I’ve been pondering Erik Erikson’s theory of psycho-social development of late, which sets out eight stages of development along our way to maturity. Written in the middle of the 20th century, it still speaks pertinently to the issues that present in the therapy room, and so seems worth highlighting.
The first stage Erikson talks about is that of the period of infancy, running up to around 18 months. In this period, we learn our orientation to people and the world in a key dimension - can we trust them? Are we safe?
The child who is able to relax and trust learns that others are safe, and the world is safe, they are confident that their needs will be met. The infant for whom life is not so simple will learn that others are not trustworthy, and the world is a place to fear. They will grow up unsure whether their needs will be met.
This formative period is essential in shaping personality and setting up our ways of interacting. However, it is not the only time in life where we can learn to trust. As we grow, experiences of trust, intimacy and love can repair our wounds and help us learn how to trust both our own sense of things, and the world and people around us.
Psychotherapy is one of the relationships in which this healing work can occur. If trust is habitually an issue for you, it may be worth seeking out a therapist with whom you can build a relationship in which you can begin to experiment with trust, and experience what it is like to have your needs noticed, acknowledged, and met. It can be a moving and powerful process that can make a big difference to your experience of life.