We are terrified of trust,
terrified of making ourselves vulnerable.
The leap into forgiveness is immense.
And after the leap, again the waiting.
And again another opening into love,
And again the terror.
It’s the body that is terrified.
This reflection evokes the image of a circle or a spiral that follows a predictable, repeating path:
- Feeling the terror of trusting
- Feeling the terror of being vulnerable
- Making a leap into forgiveness
- Opening into love
- Returning to terror and vulnerability
Terror of trust and vulnerability comes most often in times when we feel betrayed by a person, a system, a government, or even God or our higher power.
Trust, as a verb, means to:
believe in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of
Trust is misunderstood when it is conceived as an iron-clad guarantee.
A mature, grounded understanding of trust is when someone believes in “the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of” a person, a system, a government, material object, or one’s higher power, while simultaneously knowing that what is reliable may become unreliable, or that truthful people may lie, or that what was once possible is no longer possible, or that chaos can be divine order.
An immature understanding of trust wants to believe that reliability, truth, ability, or strength doesn’t waiver — that people, systems, governments, or our higher power will never let us down.
This immature understanding of trust is one of the reasons that trust and vulnerability feel terrifying.
This kind of trust, while it holds the promise of a disappointment or pain-free future, is impossible.
There are no guarantees, even though a very young part of us would love to have one. The vulnerability inherent in trust may be rooted in the knowledge that trust is not absolutely trustworthy!
And if we have the courage become still, quiet and honest with ourselves, we see that we may not demand the same trustworthiness of ourselves that we expect from others.
Forgiveness is the immense leap from a victim consciousness of, “you hurt me,” or “you let me down,” or “you betrayed me,” to a more expansive vision of relationship.
The leap of forgiveness means abandoning blame, resentment, bitterness, or hatred and moving into grace, and even love, but it doesn’t mean that what happened was acceptable.
The leap of forgiveness is a self-enlarging surrender that frees you from the bondage of victimhood and its toxic, soul-corroding emotions.
After the leap of forgiveness, there is waiting. Waiting is filled with questions like:
- Did I make the right choice to forgive?
- Will I be hurt again?
- Was I foolish to forgive?
- Am I foolish to trust?
Because the leap of forgiveness is ultimately for you, the questions during the time of waiting become like a spiral within a spiral — inviting you to return again to your power to choose. The inner inquiry is: “Do I want to live in the terror of distrust, or go deeper into the the grace of forgiveness?”
This can be a moment by moment decision, and sometimes distrust wins — and terror returns.
And that’s okay.
What does it mean to say, “It’s the body that is terrified?” It’s as if the body has been singled out and separated from the mind, spirit, or soul, as the one who is terrified.
If you’ve ever experienced a deep breach of trust, you know that body terror is real.
In the end, if we are completely honest with ourselves we know that we cannot have the perfect trust we long for. This knowledge-wisdom makes forgiveness a truly spiritual act — one that cannot be justified, explained, or understood on the level of the mind.
And since wise trust and forgiveness are ultimately a task of the soul, the body is where the fear and vulnerability reside.
Invitations for reflection, exploration, and action:
- Considering that the “leap into forgiveness is immense,” what sustains your ability to forgive another?
- When you think about mature v. immature trust, how might mature trust make vulnerability less terrifying?
- What does it mean for you that the body is terrified of trust/vulnerability?
© Vicki Tidwell Palmer (2021)
Coming Home to Myself: Reflections for Nurturing a Woman’s Body and Soul (©1998)
By Marion Woodman and Jill Mellick
(Reprinted with permission)
*This post is from the Coming Home to You Series. Visit this page for the backstory of the CHTY Series.
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