Help me figure out how to trust again (both other people and myself)….
April 9, 2014 8:18 AM   Subscribe

What I’m trying to figure out now is how to trust people again, trust myself again, and find myself/my voice again.

I am 40 years old and for the majority of my life I’ve lived a good life, I’ve been confident in myself and my understanding of the world. I’ve been well respected by myself, my peers, my partners, my friends. I’ve rarely had interpersonal conflicts that were not resolved or have I had any major depression, anxiety, self-esteem problems, or problems building relationships and keeping relationships. Until now, I have loved many people in many ways, and felt very loved and well regarded by many people in many ways. I’ve had a very nice life, and right now I feel like I am fighting so hard to get that back, but I am in need of help learning how to trust again, both other people and myself.

If you read my previous post, you will see that I had a rather public and sudden falling out with a friend which will not be resolved, nor do I have any understanding of why it occurred. Again, like before, I am not trying to figure out why it occurred, it’s a futile effort. What I’m trying to figure out now is how to trust people again, trust myself again, and find myself/my voice again.

The situation in the previous post hit me like a truck and I didn’t at all see it coming. And now examining myself and my reaction I am realizing that I am having a hard time trusting myself and my own judgment. I find myself thinking, if I could have been so wrong about this person, I could be wrong about many other things. How does one build that, particularly when they’ve never had a hard time building it before? For me it was always a given, I’ve always been a strong willed person who trusted myself and liked myself.

The gossipy aftermath, and other circumstances has left me somewhat isolated. In the previous post, the discussion of feeling stigmatized was brought up. And this is true, I do feel stigmatized and anxiety, and therefore have pulled away from most people. However, I do find myself missing people and missing community, and therefore I hang out with people one-on-one. However, even when I’m one-on-one with people, I hold back so much of my personality because I’m scared and I have a hard time letting people in now. I have always been a silly, fun, smart person, who likes to both work hard and have fun. But when I’m with people, I’m so tight-lipped that I feel like they barely see “me”. How do I let people back in? How do I let me be me again? How do I regain trust in people and myself?

You all were so helpful last time I asked a question, thank you so much in advanced, I really appreciate all of your advice.
posted by lullu73 to Human Relations (11 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Oh now, come on. This was a weird one-off. Go about your business exactly as you have been. It's not you, it's Pat.

Pretend that you've had a nasty case of the flu, shake it off and go on as you usually do. You weren't wrong about this person, this person was fine right up until some weird thing happened and now they're not.

Connect all the more with other friends, don't talk about this with them though. I'm pretty sure they're sick to death of it.

Stop fixating on this one weird relationship. You've had dozens, nee hundreds of perfectly functional relationship at all levels. This one just went off the rails. Doesn't that tell you that it was her, not you?

If you believe you have anxiety, talk to your GP about it. If you're just enjoying a maudlin trip into the morass that is the vestiges of this relationship, just stop doing it.

Say to yourself, "yesterday I was preoccupied by this. Today, I'm not. Today is beautiful, I'm going to reconnect with my friends and myself and I'm going to be exactly who I am, because I'm awesome."
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:56 AM on April 9, 2014 [3 favorites]

The fact is that when you trust someone and let them into your life, sometimes they will leave. It's the risk we run with every relationship and we can't control that.

So how do you trust again? Maybe slowly-- you reveal something that feels a little risky, you see how that goes, and how you feel afterward-- and if things are okay, you try it again. The trust between you and your former friend was built up over time, so you can't really compare that feeling of intimacy with how you feel around acquaintances or new friends. Also, as RB noted, this is one time that things went bad and you didn't see it coming. It's not a pattern with your relationships. Just allow yourself to gradually become more open with new people. You will find new friends, but it will take time.
posted by tuesdayschild at 9:13 AM on April 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

Uncertainty and doubt have entered into your life, and you're not used to them. It's hard when the ground seems to come out from under your feet. If I could recommend one single thing it would be learning about Buddhist ideas, especially those about impermanence and non-attachment. You can learn to live with uncertainty and doubt, and make peace with them. Don't try and fight them, or get rid of them; they are a part of existence, and in a way maybe it's kinda good you had something to shake up your world-view a little. Living with doubt doesn't mean doubting yourself all the time, and it can lead to more self-confidence and better decision-making.

I find zen teachings particularly amazing and helpful with this kind of thing, but they can be kind of harsh and ask for a real dedication to a way of life which might not be helpful. It depends how far you want to go with accepting non-permanence in your life. So I'd recommend Pema Chodron, who has a lot of great books and teachings which are kind and accessible. Try "When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Troubled Times".
posted by mymbleth at 9:14 AM on April 9, 2014 [3 favorites]

I know that feeling, where after a certain event that was maybe handled not so well, a whole social group feels tainted. That feeling causes me to act a little weird, and then people (understandably) react to me a little weird, and then it just spirals into massive weirdness.

Can you start up a new activity with a new group of people?

Use meetup, or your local alt-weekly, or find a faith group, or see what groups meet at the public library.

Once you get a little more confidence in a new social environment, you might find that it's easier to be yourself around the old social group, too.
posted by Bentobox Humperdinck at 9:18 AM on April 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

Do you know how to develop self-esteem? It's not by reading books or blogs about it or trying to do "self-esteem activities", it's by doing something hard. Something that you can look back on and say, "yeah, I totally did that."

So I think it's the same thing about finding your inner voice again. You can try to force it out of you but I think it works better when you set up an environment in which it can grow and thrive and it will carry over into all aspects of your life. You know what helps me? Creating something. Doesn't matter if it's art like drawing, painting, sculpting or something more crafty or even baking or something like that. When you are creating something and can let yourself get immersed in it, you give your mind/body some space to hear your inner voice. And the more often you do it, that voice becomes stronger and is easier to access at other times, like when you are with your friends.
posted by dawkins_7 at 9:35 AM on April 9, 2014 [12 favorites]

Start small. Open up about something that's important to you, but that doesn't make you vulnerable. Maybe you baked a really nice cake. Talk to the other person about this amazing cake you made, maybe offer them a slice. Then mention a problem you had with the recipe, that you solved. You don't have to lay yourself completely open to someone to connect with them.

Brené Brown talks some about vulnerability.
posted by Solomon at 12:57 PM on April 9, 2014 [3 favorites]

I think this is one of those times when 'fake it till you make it' might actually work. It's not as introspective and doesn't even really address the underlying issues you are struggling with. But I'll be damned if it doesn't WORK! Just think of someone who is wholehearted and able to trust others and bonds easily who is someone you relate to and seems to be on the same wavelength as you (this can be a coworker, or a fictional character, whatever). And every time you spend time with another person or every time you want to be able to trust, just imagine that your chosen 'role model' has taken over your body and is calling all the shots. You'll have to hide behind this facade for a little while but over time as you trust people and that trust is affirmed, you won't be faking it anymore!!

Good luck! :)
posted by dinosaurprincess at 9:31 AM on April 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

This event and its aftermath are an anomaly in your life history, right? You have until now felt confident in your evaluations of people and situations, correct? Feedback from the world has, until now, more or less conformed with your beliefs and expectations?

It sounds as though this happened.

1) There was a falling out with the subject of your last question, which remains a mystery to you. This person was very upset by some moment or event for which they feel you are to blame. This offense seems so obvious to them, they won't even explain it. (From your last question: "I never saw it coming. I tried to ask what was going on, but each time the discussion turned into very upsetting and hurtful arguments where this person became very upset with me. I was told that I should know why they no longer speak to me, but I don’t.")

It could be that you unknowingly tripped an invisible line and this person was genuinely wounded. In this case, the problem was your lack of knowledge about the nature of this line, and of the background that this person brought to that moment, and hurt feelings and poor communication on the other person's part. An unfortunate, regrettable miscommunication that can't now be taken back. Another, much less likely possibility is that they had unrelated intentions and manipulated the situation to drive the split for some other reason. Either way - a convergence of unpredictable factors led to an unhappy event and disappointment. This, sadly, happens to us all, at some time or other, and your biography did not prepare you for it.

Doesn't it strike you that this event was so unusual in the context of your whole life? That there might be something about the particularity of this person, and you, and that miscommunication, in that setting? Nothing like it has happened before. Odds are good that this exact kind of misfortune will probably not happen again.

2) The setting is removed from all other reference points, and the group is small. Events snowballed. A new, toxic dynamic set in, with feedback going between the group atmosphere, the person, and you.

I've been in a situation very far removed from everything familiar, in a different role, in an environment with different rules and expectations from what I'd known. In that situation, I behaved very much differently to how I have in the past and since leaving that scenario. This is not unheard of. When people are unmoored from all reference points, we're prone to unusual situational pressures and may well behave uncharacteristically. We have to find ways to weave events that happen in that kind of situation into our understanding of ourselves, sure - that thing that happened, happened and we have to accept and live with it - but it doesn't mean that such events speak to the core of who we are; events emerge out of a collision of factors.

My suggestion is to take some time, leave this setting and this dynamic, and visit people and places who can reconnect you to the you before all this. Your very best friends from long ago. Family. As well, to find an outside activity, where you are now, that speaks to some part of you that you know or suspect is strong and great and has nothing to do with your program or these people around you now. When you've been reminded of yourself and rejuvenated, you might feel better equipped to face the group, as yourself. Then, you might be able to show a brave face at group events, which would give you more power to turn the tide, as people are likelier to respond to strength.

(One thing I did when I was in that anomalous situation I described, to find my lost voice, was take a class in a creative activity that tapped into strengths I (and a few others) had previously recognized in myself, but that I'd not developed. It was a new enough venture for me to not have a ton of baggage around it, but safe enough that I thought it might not be too big a risk. And it helped, it really did - I felt affirmed in myself again, enough for me to see the distinction between me and that swirling mess.)

Good luck.
posted by cotton dress sock at 9:34 AM on April 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

There are no easy answers here, you basically just have to decide to trust people even though you feel scared to right now.

Feel the fear and do it anyhow. You need to have the drive to push through and not allow this person from your past to hold you back. You need to have the determination that their actions will NOT control your fate.

Yes, you might find that there are other people out there that you can't trust, or will gossip about you. In fact it's almost undoubtable that someone will eventually break your trust or gossip about you unless you hold yourself back and don't socialize as much (and even then it might still happen).

Question is, are you going to let that keep you down, or not? Decision time.
posted by yohko at 4:51 PM on April 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thank you all so much for your helpful advice. Like last time I'm going to summarize some key points that I found particularly helpful, so hopefully these will help others in similar situations.

First off, thank you everyone who reminded me that this was a one time situation, an anomaly in my life and not a pattern. Also that my life just had not prepared me for this, and that chances of anything like this happening again are very slim.

I also really appreciate all of the suggestions of how to trust people again, starting small and moving forward. All of these suggested will help me get there.

The 'fake it til you make it idea' is excellent. As I've been "faking it" these last couple of days, I've realized that the person that is "faking it" is very close to who I really am. This has been helping me find my inner voice again. Also the idea of being creative has been very helpful. Being creative and faking it has reminded me of how much I do like myself and it really has helped me find me again. Even if its something simply, like painting my nails, it does help.

There are so many good ideas from all of you and I'm planning on trying them all. I can't tell you all enough how thankful I am for your thoughts and ideas.

Wishing you the best!
posted by lullu73 at 7:30 AM on April 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

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