“Trust in others comes from self trust!”
King Ayles, author
“I can’t trust my wife either!”
Ogden has been in Canada for over five years. He was 32 years old, born in Germany and came here for a job in software design. He was a stout man with a neat moustache that seem to enhance his face giving him a look of thoughtful intelligence.
Ogden was married to Octavia, an Austrian, also aged 32, who made her living running her own business in interior design. They had no children as yet but we’re talking about it regularly. And, it was these conversations which had brought Ogden to my office.
When I asked him how I might serve him, he told me he couldn’t trust politicians. When I asked him how that was connected to him being here, he said,
“I can’t trust my wife either!”
I asked, “Ogden, has Octavia done something which would suggest you shouldn’t trust her?”
“Well, for one thing, she has this stable of clients she is for ever meeting with during the day and into the evening.” he replied.
“Is there anything else that suggests to you she is disloyal to you?” I asked.
“I want to be able to trust her implicitly!”
“Well, it looks like all her corporate clients are mostly men and her private clients are women redecorating their homes.” he said skepticism dripping from his lips.
“How is you day to day relationship and your intimate times?” I asked next.
“Ken, we have always been close and I haven’t really seen that change. But, she is very busy with her business. Yet, she seems very devoted to me and our future…that’s why I’m so confused and frustrated about it!” he responded, his fear surfacing on his face from out of his confusion.
“Are you afraid of losing her, Ogden?” I asked, checking his nonverbal for accuracy.
He paused… and then said as he shifted in the chair,
“Ken, I’m scared to death!”
“How would you like to be instead, Ogden? What is your goal in coming here to see me?”
He paused again, then replied,
“I want to be able to trust her implicitly! I want to know she will put our relationship before everything else…that’s what I want because it’s what I do myself!”
“…you are expecting the impossible from another human being.”
I replied with this and waited,
“Ogden, now I see why you are so scared. You are seeking a fantasy that no partner will ever offer you!”
His face turned to shock and dismay and then he went quiet. After a few thought filled moments, he asked,
“Are you saying I’m expecting too much from Octavia?”
“Ogden, I’m saying you are expecting the impossible from another human being.”
“I don’t understand. Please explain that to me!”
“Certainly! Ogden, every person condenses their own past experiences into a hierarchy of their highest personal values which they have determined are most important to them. And these highest values determine their behaviour, unconsciously.”
“Do you mean our past determines our future choices and we don’t even know it, Ken?”
“I trust in nature for the stable laws of beauty and utility.” – Robert Browning, poet
“… still be guessing at which value they are focused on at any moment…”
“In a way, yes! But, because we can think about our thoughts, we can uncover our values. So, we can make choices with a full awareness of how they are connected to our values.”
“So, if I know someone’s highest values I can predict their behaviour, right?”
“You certainly can get better at it because you know what is most important to them. But, you will still be guessing at which value they are focused on at any moment in time. This makes our relationships both interesting and challenging.”
“So, for example, I’d would still be guessing at which value Octavia was focused on at any moment I picked, to try to predict what she might do.”
“Yes, you would still be guessing!”
“Well, that sure explains a lot about our relationship…especially our disagreements!”
“Each of you believes, at an unconscious level, you can respect your own values by being with the other.”
“Let get back to your concern about trust and Olivia’s loyalty to you. You can only expect Olivia to be loyal to her highest values. In the same way, you are only loyal to your highest values. Can you see that Ogden?”
“Does that mean she is first committed to her values?” he asked, surprising himself with his own question.
“Yes, exactly! And, in the same way, you are most committed to your highest values! And, it is why you are together. Each of you believes, at an unconscious level, you can respect your own values by being with the other.”
“So, Olivia is not committed to me as much as she is committed to her own values? Is that what you mean? And it applies to me too! I’m most committed to me and see her as helping me do that?”
“…it is this way because it optimizes each person’s chance of survival.”
“Yes, Ogden, that’s exactly it! And, do you know why it is this way…why it is natural, normal and healthy?”
“Not really, no!”
“Ogden, it is this way because it optimizes each person’s chance of survival.”
“Do you mean it is biological, it is in our genes?”
“Yes Ogden! Each of you are a biological animal acting out your biological imperative using the resources available. That’s why research shows couples have longer life spans than unconnected individuals.”
“Ok, so what does that mean about my not trusting Octavia? How does that fit into all this biology?” he said, with a half smile of curiosity.
“… you can only trust her to respect her own values…of which you are one.”
“It suggests to me that you may not have enough clarity about your own, and Olivia’s, hierarchy of values. It also suggests that with this information, it wold give you greater insight into why she behaves as she does.”
“And, that would help me how…?”
“I think it would help you understand and appreciate how, just like you, she is first committed to her own values. But also, that she sees you as part of her honouring them. And, this would help you understand that you can only trust her to respect her own values…of which you are one. And, that’s what you are doing, too!”
“That makes sense to me, Ken. But, how do I get there?”
“Well, I have special tools for that. First, I would want you to identify your own values. Second, if she is agreeable, have Olivia identify her own. Third, I would want to sit down with the both of you to assist you both to learn and appreciate each other’s values and each other’s role in being who, each of you, are today. Are you prepared to do that Ogden?”
“Yes I certainly am, Ken! When can we start?”
“How about right now, Ogden?”
“Trust yourself. Create the kind of self that you will be happy to live with all your life.”
– Golda Meir, leader