Lesson 1 of 7  - free your true Self to guide you

Do You Have a
"Trust Disorder"?

Reduce Excessive
Trust and Distrust

By Peter K. Gerlach, MSW
Member NSRC Experts Council

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The Web address of this article is http://sfhelp.org/gwc/wounds/distrust.htm

  Updated  03-29-2015

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      This is one of a series of articles In Lesson 1 in this ad-free self-improvement Web site - free your true Self to guide you in calm and conflictual times, and reduce significant psychological wounds  

      The scope of U.S. social problems like divorce, addictions, obesity, welfare, crime, homelessness, abortions, and "mental illness" suggests that well over half of typical adults are significantly wounded and unaware. This article focuses on understanding and reducing the psychological wound of "trust disorders"- trusting too easily or not enough  A companion article on regaining lost trust builds on this one, as does this YouTube video. The video mentions eight self-improvement lessons in this Web site - I've simplified that to seven:


      This article provides...

  • A "trust status check"

  • Q&A about trusting and distrusting

  • options for identifying and reducing "trust disorders," and...

  • options for improving self-trust and trustworthiness,

      This article assumes you're familiar with...

  Status Check

      With your true Self guiding you,  get undistracted and meditate on these statements. T = true, F = false, and "?" = "I'm not sure," or "It depends on (what?)..."

I know all I need to know about trust now (T  F ?)

I can _ clearly define trust, and _ explain where it comes from (T  F ?)

I can name at least 5 things I need to trust about myself now (T  F ?)

I trust myself to handle most situations well-enough now (T  F ?)

Awareness of my trust in _ myself, _ other key people, and _ a Higher Power is usually a high priority for me (T  F ?)

I solidly trust that the world is a safe enough place. (T  F  ?)

I was encouraged  to trust my _ competence, _ perceptions, and _ decisions as a child.  (T  F ?)

I steadily trust in a benign, responsive Higher Power now.  (T  F  ?)

I trust my _ mate, _ parent/s, _ sibling/s, and _ children enough at this time.  (T  F ?)

I know how to handle personal betrayals effectively now.  (T  F  ?)

I have never betrayed any important adult or child.  (T  F  ?)

I’m clear on my options for regaining lost trust now (T  F ?)

I’m comfortable enough talking about trust problems with other people now (T  F ?)

I can describe clearly why I’m reading this article.  (T  F ?)

My true Self is guiding my personality now.  (T  F ?)

      Pause and notice your thoughts and feelings now. Then review these basic ideas with the open mind of a student...

Trust 101

      Get undistracted, meditate, and try answering these questions out loud, as though to a pre-teen.

  • What are trust and distrust?

  • What is betrayal?

  • How does trust in someone or something originate?

  • How is trust lost?

  • How do most people react when it's lost? How do I react?

  • Which of my subselves determine who and what I trust - or distrust?

  • What are pseudo and blind trust?

  • What do adults and kids need to trust in each other?

  • What is a "trust disorder" (psychological wound)?

  • How does excessive dis/trust relate to the other five psychological wounds?

  • Does this excessive dis/trust affect spiritual health and growth?

  • How does this dis/trust wound relate to false-self formation?

What did you just learn?

      Now compare your answers to these:..

  What Is trust?

       Think of an adult you totally trust. Then identify someone you distrust. What’s the difference between those people? I propose that trust is an automatic (semi-conscious) judgment, attitude, and expectation adults and kids make about ourselves and others, starting in infancy. It is powered by our primal need for safety - i.e. our instinctive drive to avoid pain and injury.

      People who have consistently "sound judgment" and who have never been betrayed (had their trust "broken") may not worry much about trust. Do you know anyone who hasn't been let down, lied to, misled, cheated, disillusioned, back-stabbed, conned, used, manipulated, or betrayed by someone important to them? By God? By an organization? Would some adult or child say that you've done any of those to them?

       Complete trust says "I can absolutely count on someone or something) to be or act in a certain way that affects my physical, emotional, or spiritual security." For example, I trust that the sun will rise tomorrow (again) to warm and light my world, and that there will (again) be oxygen enough for me all day. 

       From our primal need for safety, our language includes many trust-related words like (un)reliable, confidence, (un)faithful, assurance, pledge, promise, (un)trustworthy, contract, reliable, reliance, vow, promise, (un)certainty, doubt, (un)sure, betrayal, worry, cynic(al), skeptic(al), pessimism, and (dis)honesty. Our laws promote trust in each other and organizations, partly by threatening significant pain to those who break legal or ethical promises.

      Trust in ourselves, each other, and the universe varies in degree and scope. I can trust you to make a delicious omelet, but not to always tell me the truth about your spending our money. I can trust myself to drive a car without crashing, but not to always remember your birthday. Trust and distrust are ultimately a measure of faith about how we or another will behave in a predictable way. Paradox - "I trust that I can't trust you about _____"

       Trust may be granted until it's broken. Otherwise, it can only grow naturally, if conditions are right, over significant time. Like love, respect, interest, and bonding, Trust cannot be requested, demanded, decreed, bought, or bartered for. "You should trust me" is a Be-spontaneous! paradox. One implication is: if you and/or an adult or child have lost trust in the other, it may not be possible to rebuild it "well enough" for both people. Time, motivation, and behaviors will tell.

q-mark.gif (70 bytes)  What is distrust?

      As we newborns experience significant discomforts (unmet needs), distrusts begin to form. Paradoxically, distrust is trusting that something or someone is unsafe - i.e. that...

  • they will not satisfy current primary needs, and/or that...

  • they won't satisfy our needs in a way that feels "good enough."

Distrusts inhibit human and spiritual intimacy by blocking us from revealing our true thoughts, feelings, and needs. Chronic suspicion and jealousy suggest a significant trust disorder - i.e. false-self dominance in one or all  people involved.

      For more detailed explanation of the origin of chronic or excessive distrust, read this after you finish here.

q-mark.gif (70 bytes)  What is "betrayal"?

      Here it means "expecting someone (including our ruling subselves) to fill important needs, and finding that they don't." The most agonizing betrayals (e.g. parental neglect and marital affairs) are those which send the glaring public message "I don't care about you or your welfare."

      Shame-based (wounded) people are highly sensitive and reactive to perceived betrayals, or they have learned to be protectively "indifferent" to (numb and deny) them because their childhoods were full of painful betrayals (neglect and abandonment) they didn't cause, and couldn't understand or prevent

  Where does trust come from?

       Pause and try answering this question out loud. Then compare your idea with this premise:

       In interpersonal relationships, trust comes from needs + direct experience + hopes +  assumptions.

      Needs.  Our earliest experience of dis/trust occurs in infancy. We're entirely dependent on giant adults to know and fill our current physical and developmental needs. If they do so reliably and effectively, we grow wordless trust that they value us and want to help us feel safe and comfortable.

      If our needs are met erratically, harshly, or poorly, we grow wordless distrust about (a) our own worth, (b) the reliability and intentions of our caregivers, and (c) the safety of the local or whole universe

      As we age, we slowly become more capable of filling many of our own needs, and we can become increasingly selective about which other people we trust for maintaining our safety and comfort. An inescapable challenge is whether we learn to trust our own abilities to fill our needs in different situations or not (self dis/trust). 

      Hopes ("faith"). Hope-based trust is faith in something without direct experience with it. A primal example is hope for (faith in) an afterlife free of Earthly suffering, and reunion with God, ancestors, and beloved friends and hero/ines.

      Experience. Your trusts also come from repeated observations over time – e.g. "In 22 years, Pat has never broken a promise to me." So if trust is lost, we need repeated experiences, vs. verbal assurances, to rebuild it.

      In some cases, we start out unsure or distrusting (doubtful and/or cynical). We may reverse that to some extent over time based on accumulated experiences: “When we met, I was uneasy hearing that my future stepson had been recently caught shoplifting, but since our wedding he’s never done that again.

      Assumptions. Trust also comes from observing what's "normal" in the world, and from believing reliable sources of information: e.g.

"Pastor Lueking would never lie to me!"

The mail carrier will never read my personal mail.

I trust my doctor to assess me accurately and prescribe the right thing.

     We also assume the reasonableness of some things: “I trust that Martha will never run for President, become an exotic dancer, or shave her head.”

     Can you think of other sources of the trust (faith) you have in living and spiritual things and in Nature?

   Who causes or blocks trust?

      This educational Web site is based on the premise that normal human personalities are composed of a group of subselves who behave chaotically to harmoniously. A corollary is that one of your subselves is a naturally talented leader – your true Self (capital "S"). If less talented subselves distrust your Self, they usurp personality leadership and can be called your false self because they inexpertly direct your thoughts, perceptions, needs, and behaviors.

      From this perspective, the question above becomes:

  • Do all your active subselves solidly trust your Self’s judgment and ability? (self-trust)”, and…

  • If ‘you’ (your ruling subselves) distrust another person (or the universe) in some ways, which subselves are distrustful, and why?”

      “Growing up” (maturing) and reducing psychological wounds ("recovery") are trust-building processes. They hinge on all your subselves’ accumulating experience that they can rely on...

  • the wisdom and judgment of your Self and Higher Power and...

  • the ability of your team of subselves to keep you “happy” and safe enough day by day.

      My experience as an inner-family therapist since 1992 is that each of your subselves has it’s own level of trust (low > high) in your Self, your inner family, your mate (if any), key adults and kids, and in a Higher Power. Some subselves trust more than others. That promotes normal or excessive confusion, ambivalence, doubt, anxiety, and uncertainty.

      Implication - to build trust in your own judgment and your ability to handle any situation ("self confidence"), your Self will need to identify which of your subselves are distrustful, and work with them respectfully to change their beliefs. Another implication: rebuilding lost trust in another person requires you to...

  • be steadily guided by your true Self,

  • identify your distrustful subselves and learn what they need,

  • assert those needs to appropriate people effectively, and then...

  • the other person must want to change and fill your and their needs equally.

Until the other person's true Self guides them, the last requisite is unlikely. That means that it may not be possible to regain lost trust. Note what your subselves are “saying” now – i.e. notice your thoughts, images, and feelings.

  What are pseudo and blind trust?

      Have you ever experienced a double message (like "I love you. You disgust me!") from someone? These are common signs that different subselves in us have different opinions, motives, perceptions, and needs. Another common symptom is making superficial (vs. core attitude) changes like dieting earnestly, and then regaining the lost weight - over and over again.

      In the same way, some of your subselves may trust your Self and certain other kids and adults, and some don’t. That causes pseudo trust: declaring or acting like you trust, but your actions imply you don’t (a double message). For instance, you may say sincerely “I trust that you love and need me,” and suffer episodes of feeling unloved and unimportant.

      A widespread psychological wound is excessive reality distortions like denial. Pseudo trust results from some well-intentioned subselves protecting you from the pain of admitting you can’t trust someone or something, or that you’re unable to trust wisely in general (self distrust).

      A similar phenomenon is blind faith or trust: rigidly avoiding or ignoring facts and experiences that clearly say to other knowledgeable people “you’re trust is misplaced.” Blind faith is an example of rigid black/white thinking, which often indicates false-self dominance. Do you know anyone who denies that a loved one is addicted, emotionally unstable, sick, self-destructive, or criminal?

      Are there any fanatics or zealots among the people you know? How about “eternal optimists"? Such cases imply that there are ruling subselves who cannot tolerate the pain of facing that trust (security) in some precious person, perception, or concept is not justified. Restated: it’s possible to trust too much.

      Recall that one of five symptoms of early-childhood trauma is “trust distortions”: i.e. not trusting safe people or a reliable Higher Power, or repeatedly trusting unsafe people and getting betrayed. Either way, the primary (underlying) problem is unawareness of a disabled true Self and these psychological wounds.

  How is trust lost?

      Can you recall having significant trust in a person, group, or belief, and losing it? Do you remember how that happened? The most memorable trust-losses are sudden traumatic discoveries ("betrayals"), like learning that a mate is having an affair, using drugs covertly, has a terminal illness, or is molesting a child. These are shattered expectations, which may or may not have been justified originally.

      Distrust can also grow from unremarkable events that accumulate over time. We grow hunches or feelings that “something’s not right here” without clear or dramatic evidence. This can come from a trusted person’s need to hide deceitful or shameful behaviors, and/or our need to hide from the painful reality that the other person is not who we thought they were (or need them to be). Distrust can also come from significant social or environmental events that we never experienced or expected.

      I've had hundreds of couples-therapy cases where one or both partners had gradually lost trust in the other, and/or lost faith that their relationship could survive. Do you know anyone like that?

  How do we react when trust is lost?

     Each of us develops a strategy for reacting to lost trust. Do you know what your strategy is? See if you recognize it among these:

Avoiding full trust in the first place, and pretending this isn’t true.

Distrusting your own perceptions and emotions, and/or your ability to trust appropriately.

Generalizing. “All females / males / gypsies / (etc.) are basically conniving, selfish, and deceitful.”

Minimizing, denying, pretending, or explaining lost trust without much feeling. Related false-self strategies are emotional numbing, and self-comforting via an addiction.

Blaming ourselves and not seeing a partner’s half in losing faith (“If I had been a better sexual partner, Jamie wouldn’t have had the affair.”) This can manifest as feeling guilty and/or ashamed for choosing an untrustworthy partner, or for losing faith in them. Or your strategy may be...

Blaming someone else for our loss of trust, and denying our half of the action. (“Your sexual affair proves you’re a morally weak, corrupt person.”) This may be embellished by choosing a comforting martyr or victim role.

Acknowledging lost trust, and not doing anything about it – i.e. ignoring the needs that distrust creates, and/or avoiding scary confrontations and other choices required to fill those needs (“Marian, if you forget to fill the tank one more time, I’m going to ask you for your ignition key.”) A major case of this is not grieving our loss. (“I’ve got too much to do to be sad, these days.”) Or...

Denying or not seeking patterns in the trusts we form or lose, over time (“It’s too weird: I’ve picked three dishonest partners in a row. Am I under some curse or spell?”)

Adopting and denying pseudo or blind trust, rather than admitting an agonizing or terrifying loss of faith.

Getting depressed” – calling healthy grief over lost trust "depression," and perhaps seeking medication or therapy for it. Another strategy is...

Anxiety attacks” – focusing on the effects of lost trust (less security), rather than the cause/s, and taking responsibility for healthy reactions.

Admitting lost trust without blame, (b) learning from it, (c) assessing current needs, and (d) acting responsibly and compassionately to fill them. (“Carlos is terribly wounded and in denial. He wants to tell me the truth, but his false self often won’t let him. He’s not in a place yet to recognize and change that. I can’t control that, and I need a partner I can trust.”)

Some combination of these, and/or other strategies.

      What do you notice about these responses to lost trust? What I notice is that only the last one is wholistically healthy, and the others imply a disabled true Self. Recall that the core benefit of trust is feeling safe from pain, injury, loss, and/or overwhelm. Your true Self and inner advisors are competent to adapt to lost trust, and rebuild securities if your other subselves will trust them to do that.

q-mark.gif (70 bytes)  What do adults and kids need to trust?

      See how you feel about this summary, point by point: We each need to trust...

  • our own judgment (i.e. our true Self), our competencies, our intrinsic human worth, and our perceptions.  (I Agree / Disagree / It depends on...)

  • that there is purpose and meaning to our life, despite periods of doubt and "failure."  (A  D  ?)

  • that adults and kids are basically good, and that life on Earth is usually safe enough.  (A  D  ?)

      And we each need to trust that other people want to...

  • consistently keep their promises to us.  (A  D  ?)

  • respect our needs, opinions, habits, and beliefs equally with their own, even if we conflict. (A  D  ?)

  • affirm and encourage us in troubled times, vs. ignoring, criticizing, or abandoning us.  (A  D  ?)

  • tell us their truth, or tell us they don't feel safe doing so, and why.  (A  D  ?)

  • accept us for who we are, rather than how we look, sound, or behave. (A  D  ?)

  • respect (vs. agree with) our choice of friends, activities, and spirituality (A  D  ?)

  • be honest with themselves and us in important matters. (A  D  ?)

      And we each need to trust other people to want to...

  • understand and empathize with us, within their limits. (A  D  ?)

  • confront us directly when they need to, in a loving, empathic (vs. shaming, insensitive) way
    (A  D  ?)

  • respect our limits and boundaries including times we need privacy and solitude.  (A  D  ?)

  • listen to us  empathically, vs. fix us (solve my problems), when we need to vent.  (A  D  ?)

  • seek compromises when we differ on important matters.  (A  D  ?) 

  • appreciate our personal talents and limitations.  (A  D  ?)

  • be respectfully direct and assertive with us, rather than aggressive or submissive.  (A  D  ?)

  • balance our flaws and mistakes with the good in us.  (A  D  ?)

  • (add your own trust items)


      This summary is suggestive, not comprehensive. Change or add any items to make this more complete and relevant for you. Note that this summary omits trust-items related to mates, kids, relatives, friends, possessions, Nature, government, and assets. Special social roles and relationships - like mate-mate, parent-child, and employer-employee merit unique trust items.

      Each item above is a chance for betrayal (broken trust) or for relationship satisfaction and security. Note the key phrase …want to…” If someone provides trusts like these out of duty, guilt, shame, or fear, instead of genuinely wanting to, would that fill your needs for trust?

An important implication of this inventory is I don’t trust you” can have many meanings. One is "I don't feel safe with you." Another is "I don't trust you to value me or my needs equally with your own."

      With the above background, new we can explore...

What is a "Trust Disorder" (psychological wound)?

      Typical psychologically-wounded adults and kids may...

Distrust (second-guess and doubt) their own perceptions, wisdom, conclusions, ideas, feelings, intuitions, and decisions, and they may....

Over-trust other people who then disappoint and betray them ("I never learn!"), or they...

Under-trust reliable (trustworthy) people, and/or they...`

Distrust that a benign (vs. "jealous and wrathful") Higher Power affects their lives, guarding and guiding them toward their long-term good and life-purpose.

      Unawareness of, or minimizing or denying trust disorders and other psychological wounds promotes stress, and degrades personal health, growth, and key relationships.

      Psychologically-wounded parents often unintentionally pass wounds on to their kids. Thus trust-disorders and other wounds are an individual stressor and a family problem. Self-motivated progress at Lesson 1 can reduce psychological wounds over time.

q-mark.gif (70 bytes)  How do trust disorders relate to
 the other five psychological wounds?

      They relate In many ways. Early-childhood betrayals (caregiver neglect and resulting distrusts) promote excessive fears ("I'm not safe here!"), reality distortions ("I know you love me, though you're never around."); and core shame ("You let me down again. I must be worthless.") Extreme infantile distrust, shame, and fear may block the normal instinct to form healthy bonds with key people. Clinicians call this crippling condition Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD).

      This can mean that excessively-distrustful, shamed, and fearful (wounded) people can't feel, express. and/or receive genuine empathy and love. Common symptoms of this wound are never marrying, a series of broken relationships, cyclic "approach-avoid" relationships, difficulty empathizing and sharing intimacy, "coldness," chronic detachment, codependence and/or other addictions.

      Significant fear promotes distrust, and vice versa. So working intentionally to reduce worries and fears is likely to automatically improve your range of realistic trusts!

  Trust Disorders can Affect Spiritual Health and Growth

      Try saying your definition of ''spiritual health'' out loud, and then compare it to these ideas: "Spiritual" refers to a person's attitude about, and belief in, unseen entities that affect life on Earth - like God, angels, and demons. Sociologists report that people of every age and culture evolve a framework of spiritual beliefs to help them explain Natural phenomena, including birth, pain, and death.

      "Health" refers to how close to optimal "functioning" an adult or child is at any time. So "spiritual; health" can mean how well a person's attitudes and beliefs about "spirits" consistently promote personal, family, and social contentment, serenity, and satisfying relationships. It can also mean how well a person's spiritual needs are met. Do you believe that spiritual health can affect physical health and longevity?

      "Spiritual growth" acknowledges that as people age, they change their beliefs about spiritual realities "Growth" implies that there can be progress toward an optimal set of spiritual beliefs, in someone's opinion.   

      Wholistic health includes steady spiritual faith (trust) that there is a loving (vs. jealous and punitive) Higher Power who knows and cares about our lives, hears us in calm times and crises, and offers wise guidance and resources (like strength, resilience, inspiration, and hope) to help us adapt and prosper.

      Typical young kids deprived of healthy spiritual guidance, and/or who are taught to fear God, Satan, demons, sin, and "eternal damnation," are prone to become fear-based, believing that the world is a dangerous place.

      Reducing psychological wounds promotes - and benefits from - growing trust in a stable, nurturing, responsive Higher Self and/or Higher Power. This growth helps to significantly increase daily serenity and reduce major fear, guilt, shame, and reality distortions, over time.

+ + +

      How can you tell if you or someone else has a "trust disorder"?.

Symptoms of Excessive Trust or Distrust

      To assess yourself or someone else for a significant trust disorder, look for behaviors like those below. Keep in mind that the real question is whether your true Self is disabled too often.

      Choose a time and placed where you're undistracted and your Self is guiding you. Then check each behavioral trait that applies to you. Use this as a checklist now and as you reduce your wounds over time.

__  1) Chronic ambivalence, and/or constantly second-guessing (doubting) your own perceptions, conclusions, and decisions; and feeling "I can't help it!" (self distrust)

__  2) Often socially unassertive, shy, and timid - having little self confidence (also a symptom of excessive shame).

__  3) Being described by others as "over-controlling," "manipulative," "rigid," "over-detailed," "over-cautious," "a worrywart," and/or "too picky." (distrusting others and yourself).

__  4) Significant or chronic periods of anxiety (distrusting the world, God, and your Self). This is also a common symptom of excessive fear.

__  5) Constantly over-researching decisions and/or consulting others “too much (distrust);" or rarely researching important decisions and making them impulsively (overtrusting).

__ 6) Frequent _ ambivalence, _ sending double messages, and  difficulty _ making firm decisions and/or _ acting on them.

__ 7) Excessive reliance on other people's advice, vs. trusting your own judgment.

__ 8) Excessive suspicion, possessiveness, and/or hoarding.

__ 9) Habitually over-analyzing what other people really mean, think, or feel. (social and self distrust)

__ 10) Usually being "intellectual" and "in your head." (distrusting the safety of feeling and/or expressing emotions)

__ 11) Risking personal harm or exploitation by telling personal information to strangers. (overtrusting)

      More common symptoms of the excessive-dis/trust wound...

__ 12) Avoiding conflicts for fear of “blowing up,” “lashing out,” or “losing control.” (self distrust)

__ 13) A history of significant betrayals (lies and/or broken promises) by trusted others (overtrusting)

__ 14) An inability to exchange and sustain true emotional/physical intimacy - i.e. inability to risk or tolerate disapproval, rejection, and ultimately abandonment by key people, despite sincere assurances.

__ 15) Excessive anxiety about revealing personal dreams, hopes, fears, emotions, values, and thoughts. Variation: habitually using vague language and avoiding clear, direct answers to questions.

__ 16) Compulsively “mind-reading” others: assuming “I know what you’re really thinking / feeling / wanting!”  (also a symptom of fear of the unknown).

__ 17) Habitual inability to accept merited compliments (self-distrust, and a symptom of excessive shame). 

__ 18) A history of avoidances and procrastination despite repeated painful consequences,

__ 19) Reluctance to try new situations, ideas, experiences, and places - e.g. a "disinterest in travel."

__ 20) Having a reputation as "unusually conservative," and being uncomfortable with risks and major change. (self distrust + fear of the unknown)

__ 21) Chronically or rarely saying "No" to new situations or invitations (distrust / overtrusting);

__ 22) Being specially cynical, skeptical, and pessimistic may indicate active subselves distrusting that the world and/or most people are "safe and good enough."

__ 23) Not distinguishing between religion and spirituality. and scorning religion and/or faith in a Higher Power as a weakness and/or a crutch. (spiritual distrust)

__ 24) Constantly needing to explain and justify personal behaviors, viewpoints, and preferences, when others don't need to hear that. (distrust of others' acceptance).

__ 25) Rarely being firm and assertive, or asserting timidly with significant guilt and anxiety, and backing down easily (self distrust and excessive shame)

      There are other behavioral symptoms of significant trust disorders - these are illustrative. The more of these symptoms someone has, the higher the odds they are psychologically wounded (vs. "bad" or "sick.").

      If you're assessing yourself and are controlled by a false self, you're apt to minimize or deny some of these symptoms. Guard against this by having someone who knows and supports you review these symptoms with you to validate or improve your assessment.

      If you're too distrustful or trust too easily too often, what can you do?

 Recovery Options

      Trust disorders are one of five major symptoms that your true Self is disabled. Your Self and other Manager subselves are innately able to decide wisely whom and what to trust, so your primary recovery goals are to...
  • use ''parts work'' to discover which of your Guardian and young subselves distrust and disable your true Self. Then ...

  • patiently grow their trust in your Self's judgment and leadership,

      and as you do this...

  • learn how to identify adults and kids who may disappoint and betray you, and to form realistic expectations of them.

      Let's look at the first two of these goals:

Build Trust in Your Self

      Common Inner Child and Guardian subselves that cause naive trust and excessive distrust are...

Scared Child(ren)

Shamed Child(ren)

Naive/innocent Child



People Pleaser




      Confirm that these and any other subselves distrust your Self by interviewing them one at a time. Then work with each distrustful Inner Child, and patiently build their Guardian subselves' trust in your Managers' ability to keep your Kids safe This parts-work strategy gives more detail.


      If you haven't recently, try this safe, interesting experience of having an inner dialog with one of your subselves. Then return here.

      Here's how a dialog with your diligent Worrier (Guardian) subself might go. Get physically comfortable and undistracted, and allot 15-20" for this. Imagine being in a safe, comfortable, undistracted setting, and breathe easily from your belly.

      When you feel ready, tell all your subselves (i.e. think or say out loud) that you're about to talk with your protective Worrier (or whatever you call him/her) subself. Ask if anyone needs to say anything before you do, and notice any thoughts or feelings that occur. If another subself is nervous or scared about your dialog, focus on calming and reassuring that part first.

      When everyone is quiet, relax, breathe, and ask your Worrier to join you in this safe internal place. Be open to anything - an image, thoughts, a memory, a bodily sensation, or none of these. Whatever you get, focus on it and ask "it" (your Worrier) if it's the one who is giving you the image / memory / feeling / sensation / ___, and trust the first response you get. If you get a "yes" thought or feeling, then have a dialog like this:

S(elf): "Will you talk with me or a little while?" (Be prepared for "No.")

W(orrier): "Why?"

S: "I'd like to ask a few questions and get to know you better. Is that OK?"

W: "I guess so."

S: "Is there a name you'd like to be known by?"

W: "I'm Chaz."

S: "Thank you. Chaz, how old are you?"

Ch: Uh, I'm 24."

S: "And can you tell me what your job is now?"

Ch: "I have to keep you safe."

S: "Mm. That's really important. "Can you tell me who you're protecting?"

Ch: "You know, the others."

S: "OK. And can you help me know what you're protecting us from?"

Ch: From getting HURT. That's pretty obvious, isn't it?"

Self: "And what kind of hurtful things to are you looking out for?"

Ch: "A big one is getting other people upset with us. I don't want that."

S: "How do you protect us?"

Ch: "I watch all the time, and if something bad might happen, I get you to think hard about that."

S: I see. And Chaz, how do you like this job?"

Ch: "Well, I get pretty tired. You know, I can't let up - even when you're sleeping.

S: "Have you ever thought about asking for help with this job?"

Ch "Ask who? There isn't anyone except that jerk who keeps screaming 'Omigod! We're doomed!' He always overdoes it. (referring to the Catastrophizer subself) . 

S: "So he's no help. Do you know who I am and what I do?"

Ch: "Yeah. Aren't you supposed to keep everyone under control?"

S: "Uh huh, that's one part of my job. I'm responsible for making decisions that'll keep us all safe and healthy."

Ch: "Well how come we keep getting into all these jams then?"

S: "Partly because we (subselves) aren't acting like a team yet. Have you ever been part of a team that worked really well?"

Ch:  "No. I'm used to working alone."

      Typical dialogs can go in several directions from here. After making sure the subself (a) understands s/he is part of a multi-talented team, and (b) your Self is the team leader, you eventually want to ask something like...

S: "So Chaz, how would you feel about letting me work with you to keep us all safe? Let me take responsibility for keeping us safe enough, and you advise me if you think I'm missing something, OK?"

      When subselves hear this question, they often get scared they're going to "lose their job" (importance and purpose). In this dialog or another one, explain that will never happen, and ask them to try out being an advisor for a trial period of time. ("Will you try trusting me to keep us safe?") Expect "resistance," and patiently keep asking until you get "Yes."

      Over time, have dialogs like this with each distrustful Guardian and young subself, and find ways to introduce them to each other to grow a sense of teamwork and group pride over time. Option - dialog with several subselves at once. Ultimately, you (your Self) can hold council meetings with all your subselves to motivate, guide, problem-solve, and appreciate them.

      As more subselves discover your Self and Higher Power really DO keep you all safe, their trust grows, and resistance shrinks. As that evolves, your ability to trust your own perceptions and judgment (self confidence) grows. So does your ability to discern trustworthy people and situations from harmful ones. Does this sound believable to you? Try it!

      The articles in Lesson 1, part 3 provide more detail on working with your subselves.

      Each of us has a unique roster of subselves and a unique history, so this internal trust-building work needs to be creative, not "cook book." Your Self and your Creative One (and perhaps a veteran past-work professional) will guide you to craft your own effective strategy for reorganizing and retraining your subselves and building your serenity and self confidence (trust).

      As you develop self-trust, confidence, and healthy pride, a related recovery goal is to...

  Reduce Excessive Trust in Unreliable People

      Perspective - Typical Grown Wounded Children (GWCs) are at risk of trusting too easily and being hurt (betrayed) - repeatedly - because...

they don't know that a protective false self often disables their wise true Self;

they may be shame-based, and their People Pleaser tries valiantly to protect their Inner Kids from rejection, abandonment, and scorn by being "super nice" (e.g. trusting) even to strangers;

they learned early that saying "No" caused conflict, anger, criticism, and rejection;

       and typical GWCs...

were never taught to identify, validate, and assert their Rights as worthy persons; and...

wounded people are drawn to each other, so their risk of unrealistic expectations, betrayals and disappointments is high.

      If you've felt betrayed, "let down," and disappointed too often by other people - specially childhood caregivers - typical extra wound-reduction goals include...

  • learn to assess adults and kids for psychological wounds (false-self dominance), and develop guilt-free caution about trusting wounded people too soon;

  • intentionally grow your self-awareness, and pay attention to intuition, hunches and "senses" about who's trustworthy with what;

  • intentionally reduce denying ("No, I wasn't betrayed"), minimizing, ("It's not a big deal"), and over-analyzing ("I was betrayed because...") by retraining your Magician subself to trust your Self's intuition and judgment;

  • retrain your Inner Critic to not blame (shame) yourself for major betrayals by others ("It's my fault! I should never have trusted _____ to _____"); And...

  • work to heal your Shamed, Abandoned, and Scared Inner Kids. Connect them to the loving supervision of your talented Nurturer subself, and bring them to live in the present, if needed. This will help your People-pleaser and other Guardian subselves relax;

  • help your Pleaser, Critic, and Perfectionist subselves to moderate their extreme needs to please (trust) unreliable, deceitful. dishonest, and potentially harmful (wounded) people, and...

  • practice identifying your key expectations of other adults and kids. See if their actions match their words, and learn to confront respectfully (and praise) where needed.

  • watch for chances to consciously affirm your own judgment about whom to trust with what.

  • Evolve a respectful way of telling people you distrust "I don't trust you (about ____ because _____"). Do this to inform, not to punish, guilt-trip, manipulate, or shame.

  • be open to selecting a veteran coach you trust to help you achieve and maintain these goals. Ideally, s/he will be practiced at doing inner-family therapy.

Reality Check: Think of an adult or child who has "let me down," lied too often, or not kept important promises to you and/or other people you care about. Now review the options above with this person in mind and see what you're aware of.

      Before beginning true recovery, typical fear-based Grown Wounded Children may perceive that the universe is unsafe and dangerous. They may reject the idea of a caring Higher Power, and/or have an exaggerated belief in evil spirits or "negative energy.". An important way to build subselves' trust in their daily safety is to intentionally...

Develop Trust ("Faith") in a Benign Higher Power

      As a veteran ex-atheist in recovery from psychological wounds for 29 years, I believe typical Grown Wounded Children (GWCs) have too little or too much faith (trust) in a benign, responsive, reliable Higher Power. "Ultra-conservative," "overzealous," and "fundamentalist" GWCs can be said to be codependent on their view of God and related religious beliefs and practices. They also tend to be very defensive about this, righteous, rigid, and c/overtly judgmental of others not like them ("unbelievers / infidels / heretics / sinners.") 

      My personal and professional experience over five adult decades has been that Self-guided people usually have spontaneous (vs. dutiful or fearful) balanced faith in, and regular communion with, a reliable, caring, responsive Higher Power. They learn to give overwhelming problems outside their control to this Entity, and to trust It to provide safety and comfort in unforeseeable ways.

      My related experience is that very few survivors of childhood trauma (GWCs) can permanently reduce their residual wounds without stable faith in a benign Higher Power to reliably help guide and protect them. Does that describe you now? Would others who know you agree?

      If you identify as a Grown Wounded Child (GWC) and have too much or too little faith (trust) in a supportive Higher Power, you have several broad options each day:

  • give steady high priority to improving your Self-trust (above), and be open to gradual or sudden shifts in your spiritual (vs. religious) beliefs (trusts) - specially if and when you hit true bottom.

  • stay clear on the important difference between religion and spirituality. Both offer personal and family benefits - and can become a compulsive (addictive) distraction from inner pain.

  • respectfully explore which of your subselves insist on rejecting (under-trusting) or over-trusting a Higher Power. Learn what they're trying to protect your other subselves from, and patiently improve their trust in your true Self and other Manager subselves.

  • Be open to - or actively seek - new relationships and experiences that include wholistically-healthy (balanced) spirituality (vs. "salvation"). Consider using a veteran spiritual counselor or advisor (vs. an astrologer, cult leader, or shaman) to expand your awareness.

  • choose regular periods of undisturbed quiet reflection - in Nature, if possible. Option - explore the process and effects of personal journaling.

  • associate with people with stable spiritual faith (by your definition). Their are many "liberal" religious communities of such people - e.g. Baha'i, Unitarian, Unity, Quakers (Society of Friends), Buddhists, and many others. Know that all varieties of 12-step "recovery" programs except AAA encourage seeking and relying on your own Higher Power.

  • explore the existence and impact of a resident Spiritual subself who may act as a quiet mentor and liaison to your Higher Power and other entities like Guardian Angels, your Higher Self, and/or Spirit Guides.

+ + +
      Every personality is unique, so view these trust-disorder recovery options as  suggestions, not absolutes. Adapt them to fit your inner family, history, and situation.
  For options on regaining lost trust, see this.


      This article is part of a series on identifying and reducing up to six psychological wounds from a low-nurturance, traumatic childhood. One wound can be called a "trust disorder" - compulsively trusting too much or too little. The article provides...
  • basic perspective about trust, distrust, and betrayal;

  • common symptoms of trust disorders' and...

  • suggestions for reducing them using "parts work" (inner-family therapy). .

Lesson 1 in this non-profit Web site and its related guidebook Who's Really Running Your Life? (Xlibris.com, 4th ed.) explain how to do this.

      Pause, breathe, and reflect: why did you read this article? Did you get what you needed? If so, what do you need now? If not, what do you need? Who's answering these questions - your wise true Self, or ''someone else''?

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