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Who Destroyed Your Trust? (Whether Trust Problems Can Be Repaired)

Written by: Yingli Wang, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


In my counselling and coaching services, two of the most common themes that arise are trust and betrayal. Trust issues are so widespread that almost every client I have met has experienced the process of trusting, being betrayed, feeling hurt, and then not being able to trust, which fueled a lot of problems in their relationships. While they all hope that they can develop trust again, they also do not want to be at risk of being naively deceived; after all, being betrayed is probably one of the worst feelings that a human being can experience. In this post, I will elaborate about what trust is, the root causes of distrust, how distrust affects you, and whether you can repair your own sense of trust after betrayal.

Woman sitting on a corner covering her ears with fear..

What is trust?

According to social science, trust is the willingness of one party (the trustor) to become vulnerable to another party (the trustee) on the presumption that the trustee will act in ways that benefit the trustor. The Oxford English Dictionary provides a simple definition: trust is a firm belief in the reliability, truth, or ability of someone or something. In psychology, trust is believing that the trustee will do what is expected. Based on the above conceptions of the idea and combined with my professional encounters with many cases of distrust, I believe that trust communicates, “I can rely on you to take my best interest into consideration because you are safe, and I have confidence that you will not consider only your own interests, hurting or violating me in doing so.”

Who destroyed your trust?

According to the psychoanalyst Erik Erikson, the development of basic trust is the first stage of psychosocial development, which is meant to occur during the first two years of life. When caregivers provide sufficient reliability, care, attention, and affection, children can develop a sense of secure trust in other people, which allows them to trust and rely on other people later in their adult lives.

Trust issues often arise from childhood trauma. People who have experienced such trauma are more likely to become cynical and distrustful in adulthood, leading to chaotic lifestyles, unpredictable parenting, abandonment, emotional neglect, gaslighting, blaming and shaming, sexual abuse, reverse parenting, and so on. There seems to be an inherent connection between your distrust and your childhood experiences.

American writer Terry Goodkind was quoted as saying, “Only those you trust can betray you.” You feel the true pain of betrayal when the person with whom you feel the safest broke and violated your trust. That is why trust, once lost, is very hard to restore and reconcile. This sentiment is echoed by famous Mississippi-based artist Walter Anderson, who believes, “Trust is like a vase. Once it’s broken, though you can fix it, the vase will never be the same again.” I personally believe that trust can be repaired, but it takes a lot of resilience, courage, and forgiveness to undo the damage.

My intention is not to blame my parents. While their parenting during our formative years can lead us to develop distrust, we must understand the root cause of distrust so we can develop an awareness of this problem and work to end the painful emotional legacy for future generations.

What are the effects of losing trust?

Trust is the key component in your social life. If you have a healthy level of trust, you can establish stable, functioning, mutually beneficial relationships with others and create a lot of win-win situations. On the other hand, a lack of trust can be a huge impediment to your personal and professional life, and it can also make you feel very lonely due to your perceived inability to rely on anyone.

Lack or loss of trust affects people in multiple ways, though I will only focus on three key outcomes here:

1. You do not know who to trust

People who lack trust tend to make unwise judgements when it comes to evaluating the trustworthiness of others. They easily fail to see the true intention, character, ability, and nature of others. They may be unaware when the other person is showing signs of being untrustworthy. Additionally, when someone is dependable overall but occasionally makes a mistake, they interpret it as a “red flag” and overreact, denying the other person a chance to correct their mistake. My next article provides some concrete tools to help you tackle this problem.

2. You trust too quickly

You might be wondering how it could be possible for someone who lacks trust to trust too quickly. It does happen. My client Kate told me that she did not trust her family at all and that they were the cause of her pain and suffering, which led to her depression and low-functioning social existence. At the same time, she continually found herself easily and quickly opening up to complete strangers and spilling some of her most private information to them. This behaviour is rather dangerous, as she might allow herself to become too vulnerable with ill-intentioned people.

3. You may develop a “phobia of attachment”

People who lack trust due to childhood trauma generally expect rejection, hurt, betrayal, or abandonment, not because they want it, but because they develop their relationship model based on highly unstable, unpredictable, and destructive bonds when they are young.

On one hand, they are desperate to be accepted, which can result in them sometimes appearing to be anxious and needy; on the other hand, they can display an intense aversion when someone is getting too close to them emotionally or physically. This phenomenon is known as phobia of attachment – the need of the individual to simultaneously seek and avoid relationships.

This fear of attachment is related to insecure attachment styles – a concept stemming from John Bowlby’s attachment theory. These styles include anxious attachment, avoidant attachment, and disorganised attachment. I have been working with many clients to re-establish their sense of security in their relationships, and I will explain the various attachment styles in detail in my future articles.

Can you trust yourself after being betrayed by someone you trusted?

When your trust is betrayed, it does not just affect your ability to trust others. More than that, you start to have more self-doubt. You stop believing in yourself because the people you think you can trust are different from how you had thought they were, suggesting that you might not really know the person and who they are. Does that mean that all of your previous judgments and perceptions are wrong and should be overturned? Betrayal can leave you not only hurt but also confused and disoriented.

The key to healing trust issues is trusting yourself again, even though you may still make mistakes. This is because making mistakes is a very effective way for you to learn and become more aware of why you trust some people and not others. Over time, you will gradually re-establish trust in your own feelings, beliefs, and desires.

Another way to avoid the damage caused by betrayal is to learn to effectively verify the implicit and explicit information people give you about themselves rather than to simply start distrusting everyone. I will discuss seven elements and principles for identifying and verifying trust in my next article, “How do you know you can trust someone?”

In that article, I will further elaborate on the importance of trust and give you tools to identity whether someone is trustworthy. If you find it hard to make connections with people due to trust issues, I welcome you to contact me via because I can help you figure out your problems.

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Yingli Wang, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Yingli Wang, is a mental health counsellor and a mother-daughter relationship coach/therapist who ‬cares deeply about women’s physical, emotional, and mental well-being.‬ Her mission is to help women between the ages of 18 and 45 to transform “Not-Good-Enough-Syndrome” into inner strength and resilience, and she also provides coaching sessions for women who struggle with their relationship with their mothers and want to establish healthy and effective boundaries. She offers professional counselling and coaching services in English and Mandarin in Southwest London and Online.



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