What is Self-Trust

Anes asks: What is self-trust?

Hi Anes –

Self-trust is something that everyone in the world wants to have, but some people don’t.  It literally means trusting yourself to do things that you believe in, and will be best for you.

It’s hard to describe self-trust, because it’s so simple.  So let’s talk about its opposite instead.  Have you ever seen any of those cool old Wolf Man movies from the 1940s?  They’re not like the Taylor Lautner character in the “Twilight” films; these are about a man who is totally normal, nice, all that, but who’s bitten by a werewolf and so becomes, on nights of the full moon, a bloodthirsty murderous monster.  Then the next morning he’ll wake up, having no memory of what he’s done, but with evidence (like mud or blood) that it’s happened again: he’s killed innocent people.

Now that man has a severe case of lack of Self-Trust.  He is terrified of what he might do, since he has no control over himself once the moon is out.

Another story with a similar theme is the great novel “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” by Robert Louis Stevenson (and the many movies, plays, etc. made of it).  In this story, a kindly doctor is experimenting with some chemicals which, when he drinks them, turn his personality from good to evil, and he goes out and does cruelty and criminality until the chemicals wear off.  What makes it scary for him is that, once he’s done it a few times, he loses control over when he changes into the evil “Mr. Hyde,” and it can happen at any time!  So he has gone from having great self-trust to a strong lack of it.

These are old classic stories.  But I’m sure you, Anes, and most other readers of this are picturing someone else right now, someone very large and green and angry…  Yes, The Hulk is another example of this same concept!  Bruce Banner is torn between his knowledge that he can do great good when he turns into that monster, and terror at the lack of control he has once the transformation begins.  Again, that’s some lack of self-trust!

But these characters and stories are simply exaggerations of something that exists in nearly all humans (and, yes, dogs).  All of us have parts of our personalities that aren’t what we hope for, that can come out and do things we don’t intend.  Maybe you have a “short fuse” and lose your temper when you don’t really mean to.  I sure know a lot of dogs who will snap at someone because they moved their hand in a certain way, just because the poor pup was abused when they were young and that hand movement reminded them of it.  Or maybe you’re the opposite: maybe there’s someone you really like at school, and you want to be super-cool around them, but whenever they talk to you you start to stutter and giggle and can’t think of anything to say.  Or then some people, in certain situations, simply go still and silent, paralyzed with nervousness, unable to do anything.  These are all situations where one will lose their self-trust; how can you trust yourself when you don’t have control over what you do?!

Then, of course, there’s the issue of the real-life Dr. Jekylls.  The vast majority of people who drink alcohol find a little of it makes them feel good and happy, and all is fine.  But if anyone drinks a lot, they will lose control in certain ways.  For some, it’s just that they lose some control over their body and their ability to react to things (which is why it’s so important to never drive intoxicated).  But others have a total personality change – they might get mean, or even violent, when drinking.  And of course this effect can get even stronger with other, more potent, drugs.  To the degree that an alcoholic, or a drug abuser, really loses the ability for self-trust, unless they manage to get control over their use of that substance.

So okay, Anes, I’ve really been talking about lack of self-trust.  But the answer to your question is that Self-Trust is what you have when those things aren’t the case.  When you know that you will say what you mean, that you will act in ways that are in your best interest, and that of those around you.  It’s when you feel comfortable in your own body, and are able to relax and enjoy who you are, especially around others.

How can one get that?  Some people improve at it through sobriety (stopping taking any alcohol or drugs).  Some people improve at it through meditation, yoga, prayer, or other modes of centering and getting to know themselves better.  One of the things I’ve seen work best is people going to psychotherapy, where they can work on the parts of themselves that are hardest for them to accept.

All of these sound like work, and they are.  But be happy, Anes.  For that poor Wolf Man, the only solution was to be shot and killed with a silver bullet, or beaten to death with a silver cane!  Compared to him, we real humans and pooches have it easy!




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