When Trust Hits Rough Waters, Flow Like a River

In the present, all is well.

Posted Oct 09, 2017

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If you’ve lived long enough, you’ve most likely experienced a close relationship where trust had been broken. Perhaps a friend turned his or her back on you during a time of need. Maybe your partner cheated on you. Or perhaps your son or daughter lied to you. In this post, we’ll explore how meditation helps us during times when our trust has been betrayed.

The Aftermath of Broken Trust

When someone breaks the bond of trust we’ve built with them, a series of worries often follows. If the person will continue to be in our lives we may ask, “Will they do it again?” If we’ll no longer see the person, we may wonder, “Will someone else hurt me like this?”

These questions rooted in fear, are ones I hear regularly from my clients in my private therapy practice. In order to understand the fears associated with a betrayal of trust, we need to understand how trust is rooted in attachment.

Think of life as a river. Imagine that you and someone you care about were floating downstream together. While the person you’re with may ride the same current all the way to the ocean with you, this may not happen.

At some point in your journey, that person may take a different path. If this happens, imagine you decided to change course. Rather than continue on the path you’re currently on that will lead you to the ocean, you decide to stand your ground. Rather than flow with the current, you try to dig your heals into the riverbed, and fight against the flow. Depending on the depth of the river and the strength of the currents, you may find yourself struggling to stay standing or even be bruised and battered.

The River Is What Is

In life, fighting against the current means we reject what we’re being presented right here, right now. Like the flow of a river, life is constantly changing. Sometimes a river’s currents are loud and scary. While other times they are quiet and peaceful.

Similarly, sometimes our relationships are horrifying and sometimes they are beautiful. But in either case, they will change. And sometimes we’ll suffer as a result. The cause of our suffering, however, is not the change itself. Instead, it is our subsequent thoughts, which is the commentary we place over what has transpired.

The problem lies in our mental capacity to dwell on what happened rather than embrace what is taking place right now. In the case of when someone has hurt us, a critical step toward healing from the event is to realize that it is over. Like a stretch of turbulent rapids that came and went, what took place is behind us.

From this place of understanding, we must slowly, and gently move forward. This doesn’t mean we act as if nothing happened. Reflection is an important way to ensure you break patterns that can cause future suffering.

You can ask yourself, “What did the person do to me and why did it happen?” “Were there any signs I missed? If so, I probably wouldn’t have gone as deeply into the relationship with him or her.” Or to use the river analogy, “I probably won’t flow down the river with someone for as long, if I see the warning signs next time.”  

With effective reflection, we’re able to heal and learn from what took place. Instead of taking the position of never trusting again, we apply what we’ve learned and float down the river once more. While doing so may be scary at first, we realize that fully living life requires that we take risk. Not reckless risk, but risk based on wisdom acquired from learning from past experiences. We realize some people will hurt us. But hurt passes. And pleasure passes. Life is impermanent. This is one of the greatest lessons that meditation teaches us.

Meditation Helps Us Trust

When we sit to meditate, we assume a comfortable posture, close our eyes, and breathe or follow a prayer or mantra. We observe that thoughts come and go. Sometimes they are pleasurable and other times they’re painful. Our practice is about letting them go. We may be tempted to hold onto a thought tightly that makes us feel good or push another one away aggressively. The meditation practice tells us that doing either will cause suffering.

In the present, all is well. Meditation teaches us that everything we require to be happy is within us.  When we are present and still with ourselves, we see that the source of all happiness is available to us right now.  

One breath at a time, meditation teaches us to enjoy the present moment. Whatever thoughts we have will come and go. When we flow with the thoughts, rather than fight them, we realize their fleeting nature. And by doing so, meditation gives us the insight to realize that regardless of the pain or pleasure those in our life bring us, we have an ever-present source of happiness and wisdom inside us, all the time.