations were too high and my trust not really justified. I feel stupid and I started to doubt my own judgement in the oddest moments now.

If friendship was a game then my expectations were its rules and I believed that my friends and I were both following them. Seeing it that way it reminded me a lot of the following quote from Peter Pan:

“Not the pain of this but its unfairness was what dazed Peter. It made him quite helpless. He could only stare, horrified. Every child is affected thus the first time he is treated unfairly. […] After you have been unfair to him he will love you again, but he will never afterwards be quite the same boy. No one ever gets over the first unfairness; no one except Peter.” ― J.M. Barrie

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