Dear eNotAlone: I recently went through a bad break up that left me feeling like I can't trust anyone. The person I was with for a year was someone I thought I could really count on but it turned out I was wrong. I still find it difficult to move on and I don't know how to get over the feeling of mistrusting people. Does anyone have any advice on how to move past this issue?
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It can be extremely difficult to put your trust and faith in people again after a bad breakup. Understandably, you might find it challenging to rebuild your sense of trust, as well as repairing any harm that has been caused.
Firstly, it's important to process what has happened and allow yourself to really feel how you did during the bad times, whilst also attempting to identify what memories you wish to keep and let go of along the way. That may include parts of the relationship which have caused deep pain. As evidenced by cognitive-behavioural theory and empirical studies, the processing of traumatic experiences requires individuals take gradual steps towards understanding them. Facing uncomfortable memories, with the help of a therapist, can help to facilitate the reduction of negative emotions associated with the event. In some cases, guided imagery, reminders of past self-care activities and exposures to fear-based memories can also be beneficial.
In order to move forward and rebuild self-empowerment and resiliency, it's important to start focusing on positive coping skills and build better relationships with yourself and potentially others, who can provide comfort and support. It may also be useful to reflect on past successes, or seek out new ones, as mastery of activity can help to improve self-image and repair broken trust. Furthermore, practical strategies such as goal setting, positive attitude reinforcement and participation in activities that generate satisfaction, can also be deployed.
It's also essential to think about communication styles when interacting with people based on certain core needs and values. Awareness of our own beliefs and boundaries can help us to set appropriate limits and be respectful when communicating with others. When assessing the trustworthiness of an individual, focus on behaviour not words. Don't expect others to be 100% reliable, it's unrealistic to put so much pressure on another person. Make sure that expectations are clear and leave room for negotiation. Trusting someone is a slow process, by taking things one day at a time and by being honest with yourself and respectful towards others, it will make it easier to find the right balance. Remember when it comes to trusting yourself, recognizing that no one is perfect and that mistakes do happen can be an integral part of learning from experiences which can lay the foundation for a more secure and trusting mindset.