As humans, we were created to trust. According to Cloud (1), “everything we know and have learned in brain science reinforces the knowledge that humans are wired for connection and connection is built on trust” (p. 25). Trust builds bonds, develops the joyful identity region of our brain, and dramatically affects our social, emotional, and physical well-being. It is no surprise that trust is a common theme discussed within the counseling room. While it can cause great pain in our lives, it is also one of the greatest gifts God offers us. I imagine each of us can recall a time when our trust has been broken. I want to be sensitive to those reading this who have or are currently experiencing the depths of such pain caused by a breach of trust at some level. This article is an invitation for you to acquire a greater understanding of what trust is, how it affects each of us, and what principles aid one in walking towards healing when trust may be broken.
We are Wired to Trust
To lay the foundation, let’s look at the definition of trust. Cambridge Dictionary defines trust as a verb: “To believe that someone is good and honest and will not harm you or that something is safe and reliable.” (1, p. 24) Trust begins the moment we take our first breath. I saw this firsthand the day my son was born as he quickly opened his mouth and actively searched for nourishment upon entering the world. However, “no matter how loving a mother may be… the physical and emotional nourishment she offers will remain unavailable to the child if the child cannot trust” (1, p. 22). We are wired to trust, and it is essential! Cloud (1) states, “trust makes it all happen, and when trust is followed by satisfaction, the physical structures inside our brain begin to form and trust continues to build (1, p. 21). How amazing is that!
Trust Affects Attachment Bonds
The attachment center is the first system in the brain to develop (2, p. 49). Healthy, secure attachments are essential as they affect the way one experiences the world around them, as well as how one forms other bonds throughout life. The initial goal for our brains is to form a healthy, secure attachment to our caregivers. The development of secure attachment does not demand perfection, but rather, predictability that a caregiver will show up and that they are reliable and safe. Doesn’t that sound familiar to the definition of trust mentioned above? Additionally, according to Khouri (4), “If our early childhood relationships are full of large amounts of grace, joy and peace, the amygdala is trained to view everyday life as good, especially when we are kept safe from harm. Even if traumatic experiences occur, the presence of strong, secure, grace-based attachments can help mitigate its effects. Without significant grace-based attachments, our amygdala tends to form an opinion that people are bad or scary” (p. 183).
Trust Affects Our Joy
According to Wilder (5) “Joy is a high-energy state for the brain” (p. 8). As parents, my husband and I are in those active stages of building our son’s joy center as he approaches eight months old. Whether it’s playing peek-a-boo, dancing with him in the kitchen, or pretending to talk like Cookie Monster, his joy can’t help but be expressed through laughter or a giant grin spread across his face. And as we certainly fall short of perfection, we can rely on those intentional moments to repair, reconnect, rest, and build joy once again. According to Wilder (5), the capacities and chemistry that we use as infants become the dominant systems for our brains (5, p. 8). Wilder states, “If we are empowered by joy, we are able to suffer, withstand pain, and still maintain intact relationships with other people.” It nurtures the qualities of resilience and productivity and is “essential for healing and growing strong identities” (p. 9). This was hard for me and some of my clients to conceptualize at first, but once we get it, it has a profound impact! Trust begins the ripple effect! Trust affects our attachment, which affects our joy center, which in turn, affects our physical, spiritual, emotional, wellbeing, psychological maturity and identity.
Even after reading all of this, you still may be feeling apprehension in regard to opening your heart to trust because of past hurts and disappointments. You may be thinking something like this, “I get the importance of trust, but I don’t trust anyone anymore. My pain is too big, my heart is too broken.” Your pain is valid, and I too can relate to some degree of the ache a heart can feel when trust is broken. Let me validate you by sharing what the Life Model states, “attachment pain is the greatest pain the brain knows.” Cloud (1) would add, “Trust is beneficial when it goes well and very painful when it doesn’t.” It can feel intense. What’s beautiful about our brains is that the joy center has a lifelong capacity to grow. I encourage you to stay tuned for the next few blogs as we will discuss the essentials of trust and the process of repairing when it is broken.
- Cloud, H. (2023). Trust: Knowing When to Give It, When To Withhold it, How To Earn it, and How to Fix it When it Gets Broken. Worthy Publishing.
- Coursey, C. (2021). The Joy Switch: How Your Brain’s Secret Circuit Affects Your Relationships- And How You Can Activate It. Northfield Publishing.
- Friesen, J. G. (2010) Living from the Heart Jesus Gave you: The Essentials of Christian Living. Shepherds House.
- Khouri, E. (2021). Becoming a Face of Grace: Navigating Lasting Relationship with God and Others. Illumify Media Global.
- Wilder, E. J., Khouri, E. M., Coursey, C. M., & Sutton, S.D. (2021). Joy Starts Here: The Transformation Zone. Joy Starts Here.