Overcoming Trust Issues

December 14th, 2013 by Steve Pavlina

How easy is it for you to trust other people? Do you trust people easily? Or are you often suspicious of others’ motives?

Do you trust life enough that you can quit your uninspired job as soon as you recognize it as such, and know that life will bring you something even better? Or do you need to slow things down and control the process, such as by trying to save up money doing even more work you dislike? Are you paying the price in frustration for your distrust in life?

Do you trust that if you leave your uninspired relationship that life will bring you an even better, more fulfilling relationship experience?

If you leap into your path with a heart, do you trust that life will have your back?

Difficult Trust Lessons

In my early 20s when I was getting my computer games business off the ground, I was a pretty trusting guy. I felt lucky to be entering into a deal to publish one of my games with a major publisher. My team worked on it for months, and then our publisher unilaterally cancelled the deal on us and tried to sue us for absolutely no reason that made sense. It was basically a scare tactic. I was able to convince them to drop the lawsuit, but they killed our project dead, and in the end I was left with a bunch of debt and no income.

I found out later that they apparently had no intention of publishing our game. They simply wanted to tie us up from working with any other publishers since they had a competing game that would otherwise be coming out around the same time as ours. That bad deal really set me back financially. It was the main issue that led to my having to declare bankruptcy in 1999. In my 20s I was way too naive about how dishonest some people were. I got screwed over pretty royally. This was one of the most stressful times of my life.

The CEO of that same company later had to personally pay tens of millions of dollars of fines to the SEC for accounting fraud. Some of the other officers were fined as well. Apparently they were pumping up their sales figures to artificially boost their stock price, thereby screwing their investors too. The old CEO is out, but this company continues to produce and sell millions of copies of their games today, mostly very violent ones.

After that I entered into another problematic deal with a different publisher. Their CEO was actually a pretty nice guy and seemed honest, but the company just wasn’t doing that well. In the end they had to cancel our project after we worked together for about a year because they ran out of money. Soon they got bought out by a competitor for pennies on the dollar.

I had some big issues with trusting people in business after that — both in trusting their intentions and their ability to follow through.

On the one hand, I can say that this was a good thing because it led me into a direct sales model. Instead of working with publishers, I began selling my games direct via the Internet, and that worked very well. In less than a year I was able to turn things around and went on to publish other developers’ games too, eventually releasing about two dozen games before I transitioned to working in personal development.

Do You Trust Life?

These days I’ve been able to reestablish the trust I feel towards others and attract very trustworthy people into my life (which is wonderful). I no longer feel so jaded as I once did.

What helped most was to think about trust differently. I began asking whether or not I could trust life itself. Did I trust the universe? Did I feel this was a safe reality I was living in? Or was this a place where I had to protect myself?

In the end I realized that my relationship with life exists in my mind. So I can change it.

Same goes for my relationships with other people. They exist in my thoughts and feelings. They’re mental and emotional constructs.

Then I realized I have two options. I could trust life. Or I could distrust it. I mentally explored both possibilities and pondered what kind of life each possibility would yield. How would I live if I trusted life? How would I live if I didn’t trust it? I encourage you to ponder both options thoughtfully, such as by journaling about this, and see where it leads you. I think you’ll find this to be a very eye-opening exercise.

In the end I concluded that trusting life was the better option. I might get screwed over in the short term on occasion, but if I really trusted life, then I’d always give it the benefit of the doubt. This would cause me to reframe any seemingly negative experiences as life lessons. I’d forgive, extract the lessons, and move on.

I could also predict that this mindset would eventually attract some great relationships with genuinely trustworthy people. If I’m the trusting sort and I meet another trusting sort, we’re going to connect with a truly delightful depth since our relationship will be largely free of suspicion and shielding. The opportunity to enjoy deeply intimate, unshielded relationships seemed a bit intense but also very appealing.

On the other hand, if I chose to distrust life, I’d always be filled with suspicion. I’d go through life being shielded and feeling that I had to constantly protect myself. I’d probably be alone quite a lot, even in the company of others. I’d have to deny myself the deepest forms of intimacy since that would make me too vulnerable. Who’d want to be in a relationship with a guy who was always suspicious and shielded?

I’ve connected with women like that on occasion, but I can’t say I like it all that much. It feels as if they’re trying to force me to fit their expectations of eventual betrayal. When I sidestep their baiting patterns and try to bring their misplaced suspicious to conscious awareness, they end up confused and embarrassed and usually retreat back into their shells. I can’t help them as long as they remain committed to a deep-seated distrust of life. About all they can experience relationship-wise with that mindset is either more betrayal or more confusion and embarrassment when they push away someone who genuinely wants to connect.

Was that the kind of life I wanted to experience? How am I supposed to enjoy real intimacy if I’m always pushing people away due to suspicions and assumptions that may or may not be accurate? Is being hurt now and then really so bad?

On balance I felt that trusting was the better option because it would almost certainly lead to a more interesting, engaged, and fulfilling life. I might have to deal with some rejection and betrayal now and then, but if I maintained a trusting attitude, eventually I’d connect with some wonderful, like-minded people with whom I could share some deep and fulfilling bonds. The other path looked dark, dreary, and disconnected. I made my choice.

Reframing Pain

Once I decided it was better to trust life, I surrendered in advance to whatever life sent my way.

I held this trust mainly on a spiritual level. All of our physical experiences here are temporary. Eventually I’m going to lose everything in the physical realm. So my purpose in trusting life cannot be to trust that I’ll be able to acquire material wealth or great friends or amazing business partners and keep all of them forever. In fact, I can trust that all of those things will eventually be lost. So I surrendered to the inevitability of loss.

To trust life at a spiritual level means trusting that there’s a greater purpose to my existence, even if I don’t understand what that is. I trust that life is helping me to learn, grow, and have meaningful experiences. I trust that life is absolutely, positively on my side. I believe that life will never, ever betray me.

This level of trust transforms everything else. I may get screwed over in business again. I may lose money. I may be physically hurt or get sick. I don’t feel I can control all of those factors. But with the level of trust I have now, I don’t need to control them.

I trust that even when seemingly difficult challenges come into my life, there’s a reason they’re showing up. Life is teaching me more lessons. It’s teaching me how to be in the flow, to learn, to grow, and to love. It’s teaching me to be less attached to outcomes and more present in the moment. It’s helping me to stay on the path with a heart. I love that it’s doing this for me. And I trust that it will continue.

I feel very aligned with the flow of life. I feel that the whole universe has my back. I feel that I live in a loving and supportive world.

But I also feel that life is going to keep challenging me. It will push my buttons. It will expose my deepest vulnerabilities. It won’t let me settle or coast for too long. It will keep jostling me to help me grow.

The more I surrender to this flow, the more life seems to reward me. It showers me with loving connections, beautiful experiences, and cherished memories. But it also brings me plenty of powerful lessons.

You see… my early business setbacks didn’t really have to do with trusting the wrong people. They had to do with failing to fully trust in life. I chased money and success instead of following my path with a heart. I relied on the creative advice of others instead trusting my own creativity. I could say that I attracted the wrong business partners, but I actually attracted the very best partners to teach me the (very difficult) lessons I needed to learn. The pain of those lessons largely stemmed from my own stubborn resistance to them. The trust issues were mine from the get-go. Life simply reflected them back to me.

You Only Have One Relationship

Ending my marriage in 2009 was a good example of trusting life. I felt myself being nudged in a more expansive direction relationship-wise, but I initially resisted it — for years!

I didn’t want to leave the comfort zone of my marriage. It was cozy and safe and warm in that relationship. My wife and I were best friends. But staying married wasn’t my path with a heart. It was the path with a heart at one time, but the path took a turn. The marriage had served its purpose. There were more lessons to be learned. I could align with them. Or I could stubbornly resist them. I tried stubborn resistance at first. It didn’t work.

Are you trying stubborn resistance in some part of your life right now? How’s that working for you? Probably about as well as it worked for me.

Looking back I’m grateful that life didn’t let me settle. It was difficult to trust it at the time, but in the end I chose to believe that life had my best interests at heart and that if I followed the path with a heart, life would support me fully.

And sure enough, life seemed to reward me for taking that next step — with a beautiful relationship that’s been going for nearly for 4 years.

Although I love being in an open relationship and have had a beautiful time exploring 4D connections with other women, especially this year, I still believe I only have one relationship. And that’s my relationship with life itself.

I don’t pretend that any of my human relationships will endure. I know they’ll all eventually end, either by separation or death. I cherish them in the present. I surrender to their temporary nature. I trust that life is set up this way for a greater purpose. I feel very aligned with that purpose, even when it’s sometimes difficult and painful to accept.

I not only forgive the people that I feel have hurt me in the past, I deeply appreciate them. They taught me valuable lessons. I learned to put my relationships ahead of money and success. I learned how to tune into my intuition. I learned to act on inspiration.

I know there are many more lessons ahead of me. I catch glimpses of some of them, and they don’t look easy. Part of me would love to stay in my current comfort zone and not progress, but I trust that life will not let me do that.

Life itself is my best friend and coach. Life knows what I need, even when I ask for something less inspired. Life doesn’t let me settle.

One reason I don’t feel jealousy in my open relationship explorations is because I only have one relationship. That’s my relationship with life. I have one relationship, and it’s a committed one, much more committed than a human marriage. I cannot betray life, and I don’t believe that life can betray me.

My individual relationships with people represent different aspects of my one relationship with life. Each person expresses different aspects of life itself, and so my human relationships reflect my relationships with the aspects of life that they represent to me.

Choosing to Trust

To overcome trust issues with people, delve into your relationship with life itself.

Do you trust life? Do you feel this is a safe place? Do you believe you’re here for a reason? Do you feel that life is guiding you through a series of challenges to help you grow? Do you feel that life rewards you for trusting it?

Or do you distrust life? Do you cling to your comfort zone, throw up your shields, and decline the challenges that are right in front of you?

Trusting life is a choice, and it’s a creative one at that. Your choice creates your reality. If you choose to trust life in the deepest possible way, you’ll eventually reframe every life experience to reinforce this trust. Your most painful setbacks will become growth lessons. Finding your path with a heart will become mandatory, not optional. Your decision to trust life will create the corresponding reality. Speaking from experience I can tell you that this a delightful reality to experience.


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