Trust and Conditioning

Rock Bridge Path - Colorado - 2017

A brief, joking conversation on FB with a long time friend sparked a random, bunny trail of thoughts that have kept circling around in my brain since they got kicked off on that track over a week ago.  The more I keep going back to them, mulling them over, even after having talked it out a bit with Hubby, and have them still hanging around, makes me think that there is more that I need to be getting out of these thoughts. Since I haven’t quite gotten the point yet, I thought I’d toss them out here to see if it would quiet them down.

The friend is a guy I’ve known pretty much since the first day of Kindergarten. We have been friends, even dated for a while, on and off all through school and into our early 20s. Now, we are just mostly distant FB friends. The joke was about building a house on his land so we’d be neighbors. That got me to thinking about why we are really just distant FB friends and not really closer. We are so exceptionally different. So much so that I’m not sure we’d do well as neighbors.

He was raised as the very stereotypical man’s man. You hadn’t done a good days work unless you came home tired and dirty. The classic good ol’ boy, big country boy with his even bigger trucks and toys. None of those are bad things. That isn’t the point. That is just his background. His foundation.

Thinking about those things and the many things we had different rather than in common, things that drove me nuts when we did try to date…  I’m the artsy type, into dance and pop and alternative types of music while he was straight up classic rock and country; even super shy, I preferred going dancing rather than playing pool or racing cars… brought about a thought about some of the things my friend had talked about doing recently. Things that made me think that he is so much better of a person than I ever could be.

Not too long ago he came across a young man, he called him a kid but I got the impression he was maybe late teens early twenties, walking alone down the highway near or just after dark. My friend stopped and offered him a ride, drove nearly half an hour out of his way to get this kid home. There is no way I would have been able to do that. I would have been terrified.

It was recognizing that huge difference in how we would have treated that situation, what my friend had done in comparison to what I would have done if faced with the same thing that truly got my brain spinning. He did this awesome, generous thing, but I would have been too frightened to do the same thing. He did it really without thought. Because that is how he was raised.

The man’s man, the country boy, the tough guy, but also… the guy who could feel so confident in his safety that it wasn’t even a question for him. As a big, strong guy, he was never taught, either through direct lessons or life’s conditioning, to fear strangers or lone men. Never taught to question how his actions may impact his safety. His safety was never in question.

Me, though? I have learned that is the only way to survive. To always be aware of all the things in life that could hurt me, be it physical or emotional. Things I’ve heard from a young age about not getting into cars with strangers or the inadvertent lesson on boys taking advantage of girls when they “lead them on”. Then there are all the things you see and hear in the news about what can happen to girls and women, especially when they are alone. Add on to that the never ending lesson I am forced to learn with regards to trusting what people say and nearly always proven that words don’t mean squat.

All of these spinning thoughts really amplified the fact that I am NOT a trusting person. Well, in certain aspects. I still keep trusting people not to do or say things that will hurt, but they still do because I keep believing that those that are closest to me are good people. I want to believe they are good people and tend to make excuses when they prove me wrong.

But anyone else? No. I don’t trust them. Someone says something nice or suggests getting together (again, not someone that is very close to me) and I don’t believe they mean it. That they are just saying it because that is what you do. I don’t trust them to be honest. Because life has taught me not to. I don’t particularly like it, but that is the conditioning I’ve received, both trough direct communicated lessons and from life experience.

It crystallized the stark differences in the kind of life my friend leads and mine. He has always been confident in going out and moving through life. It is hard work and things haven’t been great for him, but he still has that confidence and sense of security, this sort of sense of invincibility. Something I don’t think I have ever felt. Not like that.

This has also made me think about the lessons I’m teaching my children. I have a sort of guide for me as a parent and for them for their lives. It is be safe, be healthy, be happy and don’t be an an asshole. It is kind of simplistic, but it forces me to think about how I parent them and make decisions about what is okay and not okay for them. In the past, it has helped me look past those kind of knee jerk reactions to things or to look past the “it’s just done that way” and forced me to think about the situation as it applies to them. After this round of thinking, I wonder about that safe aspect. Am I teaching them to live in fear? Where does teaching your children about making smart decisions and not taking dangerous risks by using some basic common sense morph into being too safe? When does it morph into living in fear?

I don’t want that for them. Hell, I don’t exactly want that for me, but it is so deeply ingrained that I didn’t realize quite how deeply it ran until all of this started messing with my head.  With all the BS with my family over the last year, with OC taking off, all of that only reinforced all of those lessons and that conditioning. My circle of trust has narrowed even further and it keeps getting tested. I’m currently struggling with my baby brother, the only remaining family that I’m willing to speak to anymore. I want to believe that he wants to be in my life, but his actions keep telling me otherwise. Same thing with the people that eagerly agreed to help on my project, but not a one of them has followed through.

When life keeps reinforcing a lesson, you eventually learn it. I’d rather my children not make all the decisions in their lives based on fears and worried about all that could go wrong, but I’m not sure how to teach them otherwise when that is all I have ever really learned. The singular exception in my life is Hubby.

At least I am now aware that this is an issue for me and I will be trying to be more conscious about how I present these kinds of lessons to my kids. Knowing it, maybe I can find a better way to help them balance common sense and taking risks that are worth it.

Author: TJ Fox

Slightly sane artist, book addict, wife and mom who is forever rethinking her place in this world.

5 thoughts on “Trust and Conditioning”

  1. I’ve found myself putting my own issues onto my daughter OFTEN! I think as parents we all do it. I think the important thing though is realising it so that we can balance it a bit. It’s such a tricky line to tread though the whole safety thing. My daughter hasn’t reached the dating etc age yet but I think I’m going to struggle with the safety issue when she does!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Balance is sort of the goal I’ve set for myself, both in life and parenting. Perfect will never happen and that is okay, but I need to find a balance that works, at this moment and in this situation, that works for me and my kids. I’m not always going to find it, or I’m going to find it later after problems occurred. That is parenting. It is hard. But we do it anyway.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow–I love this and can also relate. Most of us probably have trust issues to some extent. I know that they keep me from developing close friendships. Thanks, by the way, for visiting my blog post yesterday; I’m glad to have found yours!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Great post. I can definitely relate to this. I have trust issues too because of certain things I’ve gone through. You’re right though – making decisions based on fear won’t be fulfilling in the long run and that’s great you’re teaching your kids this. Wish you all the best – speak766

    Liked by 1 person

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