Distrust Should Not be A Weapon

We have huge amounts of distrust in our social space. Distrust is not intrinsically harmful but can be. It all depends on the reason and source for the distrust. If it is not true, we must be missing something. 

Why do we distrust? How much is distrust conditioned? How much of our so-called self-sabotage comes from social norms around trust and distrust? How do we know when our trust and distrust are helpful and healthy? Let\’s see if we can make some progress on these important questions. 

What Is The Basis For Trust And Distrust?

This is important and also tricky because no matter how hard we try, we will never know it all, nor will anyone else. We all learn as we go along. None of us are the exact same person we were at age five because we have learned so much in the interim. So being omnipotent will not do it because we are not.

Trust and distrust are very practical qualities if we are to navigate life and also work together. They also can have serious consequences when misplaced. How do we make sure they are well-placed and appropriate?

Main Point #1: Trust Opens, Distrust Shuts Down

Life is always in process. It is always evolving and changing. That means we need to work with life to make our own lives work. When we distrust, we slow down or shut down. If we have a good reason, that is excellent, but if we do not, we are actually harming ourselves or others. 

Trust and distrust tell us what to focus on and what to invest in, and that is true for others as well. As a result, others may not be open to being around us or listening to us if they distrust us.  

Main Point #2: Distrust Changes Power Dynamics

There is an interpersonal bridge in all relationships. Trust and distrust affect how well it works. If there is high trust, the exchange between individuals and groups will be high, clear, and unfettered by negative energies. It will feel good; it will feel thriving. 

If the opposite is the case, you will not have the energy of thriving in the relationship(s). Distrust can be a way for someone to impose what they feel comfortable with on others. In other words, it can be a power play. The problem for the person who is being dominated is that they have no control over the attitude of the other person but, in effect, are being given more responsibility for maintaining the relationship on the terms of the other person. Distrust is a great way to dictate terms and conditions without being upfront about it. 

Main Point #3: Distrust Is A Factor In Prejudice

If you have had the experience of being distrusted without having done anything, you know how awful it feels. When social norms and social structures are based on the distrust of some over others, you get huge distortions in information and behavior.  It also means that the lives of others are negatively impacted by attitudes out of their control, which negatively impacts them and everyone else. 

It also means that what we trust and distrust is fixed by the cultural story and cultural ideas about what is OK, which limits our ability to adapt in healthy ways to changing circumstances and to make wise decisions. If distrust is a way to protect prejudice, how do we know when it is real or not? 

Main Point #4: Reality Matters

When distrust is tied to social hierarchies, it is based on personal preferences and rankings and NOT on the common good. Therefore, distrust which can be essential for survival, becomes a tool for social and material advancement or even just an excuse to take advantage of someone or a situation. 

There are always consequences for these situations because we live in an interdependent world and must support each other. So when we allow distrust to be used inappropriately, we harm ourselves. We make the fabric of human community and well-being weaker. 

Trust Requires A Willingness To Be Grounded

Trust is an important social glue, and without it we cannot work together. So whenever we weaken our ability or the ability of others to trust, we harm ourselves and others. Trust and distrust should not be used to take advantage of others or to gain at the expense of others. 

The more we make trust one of our most important values, the easier life becomes. We have lightened our load because distrust is a burden. We have greater well-being because we have more energy for creating it when we have less to defend. We have more joy because we create safety and well-being around us. 

We deserve a healthy world filled with the goodness that trust creates. It is time to clear up any false distrust that is weighing us down and keeping us from the quality of life we deserve. 

Photo by Richard Stachmann on Unsplash

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