Gullible or Skeptical: Trust

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Being gullible or being skeptical. How much? I was talking to another old guy last evening and we both shared that we had become increasingly skeptical as we got older. Dreaming and gullibility seemed to be part of being a kid. We were both looking at the recent election and “skeptically” doubting that the Democrats are gonna do any better. I think there is wisdom in that skepticism. Will the next guy/gal you date tell lies any less than the last?

Then we shared that we both felt hopeful about the future of this country/world. That may seem strange, but I think we were sharing that we felt a better world was built on having become skeptical, having learned our lessons, and then trying some more.

He told me a story of a father teaching his son the lesson of skepticism. It's a tough lesson, and perhaps needs to be taught by pretty mature fathers and mothers.

A father took his 4 year old boy to a step ladder and encouraged the kid to climb up high. Then he said, “Jump, and I'll catch you.” The boy hesitated for quite a while, saw the smile on his dad's face, saw his open arms. Then he jumped and dad caught him. The boy giggled and said, “I do it again.” And he did – 4 times. On the fifth jump, the dad stepped back suddenly and the boy crashed to the ground. Hurting badly and bleeding from his nose, the boy stood up and said, “Why, why, why did you do that?” The father, with a sad look on his face, said, “I want you to learn that you can't trust anyone all of the time. That is a painful lesson. And I would rather you learned it now from me, who loves you, than later from someone who doesn't.” And he gently picked his crying son up in his arms and headed for the medicine cabinet.

Question: so what is the “lesson” here? if we cannot trust those we are closest to all the time, how do we know when we can and when we can't? do we ever trust them, or do we need to assume that they will, like the dad, drop us……? if that is the case, then we must always be doubting, always wondering, never never trust…..  and, if that is the case, how does one build a healthy relationship based on the assumption that our partner cannot be trusted?

Answer: Great questions. I've worked on these for years. I remember, after my first marriage collapsed, asking, “How can I ever trust another woman?” Lemme offer a general, and hopefully not lengthy, answer based on what I have learned.

People want to be buddies and to feel safe. Safety and Trust are the same thing, so People want to be buddies and trust. A buddy is someone we are close to, an intimate. So, people want to be close and trust. I think we are built this way, and I am ok with this as a general concept.

What I have come to realize is that people are not trained to trust or become close. Doesn't mean they can't. Just means they have got to do things differently than the way they were trained. Gotta learn some new skills.

With the divorce rate as high as it is, and the prevalence of deception (a la politics, religious stuff, marketing, etc.) I believe most people are rapidly developing a very healthy skepticism in most areas of their lives. This shows up in dating and in finding a buddy to trust. So many of us act like people who have been married/betrayed 6 times and are now pretty cautious and picky. This seems to me a better starting place, rather than gullibly dreaming that “all will be well.”

At the same time that we are cautious, we are also woefully mistrained at how to build trust and how to create closeness. Look at the prevalence of “marketing” in the dating process. People pretend to be “products” that they are not. People lie in order to get closeness. Whether they lie on MySpace, or verbally, or physically (using makeup, etc), it seems to me they are trying to get closeness and connection by inserting a behavior that prevents closeness and connection – lies.

Similarly, they may avoid “arguing” or “controlling” or “complaining” during dating, even though those skills are deeply built into their skills sets. What a fraud! And we can build Trust out of that?

And so, there seem to be two strikes against us getting close: we are careful at not getting close, and when we start to get close we begin to use skills that reduce closeness. 

This doesn't work. That's what I have discovered.

So what do we do? Learn what works to build a safe intimacy and practice till we are good at it – till it becomes automatic. Give up doing those things that we have been taught, that breaks up safety and prevents closeness.

Until we individually and together decide to do this, I think we will continue in the confusion we are currently in.

How's that for an answer?

Response: It's like the saying goes..”don't expect anything and you'll never be disappointed.”

Answer: Yep. Expectationless. And at the same time I like to remember “You gotta have a dream. If you don't have a dream, how you gonna have a dream come true?”

Put these together and I get the songs “High Hopes” with the ability to “Cry me a river” whenever it doesn't work. Go 4 It!



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