Take my hand…
Being human can be awfully complicated at times. We need so much. Being human can be awfully simple at times. We could do with so little. We require attention, love and care. We want to be left alone, to be independent and to not be needed by others.
Sometimes I think we escaped the very notion of evolution itself collectively as a species. We’re so unlike any other living being that co-habitates this planet with us. Forget cranial development, opposable thumbs and longer gestation periods. These are not things that make us who we are as humans. We have emotional bonds, connections and feelings that even self-proclaimed experts cannot quite fathom or dissect in a manner that allows us to actually understand them.
Just consider how many psychological issues keep getting added to the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders” — or DSM for short! — every single year. It’s as though there is a board of psychiatrists who have a quota to deliver by the time a new edition of it needs to be printed out. Humans are evolving; no doubt about it. They just don’t happen to do so along the same branch as other species nor do the same rules seem to apply to us. The emotional complexity of Homo sapiens is what I personally view as being the differentiator between us and everything else. This isn’t to say that other animals aren’t emotionally complex. On the contrary, numerous species display an emotional intelligence that rivals even our own. But that’s just it, it’s emotional “intelligence”. Their evolution is a forward one. Ours…well let’s just say it marches along in a zig-zag pattern.
Humans display a wide array of emotions, some of which can be ascribed as a “devolution” due to the negative consequences they bestow upon their beholders. You rarely hear about a dolphin that suffers from self-doubt or a lion that is afflicted by social anxiety. True, we may not speak dolphinese so we never truly know whether or not a dolphin could or would suffer from such afflictions. Someone might argue that they’d seen a study or a video of a group of monkeys that ganged up on another monkey within the same group and drove it to isolation and it showed signs of depression or social anxiety in the wake of this. Fair enough. The same incident can be equally classified as a display of hierarchy within the monkey society in establishing the pecking order. Animal societal structures are based on answering more primal needs. Food, procreation, safety. Their pecking orders select Alphas who can provide such stipulations to the population. Once an Alpha can be challenged on his (or her, don’t be sexist) ability to do so, the pecking order is subject to change.
Pecking orders are underrated for humans though. Due to the way modern life is set up, many of us have forgotten about it. You don’t actively think how your boss at work is trying — subconsciously most of the time — to establish an Alpha-male dominance over his subordinates. You don’t actively think how much bodily cues in the way you walk, stand or even speak send out discreet messages to others about your position in the informal pecking order. But what’s the purpose of the pecking order? Why must we obey the Alpha? Some would say it’s fear that compels us, I say otherwise. I say that a lot of it comes down to trust.
We have leaders because we need someone we trust to lead us forward. We trust our parents to provide us with guidance and support. We trust our teachers to pass on knowledge unto us. We trust our neighbours to be by our side. We trust our loved ones to care for us and provide us with love and compassion. Trust almost seems inherent and built-into being human.
So how does humanity’s most relied upon source of knowledge (That’s Wikipedia in case your mind drifted elsewhere) define this intrinsic and unique quality? “Definitions of trust typically refer to a situation characterized by the following aspects: One party (trustor) is willing to rely on the actions of another party (trustee); the situation is directed to the future. In addition, the trustor (voluntarily or forcedly) abandons control over the actions performed by the trustee. As a consequence, the trustor is uncertain about the outcome of the other’s actions; they can only develop and evaluate expectations. The uncertainty involves the risk of failure or harm to the trustor if the trustee will not behave as desired.”
It’s almost as though trust were a legal binding contract, but that’s not how it works for us, is it? Many people identify the concept of trust as being a social construct and a necessary by-product of the social structure in which we live in. I disagree with such notions. Trust is all to inherent in our nature, going hand-in-hand with distrust to guide us through life’s many journeys. Why do we need trust on an individual level? Trust operates on the premise of balancing existing knowledge about every day life which we’ve already accumulated and the clash against unknown possibilities. Trust is about assumptions about others, be they situations or people. You trust your car not to break down on your way to work this morning. You trust your bank not to foreclose your house before notifying you. You trust your partner not to cheat on you if they’re out drinking with friends. Trust is just about one of the most genuine emotions left in humans that are remain uncorrupted by the ruthlessness of modern life.
Trust almost goes against the very thing it is guided by; our experience. Experiences vary — surely, but one would lie if they were to say that life is about not being naïve. Trust taps into this naïvety and subconsciously demands that we disobey our instinct. Think about relationships you’ve had in the past. Say you were cheated on, say this has happened with all your previous partners. Logic would dictate that your experience with relationships has asserted that all romantic partners cheat. Trust transcends such logic. Trust is about you meeting someone new and wilfully ignoring your past experience(s) and logic in order to pursue something which produces its own series of emotions and consequences into your life.
If I had to define or explain the concept of establishing trust with someone, it would be akin to being on one side of a river’s bank while someone else is camped out on the other end. You need to cross this river, but its current is far too treacherous to do so. This person on the other end has plenty of rope building material but hasn’t the planks of wood. You have the planks on your end. This person may not necessarily want to cross the river. They seem content to be where they are. You need them. You need their help. You have the planks. They’ve got the rope. Without them, you have nothing. You have to throw your planks across the river one by one and hope they will assist you in constructing the bridge so that you may cross. They could very well take your planks and build a shelter out of them for themselves. You have no way of knowing if they will actually go through with helping you. And that’s trust. It’s the metaphorical leap of faith (or in this case, the chucking of a plank of wood across the rampaging river) wherein we place our “trust” in someone (or something) that we hope will give us that which we are looking for; whatever that may be.
It’s very hard for me to trust people. I’ve had “friends” who’ve known virtually very little about me yet I knew everything about them. It doesn’t mean I am conniving or distrustful character, after all, I never ask people to divulge things. Some people have taken it as a sign of my disinterest or apathy towards them whereas the truth lies more in the fact that I personally don’t like being pressured into sharing, so I don’t do unto others what I won’t have done unto me. It doesn’t come very easy for me to share, least of all when requested to. I’ve always dictated my own terms and was incredibly uncompromising (to the detriment of certain relationships) about what information I choose to disclose, how, and when. It is a vice as well as a blessing. Far too many people share far too much. The existence of social media has created a culture of over-sharing and image-crafting that has added a new layer of stress and labor into our already hectic lives.
I don’t throw my planks across the river often. In fact, I can probably number on my two hands those individuals I’ve entrusted in my life. I think one should be awfully selective about those whom they bestow with the gift of trust. It is, after all, very much a gift. Just like all gifts, it can be exchanged and returned. That’s the risk one takes with trust, you hope for the best. You hope they won’t break this trust. You hope you won’t break theirs. You hope for this because broken trust is harder to mend than most other things in life. Broken trust is the metaphorical broken glass vase. It shatters into a million little pieces, some large, some small and some microscopic. You can attempt to mend it, glue it and bring it together — but it’s never quite the same. Something dark and deep within us is destroyed along with broken trust. It affects our ability to not just trust this individual or entity ever again but our ability to trust in general.
That’s the price and risk of trust. It can give you some of the most wonderful experiences and warm feelings in your life. It can equally take away your will to have others share either things with you down the line. Apologies never quite cut it with broken trust. It isn’t as though you really did break a vase, is it? You broke a person, and broken people are very hard to put back together — and they have to be their very own glue.
And in the end, I must ask, do you trust me?