Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Trust Debt

Developing a trusting relationship when you have Borderline Personality Disorder can be difficult. There’s never truly a clean emotional slate. I don’t honestly believe that’s true of any human being. We all have a past and experiences that contribute to the person we become. Everyone has emotional baggage. When you have Borderline Personality Disorder you don’t just have baggage, you have a storage unit. Being able to wade through our emotional past to move into a new chapter of our emotional future is difficult. We’re hyper-sensitized to what we’ve experienced in our past. When you have tried and been confronted with so much pain, loss, and abuse, our ability to trust shatters. Not only does it feel like the our trust has broken for the current relationship, but  it’s like we’ve created a trust debt.

You start off with a certain ability to trust. Every negative experience, every bad encounter, every experience of abandonment and rejection is like having your trust stolen by an emotional mugger.  You begin to become sensitized to it. Instead of getting used to it, you feel each new experience quicker and more intensely. Until you’re feeling those problem feelings before they’ve even occurred, when they might not occur. The mere perception of those problems can be the trigger pulling away that remaining trust. Now multiply that by the fact that the people that betrayed that fragile developmental trust were the people that a person should be able to trust. Your mother, your father, your first love, relatives and close family friends.... when the people that should treat you with kindness and care for you, are the people that destroy your ability to trust in the first place; it taints the experience with any people that you're "supposed" to trust. The way that love can translate to pain when all you know of love is pain... translates to trust as well. When all you know of people that you "should" trust, is betrayal, all you know to expect is betrayal. 

Refilling that bank is so much more difficult than depleting it as well. So difficult it can feel impossible. No matter how many good things happen, it’s like they just sit on the surface. They sit outside the vault door to be swept aside when it’s opened up, but never contribute to filling up that hole of debt.

Sometimes you can go into a relationship tentatively, but receptive to a potentially positive outcome. Hell, we can rush headlong into it without realizing we need to consider what we’ve been through. Eventually we hit the wall though. Usually it’s when we realize we’re starting to open up to a person and express those vulnerabilities we need to protect. Our source of trust is already depleted, sometimes to the point of being non-existent. All that exists is a thin sheet of ice that we’re carefully dancing around, trying to avoid falling through, b/c instead of a nice watery pool to buffer the fall… all that exists is a deep void of nothingness.

Unfortunately at the very first sign of less than honest or trustworthy behavior, which can often be a misperception on our part due to so many reasons (but not always! Bad people do happen), there isn’t much of a buffer to soften the blow.

Developing trust at the beginning of the relationship is extremely important. If trust is broken early on, if that idealization turns into a rapid fire situational devaluation, we don’t have anything to support our hopes of a positive outcome in the future on. All we know is the negative.  Rebuilding that trust takes 2, 3, 10 times as long as it took to break it, and it never quite reaches that level before. It just gets lower and lower and lower and lower every time. 

When you’ve had this experience since childhood, it’s no wonder we bring this into our adult relationships. It’s not necessarily fair though. Some people are very decent and well intentioned. The people in our future, hopefully are not the people that hurt us in our past. That’s something we really need to keep in mind. Be mindful of our past experiences, because there are lessons and warnings we should not forget so we don’t repeat those bad relationships. However, it’s also important to keep in mind that this is a new person, not the person that has done this to you before. Easier said than done, it takes time and often years of therapy to be able to do this successfully, but if we can keep it in mind, even if we don’t feel it…. Maybe we can make it a little easier to fill up a bit of that trust debt which we’ve accumulated in the past. Add a little bit more of a buffer to our present and future relationships. 


  1. This is 100% exactly the issue I'm dealing with now, and I can't figure out a way out of it. For me, trust was broken a bit early on. It wasn't anything that was that big a deal, but to me it was huge. Now, it's hard to have any left at all, even though the other person was extremely apologetic.

    I don't know how to get over this -_-

    1. ::hugs:: It is so hard, it really is. You're not going to forget it, but maybe you can see how they move forward with your relationship. Maybe you'll be able to see that his apology, the true intent in that apology is real. You already acknowledged that the situation shouldn't have been as big of a deal as it feels. Emotions are just chemical reactions in our brains. So try letting your head do the walking instead of your heart until the wound has time to heal a bit. Let your head see that what he says is what he means. And hopefully it'll let your heart in on it too. Just keep trying.

    2. Thank you! Your blog has been extremely helpful and offers so much clarity. Its like, I'm always so in the moment and full of emotion that I can't verbalize or even write what I'm thinking, which is frustrating because I'm a writer by nature...I just think and talk and write on and on and on and nothing really expresses what I feel clearly.

      And then I read something here that makes so much sense that I sometimes directly quote it and say "this is how I feel,or how I felt that time when _____ I just couldn't find the words until now."

      So thank you :)

  2. Haven, this all makes sense to me. Two questions: 1) As someone active in her own move to being asymptomatic, have you seen a decline in your trust issues? 2) Any tips that folks have found useful for restoring trust/reducing the debt?


    1. I have actually discovered a lessening of my issues. I think it's a two part thing: 1. I'm learning how to develop relationships with more personal skills in my arsenal, to recognize where others are and are not trustworthy. and 2: I'm learning to trust myself.

      It's important to remember that people are human. People mess up. We take things so personally, when it really isn't about us at all, sometimes. I think this is an important question to address and I'll probably work on a full post to get into Helpful Tips... so stay tuned ;)

  3. It's so appropriate that you posted this today. I've been working on diffusing a bomb in my head regarding trust since Sunday. It's funny how one little comment can blow up in my head. I have a boyfriend who is a really good guy, who happens to be in a rehab/prison setting for something he did before he got clean. Anyway, I went to visit on Sunday and his mother was there as well and mentioned that this girl (who I know to be his ex) was interested in writing him. My heart immediately sank and my head started whirling. The little trust I've had has been shit on so many times in past relationships, that I immediately start projecting future misery on myself based on one small comment or "what if". Since I've been doing DBT and working on myself through therapy, I managed to mostly diffuse the bomb and I am working through it and realizing that he IS a good guy and hasn't given me any reason not to trust him. It's a work in progress and is still a struggle. But I'm dealing with it one day at a time and trying to re-examine my old ideas and beliefs. Thanks for this post!


Leave me a comment! It makes me feel good and less paranoid about talking to myself =)

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...