Holding Hands

Aaaah, trust. That ever elusive concept of human relationships… Trust I think more than anything is something that survivors struggle with. Whether they trust too easily or not at all, building healthy relationships requires some skill in trusting. Although I understand that everyone – survivor or not – will at some point in their lives trust someone they shouldn’t, it seems to me that the experience of emotional abuse makes our trust meter go haywire.

To Trust Or Not To Trust

It struck me this week that there really are two opposite responses to trust after recovering from abuse. Either you are so conditioned to trust your abuser, even with all your inner alarm bells going off, that you trust anyone. Even if (maybe even especially so) when your inner alarm bells are screaming at you to run. The other extreme response is to trust no-one and nothing. The realization that someone you were close to abused you, can leave you feeling exposed and vulnerable to the extend where you simply don’t trust yourself to trust the right people.

This week I realized that dealing with the emotional game play of my toxic parents has left me and my partner at opposites of this extreme scale. It may sound like we may balance each other out, but in reality it leads to a lot of over-trusting and then running away. We trust people 100 or 0%, there is no middle ground.

The Survivor Learning to Trust

Learning to trust those around us and build healthy meaningful relationships. But also – and maybe even more so – learn to trust ourselves. Melissa Schenker has some interesting thoughts about Trust that she shares in her blog on The Huffington Post. She describes trust not so much as something we bestow on others, and leave for them to gain, keep or loose. She argues that trust is something we keep inside ourselves, it is our own judgment about our safety and well-being in a relationship that should be the gage of whether we are in a good or bad relationship. This of course makes learning to trust exceptionally hard for survivors. We have had their inner-voices jammed so much by narcissistic and emotional bullies that we can sometimes barely hear it.

Trusting the Healing Journey

However I did not want to talk about my personal life today, or the effects of emotional bullying on trust issues. I wanted to talk about the healing journey. There too, trust has been a recurring theme. As a matter of fact it is at the basis of everything we have build. When the Founding Members first met in virtual communities, what they built was a trusting relationship. After some time, there was enough trust to exchange email addresses, Skype handles and later real names, street addresses, you name it. Along the way we have lost survivors that were not ready for this commitment, because with trust comes vulnerability. Luckily we also gained new survivors, people we met online or in real life who related to our story and wanted to be part of it.

A Community of Trust

So here we are some months later and we have built and are building a virtual community. A community where we all share certain experiences, but we approach them all very differently. We all have our own coping mechanisms, support networks and theories about how we can best heal and deal with the bumps we face in the road ahead. We may never have seen each other, but we trust that those in this community are here with an understanding of our background and a genuine desire to connect with us and help us. There is trust here, and every one in this community can feel it and is willing  to protect it.

What we have created in fact is an online family (an actual one, no Toxic Folk;)). We learn to trust each other, and ourselves. When in doubt we ask the others to amplify our inner-voices so we can begin to hear them again.
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Having gained experience while working for a variety of European non-profits, I am proud to now work with SwanWaters. My connection with the website is not only professional. I am glad to tap into my personal experiences to help those who are living in toxic relationships whether with parents, partners or in their professional life. We need to make the world more aware of the devastating effects of emotional abuse and help more people on their way to heal and thrive.

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One comment:

  1. Profile photo of Skippy

    July 22, 2014 at 3:36 am

    Such a true blog Harmony, thank you for posting. I have a “friend” called “gut feeling” who does not let me down, if it screams “danger” I am gone! I also have a ‘friend” , also called “gut feeling” who smiles when two people click. I tend to trust other than when gut feeling is screaming until proved otherwise. This has worked well for me and I have made many friends. We are here as Swans to help each other along the way and that involves trust, slowly but surely as we get to know each other we appreciate the consistency, honesty and the individual person and their journey. Baby steps towards trusting Swans, when you feel comfortable with a member doors open and in no time you have made a trusted friend xxx


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