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On learning how to trust.

Counselling — admin @ 2:11 pm

Here at Counselling Connections this week one of our number, who shall remain nameless, reported for work complaining of pains and aches. They had gone on a long cycle over the weekend; their first time out on the bike for some time and were feeling the after effects. They also had the enjoyable experience of teaching a child to ride a bike for the first time. It a wonderful thing to witness the exhilaration on a child’s face when they master this basic skill; it is something which had the feel of a rite of passage about it. All you need, it seems is the basic belief, in your body, that if you continue to pedal you will be able to propel yourself forwards. After that the wobbly steering and early mishaps become things of the past and are replaced by a confident, fluid motion; a mastery that we usually retain for life, even allowing for long periods out of the saddle.

This got us thinking and talking about trust. The first difficulty we encountered was to be able to say what trust is. It seems to be something that in the first instance we take for granted in life. Trust seems to be a default position. It seemed like we were heading towards the understanding that trust is in place until some event occurs that causes us to doubt it or to lose it altogether. When we reflected on this further it seemed to us that trust is actually learned in ways similar to learning how to ride a bicycle. That through being held safely as a baby a person develops a trust which they feel in their body. This trust gives confidence in our environment and even consolation in times of distress.

This carries us through the early developmental stages of life which include the exciting new adventures of learning how to walk and to talk. In these instances we do not know how to do either but we learn through a process of experimentation and determination.  We learn to trust that a step will take us to another and another and so on. We fall over and get up and try again. We see what it is that we want to achieve and we keep trying until we get it right. At this early stage in life we seem to be able to take the ups and the downs of successes and failures and to keep on trying. Our emotional lives would seem to follow a similar path where we learn to trust in the reassuring presence of the other.

As adults, in relationships and in life things can happen which can effect our trust in others or in our world. A loss of a job; a serious illness or difficulties in relationships can shake our sense of confidence in our world and the people in it. This presents us with the major challenge of trying to regain trust after it has been lost. In experiencing the hurt of a loss we can withdraw into ourselves in an emotional coil which does not allow the possibility of any risk as this might result in further hurt. Our confidence in the world, in our ability to move forward in it has been locked away. When we find ourselves in this state it is often difficult to take the first step out and we can become stuck.

Our hopes, dreams and expectations have met with disappointment in the world and we have to look over these and consider them carefully in order to re-launch ourselves. Therapy can be like a parent’s hand on the saddle of the bike, holding us steady as we launch ourselves back into the world. Depending on the level of our loss of trust our early steps can be quite tentative. It is hoped that through a process like this we can learn to trust again, taking into account what we have learned from our life experience and earlier losses. Most of all this is about learning about ourselves and having trust and confidence in our ability to move confidently through the world; a bit like learning how to ride a bike.

Counselling Connections, Dundalk.

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