I used to be bubbly and cheerful to everyone I met. I saw the good in people. Was I just young and dumb?
Now I’m guarded. My smile isn’t quite as big and I enter new relationships with caution. Did that come with age? Did that come from pain?
Did you ever notice a change like that in yourself? Were you more trusting when you were younger?
A few years ago I was mentally and emotionally abused by a client at work. The abuse went on for eleven months before the client was finally kicked out of our program. I thought once the client was gone I would be fine, but I wasn’t. I was diagnosed with PTSD and went through several months of therapy.
I am doing much better now but nothing has been the same since. You just never know what a person is capable of.
I recently experienced betrayal in my family which once again brought my trust issues to the forefront.
We have all seen the good and bad in people. No one is purely good and no one is strictly bad but the bad definitely gets more attention.
But lately, I feel like I attract people who do harm — like I’m an easy target for narcissists. Do I do something wrong? Do you ever feel that way?
I am a resilient person and generally have a good attitude about most other things. I’m quiet but kind. I know if I always let the bad overshadow the good, I might miss out on getting to know some genuinely nice and caring people.
But how do I let my guard down? What do you do when you’re afraid to trust people? Will it get better with time? Or worse?
I’ve got to be honest – I’m angry at the people who made me feel this way.
I have been seeing a therapist weekly for about a year now and my blog is in no one a replacement for therapy. I know we’re just strangers on the internet but I absolutely love throwing questions your way. You guys always have such thoughtful responses.
Can you relate? Do you have trust issues? How do you deal with it?
John Morales says
Had you phrased it as something like “am I overcoming my naivety as the years go by and I gain lived experience”, the connotations might be slightly different.
You know the adages: “once bitten, twice shy”, “trust but verify”, and so forth.
Me, I’ve become rather cynical as I’ve lived, but I still trust new people, but provisionally and proportionally to the importance I invest in that trust.
So I’m not over the edge. (I hope!)
Anyway. I think it’s normal and useful to become warier about others.
We’re all trusting when we’re little. It seems to be a instinctive state that gets us the care we need at that age.
I think it’s a good thing to be internally critical of the intentions of others. Paranoia is excessive, of course, and it harms you in your day-to-day life, but your mind will sound the alarm when someone’s attempting to place you in a circumstance you shouldn’t be in. Listen to that, and don’t shut it down with a flimsy rationalization.
It is terrible that you’ve been the target of predatory personalities in the past. You should be angry about it, but be angry at them, not at yourself. Be part of a support network; therapy is good, and additionally a few close friends who will listen to you and who will watch your back are indispensable. Learn to recognize when the same thing is happening to other targets, and maybe your intervention can save someone else’s life.
I agree with both responses above. 100% I hope you keep their words and look them over periodically.
There’s a reason why the Christian bible insists its followers “be as little children”; children are easier to manipulate.
You might find it interesting to check out Dr. Ramani on Youtube: she’s a therapist who specializes in narcissists and how a non-narcissist can keep themselves safe around them. In particular, she has a lot to say about people the abuser tends to pick out for abuse–they tend to be empathetic, loving people who have what the abuser lacks.
Angry to hear you were abused at work, impressed your company got rid of the abuser and paid for counseling.
I have definitely trusted people too much. I think it’s part of my worldview. I know the world doesn’t become a better place to live in unless we make it better ourselves. I don’t know how to do that on any large scale. But on a small, interpersonal scale I try to make that happen. And you can’t do it without some measure of trust. I’ve also been helped by other people in similar ways so I have an idea of how it works and how it doesn’t work from both sides.
When it comes to trusting people I go through cycles. I can trust for awhile and then I get someone who stabs me in the back and I don’t really trust as much for awhile. Some time later I try again but with the knowledge of how I was hurt previously, which I use to try to avoid similar issues in the future.
I honestly think some of the issues I have are other people being unwilling to trust me. I’ve had people backstab me when I haven’t done a thing to deserve it. Even if our relationship is not at all equal and I’m the one just giving them something they need. They’ll imagine ways I could hold it over them, freak out, and then they start telling themselves some weird story where I’m somehow taking advantage of them by… helping them? The same thing has happened so often I began to think of it as the last favor for a friend: me walking away while they imagine some fantasy story about how righteous they are while cutting ties. Usually after they’ve been pushing my boundaries for awhile.
It’s all a big process of learning when and who to trust. In my case especially but I think also in general, it’s related to the concept of some people are in a spot where they can accept help and others are not. Similarly I think some people are in a place in their lives where they’re open to trusting you and others are not. If they don’t trust you they’re more likely to abuse your trust in them. Because you’re going to assume they’ll meet you halfway at some point and they’ll either be trying to push you around to take charge or leave you hanging because they want extra assurances. They’ll make it cost more to get something you feel you’ve already paid for.
I’m not sure I have any answers to this sort of thing. A lot of this feels more like observations along the way to me. I do know that while I’ve had many people choose to get ahead and then cut ties with me, I’ve also made some really good friends doing this. Even managed to pay back one of the people who helped me earlier and at a time when a little effort made a really big impact on their life. So it definitely hasn’t all been bad. I think it mostly comes down to recognizing when to stop putting up with someone else’s BS and tell them to act better or take a hike. Learning to do that is important because I don’t think I want to distrust people to the extent that would be required to actually play it safe.
I’m a fairly extreme introvert who probably lacks the full complement of social skills, so I’ve never been all smiley around others; but my experience is that most folks are friendly and well-meaning most of the time, so I give people the benefit of the doubt when I first meet them in social situations.
I’ve become very wary of businesses however. For example, at supper in a restaurant last night, I made sure to ask the waitress whether, if I wrote the tip amount on the check, that it would really get to her. (I’ve heard that some restaurants aren’t very honest in that regard.) She assured me that that would be OK; and she had a big smile on her face, I guess happy that somebody asked and actually cared. 😎
I’m a 76 year old cis het white male who has never experienced any kind of abuse that some folks report, so I can’t possibly know what that’s like and can’t possibly make any helpful suggestion. Does it help for this random stranger to say that I genuinely wish the best for you?