Can broken trust ever be rebuilt?
We’ve all experienced times when we feel like someone has let us down, and these small things can be inconvenient. But what about the bigger breaches of trust? Or the many small breaches that, over time add up?
When someone we trust lets us down, it can range from irritating to devastating, but what can we do about it? Can the trust ever be rebuilt? Can we ever go back to the secure relationship we previously enjoyed with that person?
For me, it depends on the nature of the breach. Sometimes broken trust is about miscommunication – we have an expectation that we may not have effectively communicated and that results in someone not doing what we expected them to do.
Other times it is about what is going on for that person, at that time. Perhaps life has thrown them a curve ball and they genuinely forgot, or no longer had the capacity (physically or emotionally) to do what they said they would do.
In these instances it becomes more about understanding what is going on with that person and having a conversation about how you feel as a result and what you can do in future to prevent another misunderstanding.
But what about the bigger things? The broken trust within a marriage or partnership? The friend who hurts you by blabbing something you told them in confidence? The business associate who undermines you to build their own empire?
In these cases the broken trust can result in deep hurt and feelings of betrayal. It can also result in feelings of worthlessness and self-doubt on the part of the person whose trust has been broken. This is where things can become more problematic.
So, what do you do about it? Walk away and cut that person out of your life for good? It may seem tempting at those times you feel hurt and angry, but it isn’t always possible. And does it really resolve the core of the hurt or is it just avoiding the problem?
There is a saying “holding onto bitterness is like taking poison yourself and expecting your enemy to die” and unresolved broken trust can end up feeling a bit like this – you feel betrayed, hurt, sad, you begin to question yourself – “was I in the right?” “Is it something I did?” ‘Why would that person do that to me?” and it can become toxic, like the poison is taking over and dragging you down.
Often the best approach is to preserve the learning from negative experiences, and to release the destructive negative emotions. This process can help to heal wounds, restore composure, increase confidence, uncloud judgment and allow you to articulate your position more clearly. This kind of Cognitive Hypnotherapy work does not invalidate any sense of betrayal, nor diminish its importance. What it does do, however, is free you from the destructive nature of negative emotions, increase your resilience and empower you to decide how to proceed in a calm and composed way.
But it can be difficult to approach someone who has broken your trust and have a conversation – opening up about how you feel can be scary, showing vulnerability to someone who has broken your trust can feel daunting. “What if that person doesn’t understand?” “What if they deny it and I feel worse afterwards?” “What if they laugh at me and tell me I am over-reacting?” This can be particularly difficult when it is a series of small breaches of trust that over time add up. It can feel as though you are citing a list of wrongdoings and have been ‘keeping score’.
Really, what it comes down to is how best to approach the broken trust for your own mental wellbeing. If having a conversation is necessary, get some support in how to do that in a way that is clear and in which you take ownership of your own feelings, so it doesn’t come across like accusations.
If it is possible to sever the relationship and walk away, that might be the best move. It really all depends on the nature of the breach of trust, the relationship with the person and how comfortable you feel in your course of action.
Either way, getting some support to maintain your resilience and prevent self-doubt creeping in is a great first step. Yes, that person has betrayed you, but at the end of the day, the only thing you can control is how you choose to respond, and getting some help to heal the hurt and move forward is the best comeback ever!
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