Recently I had the opportunity to participate in a ropes course with a personal development group I’ve been working with this whole year. Each activity was designed to get us thinking about our thoughts, how similar situations show up in our lives, and what we can learn from the exercise that might help us conquer the same issues in real life.
Interestingly enough for me, one of the most powerful exercises was the trust fall. I don’t think I’ve ever actually done a trust fall before. The trust fall requires one to stand on a platform and fall directly back into the arms of a group whom they are trusting to catch them. Even though I trusted the group because I have been learning and growing with them for several months now, the actual process of letting go and trusting was more challenging than I expected.
I was neither the first nor that last to go, so I had plenty of time to evaluate the process from both sides – as one of the participants catching and as the one falling. I noticed first that I was worried about catching those who were falling. The instructors and facilitators knew we could do it. They’d seen it done hundreds of times before.
With all of our hands out palms up, elbows bent making a “zipper” with our teammates, I still worried that we wouldn’t be capable of catching some of the members of our group. When the big muscular guys were in the group of people catching, I knew we could do it. I worried that when they had their turns to fall that we wouldn’t be able to catch them.
I was amazed that with the group working together, we could easily catch from the largest to the smallest person in the group. When done with the group correctly, it was almost effortless. The weight of the person falling was so evenly distributed that no one had a very heavy burden to carry.
When it was my turn, I stood on the picnic table, and the facilitator talked to me about trust. I know my current trust issues, so I just told her what they are. As I voiced them, I was surprised at how much emotion was emitted simply by saying the words aloud – owning my thoughts and feelings – letting them be real and valid for now. After talking about trust, it was time to practice it.
Once I was told the proper way to fall, I had to call out,
“Ready,” the group chimed back.
“Ready to fall,” I called.
And then it was real, and it was scary. I knew I would do it, but at that exact moment, it was so much more challenging than I had expected. I had to let go of all fear and trust myself and trust my group. After a few moments of stalling, I finally fell. It was effortless and painless. My group caught me easily and placed me on my feet, where I immediately broke down and cried. All of the adrenaline. All of the owning my thoughts. All the letting go of my fear and trusting – even for just that moment – came bursting through. One of my teammates wrapped me in a hug and just held me while my emotions seeped through my eyes.
Even as I write, I can feel the emotions again – the desperate need we have as humans to connect, to be upheld by others, to trust others, and to trust ourselves.
How do we do it? How do we create space for others to trust us, and how do we learn to trust others? There are no guarantees in life. If we choose to trust and be trusted, we may get hurt again and again. Accepting that reality, here are three ideas on creating trust.
First, allow yourself to be open to the possibility of trust. I couldn’t have trusted if I hadn’t allowed myself to stand on that table and be in a vulnerable position. Standing safely on the ground and separating myself from the group would have required no trust. I also wouldn’t have learned how easily and willingly the group could hold me if I trusted them.
Second, trust yourself – even just a little. Like me, you may not trust yourself in some situations, but notice and acknowledge when you do trust yourself. I trusted myself enough to show up for the training. I trusted myself enough to get up on the table, ready to fall. I trusted myself enough to own my thoughts and feelings. I trusted myself to fall safely in the way I was instructed. Even though I have a lot of work to do on trusting myself, I did trust myself in several things. In what areas are you already trusting yourself?
Finally, recognize that you do trust. Even if you think, “I don’t trust anyone,” it’s not really true. When you order in a restaurant, you trust the waiter to bring you your food. When you put mail in the mailbox, you trust the post office worker to take it to the correct place. There are some areas in your life in which you already do trust. Acknowledge those.
In my prearranged trust fall, I knew that my group would catch me. In life, we don’t always know if someone will catch us when we fall. As much as I want there to be guarantees in life, there are not. We will have to be vulnerable when appropriate. We will have to trust ourselves to judge a situation or a person as trustworthy. We need to recognize that we trust every day. Build on that daily trust as you grow your trust in yourself and others.
And finally, remember that there is one Source in whom we can always trust. “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart.” (Proverbs 3:5) “Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid.” (Isaiah 12:2)