We’re familiar with the feeling of trust; or more, the feeling when we don’t feel like we can trust someone with something. That knot in our stomach, the voice in our head, the scenarios that pop up in our minds that weren’t in the picture until they were. But trust seems to be the lack of those things, sometimes paired with a warm fuzzy feeling.
So what is trust? It’s defined as the “firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something.” That sums it up pretty well. But there are different kinds of trust.
Do you ever wonder why a certain situation with your partner or your friends makes you uneasy, even though you know that you trust them? Say when a load of laundry is getting done and you’ve told them that all the underwear and certain shirts get hung up but you’re still nervous that your expensive, lacy attire is going to end up pilled or shrunk. I would chalk this up to the fact that there is nothing to prove that this task can get done (even if there’s nothing to prove that it can’t be, either).
Innately, we trust people emotionally because of our instincts. The way they treat us, make us feel, open themselves up, etc. We can see distinctly the way in which we can trust people by the way they act – whether we’re consciously making these distinctions or not. It can be different with tasks or actions because although we know they know how to get our favourite ice cream when we’re sad or call us back quickly when we’re having an anxiety ridden day, there isn’t always proof for all the things that they can be “trusted”.
In this particular example, I know if I tell my partner what needs to be hanged to dry he will listen because he has many articles of clothing he feels the same about. But I know that if I didn’t tell him he would assume that everything went in without being able to discern what maybe shouldn’t. Which is okay, it’s not a reason to not trust him with doing a load of laundry; but it is easier for me to just do it myself so I don’t have to worry I forgot about a certain sweater that is heat sensitive.
There are two kinds of trust in this example: Active and Passive.
Passive trust is knowing that if I’ve asked my partner once to take out my delicates, he will always do so.
Active trust is me knowing that if I tell my partner what not to put in the dryer that he will remember. That I know he has listened and remembered in previous cases, so I do not have a reason to worry that he will not in this instance.
Okay, now you’re thinking what are Active and Passive trust? Isn’t trusting hard enough without different kinds? Well yeah it is, but discerning the differences can actually make it easier.
When we knowingly and thoughtfully trust someone. We know we can talk to them about something, or there are already examples of them being trust-worthy in a certain situations so we don’t have to question if they are because we can recall when they were. This kind of trust can be draining depending on the situation and your own emotional needs and concerns, but also relieving when you can rely on your own real experiences. It can involve rationalizing and is often provoked by anxiety or new situations.
This is more innate. It’s knowing that they love us; the instances when we don’t have to recall experiences to know something to be true. This kind of trust comes with ease; it isn’t questioned. This kind of trust of provides calm and comfort, often to both parties.
A lot of situations have both kinds of trust, albeit not always obvious. And some situations need both kinds of trust (which is also not always obvious.)
Our minds become more or less accustomed to knowing what situations what kind of trust is needed. When our partner is going out with their friends, we don’t generally worry because we know nothing out of the ordinary is going to happen. This is passive trust, we don’t have to look into ourselves for examples of why we should trust this situation. Generally we send them out the door and hope they have a good time.
This is about when proof comes into play. Proof is the oxygen to passive trust. By the way people treat us, others, and our own experiences with situations is the life blood to that easy, calm feeling (or sometimes our anxieties, if the proof hasn’t been on the positive side of the scale). Without the experience – the proof – that something is going to play out how we like to believe it will, it’s not always easy to instinctually give into that belief. This is particularly hard for individuals who have had their trust explicitly broken.
Sometimes though, there are situations that we are used to passively trusting, but we still get an uneasy feeling inside. This can be because it’s new (even if it seems familiar) or a change in what we are accustomed to trusting. Say your partner is going out with a group of friends and their ex is going to be there too. Although you’re used to them going out with friends, the ex adds new territory that is generally a cause for concern.
This is when passive trust isn’t going to work as well, because instinctually we also feel threatened. But active trust is here to save the day! You know all the reasons why they love you, are with you, and that they don’t have a romantic history with their ex post relationship. Instead of always relying on instincts, let your logic guide you too.
All that being said, it’s important to feel comfortable enough with someone or in a situation to be able to voice your concerns. Not all trust is centred around romantic relationships; it can be with yourself, co-workers, family, friends, and even pets (like that you trust them to not pee on your bed, or how they trust you to take them out before that happens).
Ultimately, trust is an instinct. It’s okay to not trust your trust because it forms differently for everyone. Sometimes we have to understand how something isn’t healthy (like for individuals who’s trust has been broken) to be able to use it in a way that is. It’s okay to question things when they just don’t feel right. Your concerns are always valid, and intuition is an important feeling to listen to even if you can’t actively find evidence to back it up. It is however, equally important to be able to decipher the difference between intuition and anxiety. And to understand the difference between acting upon intuition and impulse.
Above all, trust is trust. Whether is passive, or active, or just a plain ‘ol instinct. The trust you have for yourself, and your feelings comes above all other kinds. Develop it. Understand it. Work through it. It’s the hardest relationship to navigate, but the most detrimental to all other happiness and relationships in your life. If you can’t trust yourself, then likely it will be a challenge to put trust in others.
Written by Forest Greenwell