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To not trust others shuts us off to ourselves too

To trust others is a delicate boundary in human relationships and not trusting is a potential source of self-limitation. Let’s look at where we often don’t trust. It is commonly stated that trust in various kinds of public figures and professions is at a low ebb. A range of scandals, exposes and crises in the last few years has lowered many in public esteem, including in the UK politicians (the expenses scandal), bankers and financial services (the 2008 crash), and journalists (the hacking scandal). Some go on to say that trust in general is weak, although in hard times that might not be surprising. Trust in others is a potentially scarce resource, and not just in public affairs. We may worry that we might get robbed, be the victim of a scam, get flooded out, be bullied, be made redundant, or have our children be abused. The list may seem endless. No wonder people don’t let their children out to play for fear of what might happen, and then they don’t get enough exercise and get overweight.

It’s worth exploring how far we don’t trust others in general and are fear-bound. There are those who would argue, for example, that when we don’t trust, we close down positive creativity and as per the Law of Attraction get what we don’t want, what we fear. By contrast, to open up and  trust, whatever the situation, paradoxically draws to us a circle of safety. If we view our world as safe, we get safety. It will depend on what we think, and the disposition of our minds.

Trust is about openness and vulnerability. It is a state of letting go, a willingness to rely on others, a state of receptivity to what can come to us that is positive and a belief that it will be OK. If we are more in the moment, are more attuned to others, to accept and feel connected to them, we are more likely to trust. Connectivity to others is part of our essential selves as human beings. We need this connectivity. After all we learn about our relationships through our attachment to our parents as children and intrinsic to most children is that of trust, vulnerability and safety. Our negative experiences around others cause us to close down our vulnerability to protect ourselves. Yet this can be healed.

If we are more fear-orientated, we shut down on our attunement to ourselves and our positive feelings. We find it harder to be in the moment and to access the potential that is available to us when we are in a state of “beingness”.

Thus an important part of personal growth is to experiment with trust, to be in a state of “intentional vulnerability”, where we are more open to our inner experiencing and allow ourselves to make sensing contact with others, to learn to let go of our protective layer and in return allow in the immense positivity that is possible when we are truly open, available and receptive to others. Mindfulness training is a great way to do this, with its emphasis on awareness of inner experiencing.

Thus too it is worth challenging where we reduce our trust, and look to ways to re-open ourselves to others and let go of barriers. That way we give ourselves more freedom and possibility for the richness of being with our fellow humans and all of Life.

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If we’re open to the emergence of the next possibility of who we are

Today is a beautiful day. Pale blue sky, daffodils appearing, snow drops en masse, people walking about in the afternoon slightly warm sun. A true hint of spring and our first warmer weather after a long, cold winter. It can feel like it’s an emergence out of hibernation, a new freedom in the air, and birds singing everywhere. There’s a sense of no going back: it’s finally arrived and is happening and whatever may seem to be occurring henceforth, we know that it is not nowhere but now here.Caen locks Devizes2

A bit like life perhaps. It can seem like the status quo has become permanent, but everything is really in process and nothing stays the same. The new will replace the old. It will change. And it does get better, if we’re up for it.

It doesn’t have to remain as we think it is. What is going on that we don’t like (let’s say), isn’t permanent. Something new will emerge, a new possibility, a re-configuration of the field, a new set of circumstances, a new perspective, a new way of seeing things. We just need to be open to the possibility, despite the apparent evidence to the contrary. It’s called faith and trust.

Our trust can get badly dented during the winters of our lives, during the difficult times, but growth is actually going on, out of sight, like the plants, and if we keep open to the possibility of personal growth, we then allow for a spring to come again, as surely it will. If we shut off from it, we keep it away from our awareness and do not see what’s there for what it really is.

Things change and new hope is offered to us, another chance for us to re-create ourselves in the next exciting version of who we are. If we’re open to it.

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What keeps you going despite the odds

It doesn’t interest me where or what or with whom you have studied. I want to know what sustains you, from the inside, when all else falls away“.* What keeps you going? You might have all sorts of clever stuff, and make all sorts of efforts to look convincing to others, but what really lights you up and is your source of passion? What is your “rock of ages” that truly keeps you going and believing in yourself and putting your self out there or simply carrying on in your everyday world when the chips are down and nothing seems to be working out?

Those words from a poem by Oriah Mountain Dreamer went all over the internet a few years ago, and made a powerful and striking call for authenticity of being. We can put on a pretty show of being various things but what is the truth underlying that? When you are faced with adversity, that’s one time when you can really know it – or notice it’s missing.

It’s that resource within us that gently or urgently nudges or pushes us into our next step even when we are feeling down and feeling depressed and discouraged, dis-couraged. Some of us might have been down for a day or for an hour or two and we just get going again. For others the knocks go deeper and last longer and we can find it harder to pick ourselves up. So for some of us, our resources of resilience need to go a lot deeper.

I suspect many would say they don’t really know what it is that sustains them. Many would affirm some religious faith or a spiritual source. Others it’s pure survival. Some might say it’s their sense of purpose, like they have a goal. Some it might be their will and determination, despite the odds. No wonder so many of us watch films and read books about survival and how people turn their fortunes around. There’s been a fabulous program on TV about penguins and their breeding instinct and utter determination despite seemingly impossible odds: I thought they were excellent mirrors of humans! (Scroll down for the video). Many a parent will no doubt attest to their instinct for their protection and nourishment of their family. If you’re wondering about what sustains you, you might get something from watching this program if you can. I was tempted to wonder if love was truly something that stretches beyond simply humans and their nearest animal relatives.

However, there is something that will sustain us, but we each need to find it for ourselves. To write it in a blog won’t do justice to this enormously important question. However, there is something beyond pure instinct and for me it connects with trust and faith, which we learn from facing these experiences, really facing them, and seeing through the terrible illusion.

I have a program coming up that helps each participant explore their own source, beyond illusion. Click here.

I am also giving talks on the subject.

*From “The Invitation“, Oriah Mountain Dreamer (Toronto, 1995)

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We need to trust in order to access more of our potential

It’s a big theme of the moment, the decline in trust. The more fear-based we get, not surprisingly the less we trust. We can see this variously in attitudes towards certain professions, like politicians, journalists, bankers and now even our health service. Also it shows up in people’s personal lives. In the UK parents are apparently particularly restrictive as to letting their children out, and one report even described children being like virtual prisoners, for fear of what might happen to them. This is tricky since children need to take risks in order to learn and idscover more of their potential. So too do adults. So what’s so important about trust?

Trust is partly about the confidence we have in others, in their loyalty, veracity, capability, strength, ability to show up, etc. It can be about relying on someone to do something, to play their part, to contribute, to help. It might be about trusting a process, how it will all work. We might also be placing something in the safekeeping of another or giving them a responsibility. Also it might be how much we trust ourselves and believe in ourselves or in a situation. Do  I feel safe here? Is this OK?

Having thoroughly assessed something, I might put my trust in it, or I might trust because I trust intuitively that things will work out just right, or I might have low levels of trust and be nervous of how things might work out and be reluctant to commit and put my trust in things. I might have past unfinished business about trust, having suffered a betrayal in the past or been let down. People can for example be reluctant to start new relationships having been badly dumped in the past.

So a low level of trust might be about what’s going on “out there” and then it might also say something about me, let’s say, or another, who might as a person have low trust levels. While we might collectively blame certain people and institutions, we might also be influenced by a collective climate, a culture of fear and outside of awareness be caught up in something that’s bigger than us.

While we’re attached to a fear-based way of operating, we limit our potential. If we’re governed by fear, we take less risks and thus will limit what can occur for us. And of course also draw to us what we fear, so that we experience more of it. So, low trust is something to break free of, so that we can attract more of what the universe can give us that is to our benefit. It’s therefore worth thinking of ways we can experiment with trusting in certain situations where we has been reluctant to do in the past, and so step through the illusion of fear, find expanded possibility and learn more of our capability- and choose not to be caught up in the collective fear around us.

So what could you do this weekend that is a risk and involves you in trusting, where you can move through the fear barrier?

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Are our values at odds with those around us?

It can often seem as though our own values are out of step with those around us. This could include a feeling that in the place where we work the senior managers don’t seem to think the same way, or the culture there isn’t what we ourselves might value. Then the community in which we live might not live quite according to our own ways. Or that the overall culture in which we live is somehow out of step with our own. I read in the news today for example of how a Muslim family felt compelled to move out of what seemed like a “nice” village due to racist attacks, and that the government are forcing through benefit changes that are going to bring about local tax increases for the poorest people of around 10%.

Is this what our society is becoming? However not is all as it seems.

I was fascinated to read recently that the UK has a “values dysfunction” that is higher than other countries in a study made of certain countries’ values. Very many people value things like meaningful relationships and integrity, holding values like “caring, family, honesty, humour and fun, friendship, fairness and compassion, as well as independence, respect and trust”. Yet they do not see their leaders as embodying those values, and national values are seen as being bureaucratic, corrupt, blame-oriented, conflict-prone, etc. It seems that the political elite is out of step with the population it seeks to govern, and that there’s a gap in accountability. Not new, you might think. And I wondered how much readers in other countries might actually think similar things of their own leadership today!

Richard Barrett, who is the driving force behind the study referred to above, says: “Our leaders need to show us the way. They need to become role models of values-driven leadership and they need to show us that they exercise care and compassion for the needs of the elderly and disadvantaged.”

So, when there appears to be a growing gap between different people in society as this recession continues, all is not as it seems. Rather, it might be argued, these values endure and that what we have at present is a crisis of fear. This is what can drive people apart and make knee-jerk responses that can be harmful for others and yet not actually reflect their underlying values. It is that mismatch that can be worth reflecting on, how much do we let our values be sidelined under pressure and allow out our inner demons instead.


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Hope faith and trust in possibility feels limited at present

After the euphoria of the Olympics people in the UK seem to be returning to the doom-and-gloom of diminished expectations and lowered hopes, if barometers of consumer expectations such as indices of confidence are to go by. Intially, after the 2008-9 slump people carried on spending to a degree in the hope of a recovery but 4 years on and it seems people are becoming resigned to things staying the same. So what might this be telling us of our levels of hope faith and trust in possibility, and how much does this economic climate translate into how we think about possibilities for our lives in general at present?

If we’re feeling pessimistic, we’re less likely to take risks, and less likely to think things will work out well. People behave cautiously, “saving for a rainy day” as we say in the UK, not altogther without reason in the current climate – pardon the pun! When we set ourselves lower horizons we’re less likely to stretch ourselves and go for something beyond our current perceived limitations. “Be realistic”, people say.

In the 1930’s depression, people learned to hang on to their jobs and to save, very much as at present. It induced a caution and a spirit of endurance, “make do and mend”, that fed on into the 2nd World War and enduring the blitz and rationing. This in turn affected the mentality of a whole generation at least. Now we have an economic crisis every bit as severe and although we now have a welfare state, it seems that lower to middle level incomes will stagnate for a long time to come, and the social gap in society that had developed in the “noughties” will grow. Like the 1930’s economists are fiercely debating what is needed to restore growth.

Stagnation in economic life has a powerful influence on our sense of wellbeing. The self aware might ask themselves if that is true for them too and whether being pulled into this collective mind-set is serving them. In other words, there is a challenge here to rise above the doom-and-gloom and despite the apparent evidence, to take faith in what is possible.

Thus it is time to being going within and exploring and rooting out our own inner fears and doubts, and connect with our own faith in who we are and what we are about, and affirming our own personal vision. Then we can better take the initiative and lead others, rather than colluding with limited thinking. This is what faith is in part about, believing and acting despite apparent evidence to the contrary, pushing through the illusion of lack. The first step on this path comes with us ourselves.

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There are two sides to self confidence

There are two sides to self confidence. There’s how we feel about ourselves and then there’s confidence in others, which is closely linked to trust. Confidence in others can take quite a lot to build up but can easily and rapidly be lost. It can be very easy to make self confidence “other-person related”.

This is very evident curiously enough in the current furore over banking in the UK. Banking is built on confidence. That’s why you put your money in a bank. But because of the slump since 2008, confidence has been severely lacking. And it’s spread out to include politicians and journalists. When we find the trust has apparently been betrayed, as with the alleged fiddling of interest rates, there’s an explosion, all the worse when it appears politicians were involved too.

So too with our relationships: having confidence in your partner is crucial. If we find out our partner has cheated on us, it gets very hard to trust them. Yet a relationship is based on trust. You need to know they’ll show up for you, they’ll be there for you, they’ll honour your confiding in them, they will respect your space, they’ll reciprocate when you put yourself on the line for them, and so on.

A betrayal of trust is like a rejection. It can hurt deeply. If someone’s proven not to be there for you, you can feel abandoned. You might also feel like it’s an injury, depending on what’s happened.

Confidence in life, in its ability to deliver for us is profoundly important. For those who have such confidence, it’s like knowing that in each step you take, the ground is firm and steady and it supports and sustains you. Things show up when you need them to. All sorts of things appear just when needed. Life works. Without this trust, there’s a doubt and a questioning. Will this happen OK? Will I be safe? Will the road be OK to drive along? Will that car drive past me safely or will it do something dangerous? In my job, will others respect me when I speak up and go for what I want? Will they think I’m worth it if I go for that job? Will people see my value? To those that have self confidence, they just believe it will be OK, until they get evidence to the contrary. To those that lack self confidence, there is often fear, anxiety and doubt. There is a doubt that the world will show up for them as they need it to, and there’s also an inner doubt about themselves. This will vary according to the context of course.

Whatever the challenge and the level, contemplating an action can give us anxiety and we’re not sure we can do it and that it will work. Very often this involves a question of whether others will respond as we need them to. Will we get what we want?

This is why a key aspect to self confidence work is to learn to face our fears, and to build up trust by experimentation, taking action and trying things out, often in the process challenging the inner dialogue that can so easily undermine us. It can sometimes be like we’re learning anew certain life skills, like for example the art of communication and influencing, but this time with an inner faith and an inner power, one we hold true for ourselves whatever seems to happen in the world “out there”. That’s when we need to go within and decide that “in here” is OK. That’s when we take action based on inner confidence.

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How much are you who you say you are?

How much do you live your life in honesty and integrity? Are you who you say you are? It’s a very useful question, all the more relevant in the light of the recent scandals in public life. It’s a good time to check with ourselves. Do we practice for ourselves what we insist of others?

We’ve had a week of devasting revelations about the UK banking industry, whose reputation must have reached a new nadir. Now we have news that the bankers were dishonestly fixing their interbank lending rate, the LIBOR, and artificially inflating their performance. The press have been full of words like honesty, integrity, corruption in corporate culture, and trust. There have also been wider comments about the conduct of the press itself in the light of the News of the World hacking scandal, and its interlinking with politicians right up to the Prime Minister of the day. Not long before we had the MPs’ own scandal of dishonest expenses claims. Let’s hope that enquiries into all this have generated a healthy self-searching amongst people in public life.

To enquire of ourselves too is important. It’s not uncommon for people to practice one thing for themselves and expect another of others. Moreover, people may hold a set of beliefs about being in integrity but fail to practice it, or find reasons why these needn’t apply in certain areas of their lives. The law court records will be full of stories of people who’ve lived like that. The classic example is of course the person who in public is the paragon of virtue, like for example a priest or the judge, but who in their private lives abuse others or themselves. It’s that while the shadow in us is unexplored, owned and dealt with it must find a way to leak out and express itself in some way. People who work with others in a helping role particularly have this challenge, in that otherwise their shadow side can impact their dealings with others. This is one big reason why therapists, coaches and others should receive their own personal development: go for yourself first on the journey that you aspire to lead others along.

Hence it is hardly surprising that there is a howl of outrage when more banking misdeeds are exposed, since at essence people need to trust bankers with their money. So it’s a breakdown in trust. However, this crisis of trust in relation to the powerful is much wider, with concern being expressed about the powerful and wealthy in general. It’s as though the established order itself is in question, since somehow it hasn’t worked for huge numbers of people in many countries. Again, this will have it’s impact at the micro-level too, in a crisis of trust in others and in established arrangements. “Will I be OK,” people wonder, “and will I be OK with this person?” Safety and security are bottom-line concerns, at the base of the Maslow hierarchy of needs. When feeling threatened we revert to these thoughts and feelings.

Yet, this can be dealt with, when we remember to have faith, trust and belief in ourselves, confidence in ourselves, self confidence. Our own “failings” and those of others are ego behaviours, not who we are. Here again is another challenge to re-member.

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Self confidence can be elusive

Self confidence can be an elusive quality, one moment you’ve got it, the next you’ve lost it. I’ve often noticed how people can seem very uncertain about doing something and then suddenly the mists have cleared, they see clearly what they need to do and how to do it, feel strong inside themselves and away they go. By contrast someone who has for example a very successful career but then loses their job and find that in their efforts to get back into work have lost their self confidence. Another example is where a very successful woman takes a career break to have children but finds on return to work that she’s lost a lot of confidence.

What is happening here? While this will vary a lot from person to person, and there will be particular matters for one person that don’t apply to others, there are certain common ingredients. What is striking is that one moment we’re full of fear and uncertainty and the next we’ve got it. It’s as though inside us there’s a part of us that is confident and can do things and it is a matter of getting in touch with it. In fact, people will have self confidence in some areas of their lives but not others, so for many of us it is not as though it’s missing entirely.

Self confidence is about faith and belief in self. The root of the word is about faith: in the Middle Ages there was the word “confidere”, meaning to “have full trust or reliance”, and the Latin for faith is “fides”. So we’re talking about our inner faith and trust. It’s very basic, fundamental stuff. No wonder we talk of the stuffing being knocked out of us when we’re received a heavy personal blow.

The greatest barrier to self confidence is fear, which is existential too, about our existence. We overcome it by learning faith and trust. Fear is the core, bottom-line negative emotion opposite to love, and as the A Course in Miracles says it is an illusion. So what we are seeking to do is develop self confidence by faith and trust in who we are are and in our capabilities. Fear is an illusion and we have all we need anyway. It’s a matter of realising it, getting in touch with what is real.

Some need to work on it, often by very practical activities. For others it is a shift of perception. In a moment they “pluck up the courage” and away they go. Then it works, and hey presto! Here’s their self confidence once more.

This is a shift very many of us need to make in all sorts of challenges we encounter in life. We can feel very self confident for a large part of our lives but something happens and it’s gone. Others have lacked it for ages in particular parts of their lives, for example in social situations. Yet the shift can be made. Fear is an illusion. We’re so much more than that.

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It feels like nothing is going on and nobody is there

When nothing seems to be going on, and you need something to be happening, it can get very scary. “Is everything OK?” you might wonder.

Let’s imagine that you are needing some work, a job offer, or an order or a contract, and you’ve put a lot of effort into marketing and networking, and making contacts, and at the moment nothing’s happening. There are no emails, no calls, no texts. Silence.

It can be scary. This is when our faith can really get tested. What if nothing is going on? What if nobody is interested? What if nobody is going to buy or there isn’t going to be a job offer? Then the mind can really go off on one, right down some pit of terror and despair.

Those who are “between jobs” or are self-employed may really know this one. So too can people who are lonely and want someone else to be in their life. “What if there really is nobody out there for me?” “What if nobody wants me?” Thus we can get to feel really abandoned, unwanted, alone – unloved?

We might be very reluctant to do this, but the more we resist this, the more we get it. So an invaluable process is to face the fear and explore our faith. There’s something in here too about letting go. Because while it seems like nothing is going on, it is really. But while we’re invested in nothing happening, that’s what we get. It’s fascinating, were it not also very painful.

So, let go of the thought that nothing is happening, have the intention that something is happening, face and let go of fear, truly let go, and maybe even do something else so that the Universe can get on with sending you what you want without you messing it up by investing in fear – and then it happens! Magic!