How To Decide Who To Trust Post-Abuse

April 22, 2012 Kellie Jo Holly

In the last post, I wrote about my fear that I will damage (or kill) any healthy relationships I now enjoy due to my inability to trust the ones who deserve it. I mentioned that it is much easier for me to trust a stranger than my lover, but that dilemma is, I think, easily explained: strangers on the street do not have intimate knowledge of who I am that they could use as a weapon. Strangers may use a gun, but that type of killing is not the one I fear.

I fear the slow death of emotional abuse eating me from the inside out and decaying me into a zombie-clone of my abuser before I realize the damage done. I fear someone who elicits my trust for the silent purpose of altering who I am. Only those closest to me could have that type of ulterior motive and the time span needed to see the plan to fruition.

Abuse Builds Unseen Walls of Protection

It seems that during all the years I was abused and didn't realize or acknowledge it consciously, my unconscious mind knew. My unconscious mind helped me draw pictures which I found quite disturbing. I didn't know where the images were coming from, I couldn't interpret them, but still they oozed out of me like a sickness.

When I didn't listen to the pictures (the unconscious mind's only mode of communication), my unconscious had to find another way to protect me. It threw up strong walls around my soul. My unconscious couldn't tell me what to do or how to react to the very real threat in my environment, so it helped me learn to live within it instead. I chose denial, excuses, and the acceptance of twisted versions of reality to protect myself.

I churned trust into the mix of lies. Now I want a new formula to guide me to a place where "gut instinct" and "logic" meet - a world where I can trust myself to trust others.

Truths About Trust

  • It is always possible that someone I trust will betray me. People can act out of character under duress.
  • There is a point between trusting everyone and trusting no one that will work for me most of the time.
  • There are some people in the world I must protect myself against all of the time. There are some people in the world worth trusting, even in dangerous, risky, or unpredictable situations. I cannot discern what type of person "you" are by looking at you or talking to you once.
  • I cannot trust "you" just because we are similar or have been through similar experiences because people can and sometimes make a habit of lying about who they are and what they've done.
  • I am not a mind reader. I cannot discern "your" motives 100% at any time, and my chances of correctly guessing your motives greatly decreases the less I know you.

How To Decide Who To Trust

  • Be trustworthy.
  • Be aware.
  • Take baby steps, not giant leaps of faith.
  • Value current experience.
  • Value time.

Be trustworthy.

If I want to recognize who I can trust, I must first be someone who can be trusted. Removing myself from the twisted dynamics created by an abusive relationship could have warped my ability to be trusted just as it warped my ability to trust.

Take a personal inventory. Can "you" trust me?

Be aware.

What environment am I in right now? How well do I know the people around me? What is appropriate to share with the people around me? TMI (too much information) shared could backfire horribly, so I'll closely monitor the information I share, especially in new environments or with new people.

Take baby steps, not giant leaps of faith.

Remember that the experience of abuse discolors your perception and has the ability to throw you into your past in the blink of an eye. Your fear, although earned through experience and not to be discounted, can inappropriately interfere with new environments and relationships.

I will learn to trust in baby steps so if I am betrayed it won't be so devastating.

Value current experience.

It is very easy to say, "I'll never trust anyone" and just as easy to stick to that vow. Unfortunately, trusting no one limits your ability to move gracefully and joyfully through life.

Treat each new person who will play a part in your life appropriately whether they are a new co-worker, social contact, or even a new dog at your neighbor's house. Do not judge them by the person who last held that position, sat at your dinner table, or let you pat their head. Build trust on a case-by-case basis, at a pace that feels comfortable to you.

Value Time.

The longer you've known someone, the more time you've had to witness that person in different environments.

  • Take into account how other people treat that person.
  • Pay attention to how the individual treats others to their face versus behind their back.
  • Does the person learn from their mistakes with others?
  • Does the person show they're willing to trust you by offering greater intimacy at paced intervals?
  • How does the person handle anger, sadness, joy, and their other emotions?

Only time can help you accurately answer these questions. Time is your best friend when you want to ensure the person you want to trust deserves that honor.

Above all else, remember that trust is a relationship dynamic that must be developed and earned. Never trust someone only because they say you can unless you're in a burning building and the person saying those words is wearing firefighter's gear.

APA Reference
Jo, K. (2012, April 22). How To Decide Who To Trust Post-Abuse, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, April 13 from

Author: Kellie Jo Holly

May, 27 2016 at 5:52 am

I don't know you personally but I just wanted you to know that these two posts of yours have helped me get through one more day. I am struggling with trust to the point of clinical depression and this was the first piece of practical advice I have received in spite of having been in therapy for over a year.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Kellie Jo Holly
May, 27 2016 at 12:28 pm

I'm glad they've helped. Also, remember that you hired the therapist you have, and you have the power to tell the therapist what you need. For example, it isn't helpful to dig up the roots of your childhood if you need to know, for example, how to regain your ability to trust. Ask your therapist about Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. There are skills you can learn (it's work, but worth it!) to help you find those practical tips that help you move on.
Another therapy is dialectical behavioral therapy. I don't know too much about it except it was developed for people diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. I'm not saying you have BPD! However, after years of my ex telling me I was "too emotional," the skills DBT teaches would have shown me straightaway that first, I was not "too emotional" and two, I could learn to control my emotions and make decisions from a position of stability (stability being something we don't have in abusive relationships).
There are workbooks on both therapies (try so you could try them out to see if they work for you. Oh - one difference I learned the other day is that DBT is a program that you and a therapist work on together for 2 - 4 years. CBT is a set of skills that you pick and choose from - there's no timeline.

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