Why do powerless people create patterns of manipulation, broken communication, and dysfunction in relationships? Fundamentally, it comes down to a lack of trust in people. The only way powerless people can break these unhealthy patterns is to overcome their habitual mistrust and develop new trust-building habits in their lives.
Our ability to trust people is shaped in infancy. From the moment we enter the world, our deepest need is to love and be loved by other human beings, and to develop lasting relational bonds. This need is met as we consistently complete trust cycles in our interactions with other people, specifically with our primary caregivers. A trust cycle is completed when you:
HAVE A NEED THE NEED IS EXPRESSED THERE IS A RESPONSE TO THE NEED THE NEED IS SATISFIED
Here is the problem: this trust cycle can break down at any point. Trust is damaged if people fail to identify and express their needs, if the other person does not respond to the need or responds in a negative way, of if the need is ultimately not met.
Here is the other problem: we all experience broken trust in life. Most of us experience it in childhood, simply because all parents, even the best of them, are human beings who make mistakes and bring their own areas of brokenness into parenting. If these wounds are not healed and truth and trust restored, they will fester, damaging our ability to create intimacy and connection in relationships.
We all approach relationships with a basic question : “Can I trust you? Can I trust you with my heart? Can I trust you to love me unconditionally and help meet the need for relationship in my life?” When we are looking at people through a powerless lens of wounding and mistrust, we try to answer this question based on our best guess as to what the other person is going to do. When we make the change into powerful thinking, we recognize that trust is a choice we can make independent of what the other person does. Just as Jesus chose to trust Judas even though He knew Judas would betray Him, so we make the powerful choice to say, “I will trust you. You don’t control my trust. I do.”
If you are looking to break a pattern of mistrust, powerlessness, and dysfunctional relationships in your own life, or you desire to help someone else break that cycle, here are some of the core messages that need to be identified and received as truth:
1. I WAS MADE TO LOVE AND BE LOVED.
Unmet needs and broken trust attack our sense of value and worthiness in relationships. But the truth is that God made each of us for love, no matter how far our experience has fallen short of His standard of love. Believing the truth that God created us to love and be loved in relationships creates a foundation for healthy relational patterns to flow out of our lives
2. I HAVE THE ABILITY TO EXPRESS MY CORE NEEDS.
All of us have needs, including the need to be comforted, encouraged, championed, and loved unconditionally. Each of us can learn to express core needs in healthy ways. Just start with simple “I messages” with the people closest to you. For example: “I am feeling discouraged right now. I need to be encouraged and reminded of who I really am.” At times, this can feel scary and vulnerable, but it is the only path forward out of powerlessness.
3. I HAVE THE ABILITY TO MEET THE NEEDS OF OTHERS.
We can approach relationships knowing we have resources of love, compassion, encouragement, and empathy to give freely. We get to control when and to whom we give these resources. When we have an understanding of the value of our resources, we will invest them where that value will be protected and honored.
The most satisfying experience we can have as human beings is to be completely known and accepted for who we are, and we can only have this experience in safe, intimate relationships built on trust. Intimacy-- “into-me-you-see”-- is created between two people who know how to express and meet one another’s needs, and as a result can say, “We can fully be ourselves together because you can see into me and I can see into you.”
So as you look at the people in your life and ask, “Can I trust you?” challenge yourself to give a powerful answer: “I can trust you, because I choose to trust you.”