Many survivors feel that they will never be able to trust again. Many primary aggressors have deliberately exploited survivors belief that they should trust, and coerced survivors into proceeding as if they did feel trust, ignoring gut feelings. This leaves a lot of confusion about what trust is.
Trust is a familiar feeling of comfort and safety. Where this trust occurs, both the body and the defenses relax. Trust as a feeling or experience, like all emotions, cannot be forced. The emotion of trust only makes sense in the present. Trust is not an absolute guarantee that the future will have no pain or disappointment. Fear of future suffering leads to judgments about future risk. This is a healthy process if not done to the exclusion of real trust and acceptance. Below are eight different ways to look at trust. The first five are insufficient for true closeness, while the last three are building blocks of meaningful relationships.
Blind Trust This is the trust of someone who is unable or unwilling to really open their eyes and see the other person. Such a person might be thought of as saintly, but they do not become closer to the other person. This trust is an unvarying response. In the cartoon Peanuts, Charlie Brown shows this type of trust when Lucy is able to get him to try to kick the football over and over again even though she pulls it away each time. The real tragedy is not that Charlie Brown takes many pratfalls but that he is unable too see Lucy's true motives and desires, and is unable to have an honest relationship with her. Though survivors in abusive relationships may be thought by outsiders to have blind trust, the situation is usually more complicated than that.
Naive Trust This is the trust of someone that can't imagine someone would do what they themselves would not do. This can lead to 'white projections,' which means we fail to see it when another is clearly doing something that we would not do, such as lie, cheat, steal, etc... All good-hearted people show this trust fairly often, but it is most damaging when it is maintained by denial. Hence the saying, "fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me…"
Dazzled Trust Professional swindlers are called con artists from the term confidence, since their skill is to quickly instill confidence or trust in another person. This is done usually by tapping into greed or desire, or distracting the victim from the obvious risks of the situation. Aggressive salespeople use this. Even on a casual level, some people have learned to cover discrepancies in their behavior with distraction, diversion, and playing on the other person's hopes. Many primary aggressors are adept at dazzling, but this type of trust always fails with experience. Sometimes, escalation starts when dazzle wears off.
Captive Trust This trust often occurs in people who have been emotionally or sexually exploited early in life. However it can be instilled or rekindled by a powerful or thrilling primary aggressor. When a survivor encounters another exploitive or dangerous person or situation, something seems to click. 'Chemistry' develops, and the situation can seem 'right' or exciting. Patrick Carnes has called this 'trauma bonding.' This trust leaves no inner peace, and generally drags the 'trustor' through great turmoil or damage. The familiarity and involuntary aspect of this trust can make this trust hard to distinguish from truer trust, but some tell-tale clues are that that the other person hurries things, is intolerant of any disagreement, and uses guilt.
Calculated Trust This is the trust of the person that calculates that either the likelihood, or the cost, of being taken advantage of is small. This is appropriate for business relationships. Many of us bring this to personal relationships and quickly get gridlocked, because this stance is really based on control and not trust. Intimacy cannot develop without some risk being taken. Ironically calculating trust can lead to being exploited because some manipulative people have learned to mimic or advertise isolated elements of trustworthiness, knowing that calculating trustors have learned to ignore gut feelings or inklings of a problem.
Reciprocal Trust This is limited risk-taking in response to limited risk-taking by the other. Perhaps most marriages and friendships are based on this. This trust can lead to substantial security and peace of mind. It falters somewhat when relationships go sour, since when the other reneges on any 'deal' or understanding, the entire edifice of trust and understandings is called into question. It's often said by us when we're hurt in this way, "I don't know that person anymore." This trust sometimes requires not looking closely at aspects of the other that are disturbing, and expecting the other to cooperate by not revealing those aspects.
Trust in Oneself This is the awareness that while others may reject us or our love, we will be okay. It is also the knowledge that our integrity cannot be compromised by another without our consent. This is not trust in self-sufficiency. When we trust in ourselves, we are able to ask for our needs and desires to be met, but if the answer is no, we can take that as information. While this trust does not require the cooperation of the other, it is infectious, and the benefits are usually felt by the other, and it truly cannot be said to be one-sided.
Connection Trust If, having felt safe and cared for by someone previously, we feel the same way with them again, this is connection trust. To work, it usually requires trust in oneself, but connection trust is an experience, not a mental stance, it cannot be reached by thinking. This can be distinguished from captive trust by the lack of agitation and restlessness. This trust is mutual and is seen in loving relationships of all types.