Learning to Trust

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Collin (my husband!) and I took our dog, Danny, to the pacific ocean for the first time last weekend. I was nervous, which is NOT unusual for me. First, pugs don’t float and we were just trying out his new life jacket for the first time. And second, we were taking him to a dog beach – a long stretch of beach where hundreds of dogs run and play and swim near the ocean’s edge, most dogs off-leash.

I told Collin we were not taking Danny off-leash. He’s too young and too fast, I reasoned, as I imagined my precious pug excitedly running off down the endless beach with us helpless to catch him. But once we got there and got settled on our beach towel, my darling husband took Danny off the leash anyway, leaving him free to roam. He said I needed to trust Danny.

So I pretended to be trusting for a while, pretended to be calm, cool and collected.

Danny wandered off and found some dog friends much larger than him and said a doggie hello. Then, to my surprise, he came right back, crawled up in my lap and sat with me like a small child.

He was teaching me about trust.

Just a few days before the dog beach, I was getting married and I wanted to hold the reins of my wedding even more tightly than I wanted to hold on to my dog’s leash. This day needed to be perfect. It was going to be perfect because I was going to wrangle it into being perfect with the strength of a thousand brides.

But the reality is the bride can’t do everything herself, as much as she might want to, so I had to trust then, too. I had to trust that my family and friends were also loyal and loving, and were not going to willingly sabotage my wedding day.

And they didn’t. Every time I let go of the reins, someone took them and exceeded my expectations. My wedding day was not perfect, but it was beautiful and full of heart and what all brides want – special.

I always thought I was a trusting person, and I guess I am to an extent because I tend to assume the best in people. But as I have embarked on this journey of blossoming into my best, truest self, the truths of my insecurities have become more clear. Indeed, I am not as trusting as I am an anxious control freak.

It is worth noting, however, that my insecurities don’t make me any less me; they don’t make my best, truest self any less good or true. My insecurities remind me I am fully human, fully Melissa – a most beautifully complex being.

And all humans have a most beautifully complex brain that produces a chemical called oxytocin. Interestingly enough, this chemical is linked to our ability to trust.

In a study lead by Paul Zak, neuroscientist and author of Trust Factor: The Science of Creating High-Performance Companies, a team of researchers determined that oxytocin actually causes trust, but trust can still vary as oxytocin levels vary in people in different situations. For example, stress inhibits the production of oxytocin, so my lack of trust during a stressful life event, such as my wedding, makes complete scientific sense.

But my lack of trust also speaks to something deeper, a matter of the heart.

Author, Steve Maraboli, once said,

“You must learn to let go. Release the stress. You were never in control anyway.”

What I have come to realize is I am in a stress-control cycle. I get stressed, then I try to control. But I know I am not ultimately in control, so I stress more and try to control more, and around and around I go. It’s futile.

It’s also unhealthy and doesn’t allow me to follow my heart into trusting relationships. I’ve been conditioned to only trust myself – to fear the other – when the other is who I have needed all along.

Danny is my trust teacher. Collin is my trust teacher. My friends and family are my trust teachers.

They are teaching me to believe in a universe that is on my side, and your side. They are teaching me to trust that we are all held, so I can let go.

Is trusting hard for you? What have you learned about trust that could help the rest of us? I invite you to share your thoughts in the comments below.

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