I don’t know if anyone before me has ever used the term radical trust. When I started this journey, I defined it as trusting people until they gave me a reason not to trust them. Prior, I loved people and practiced compassion but I didn’t trust others until they showed they could be trusted. Sitting in Starbucks in Austin staring at Craigslist, I had every negative that could happen run through my head. What if they were creeps, murderers or… just didn’t show up. Something clicked though, and I began to wonder what would happen if I made the conscious choice to trust people.
Over the past six weeks my definition of radical trust has expanded to include trusting myself, the universe, and the future. Getting into Molly and Bow’s RV was just the first step but it was an important leap of faith. To trust them, I had to trust my ability to read people, figure out alternatives if the ride went south, keep my belongings, body, and psyche safe, and trust that I would be good company over 1500 miles. This was a hard choice to make and I use the word choice deliberately. In 2009, I learned to not trust my gut anymore, and over the following 6 years that lesson was further ingrained into my psyche. While in the past, trusting my gut was automatic and easy, I now questioned it even though I know how accurate my intuition usually is. This is something I’ve worked on for the past 4 years but it wasn’t healed yet. So instead of it being an easy and natural event, I had to choose to trust myself and others even though I didn’t feel that trust yet. It was a disconnect that I bridged through my behavior. If I act as if I trust others and myself, I thought, would it be enough? Furthermore, if I act as if I trust myself and others, will it help me remember how to genuinely trust. In this way, radically trusting everyone I encountered served as a rehabilitation.
Years ago, I remember listening to an argument over whether emotions could be controlled. It was in the context of jealousy in polyamorous relationships, but the idea that through practice one could have control over one’s feelings was something that stayed with me. Throughout my trip, I chose to act as if I trusted everyone I ran into, then as people lived up to that trust, the feeling was reinforced. My trust in others seemed to also affect how people treated me. I was open, and kind, and met them where they were. I didn’t judge them or consider them less than, therefore they were less negative and defensive. This was a huge example of the idea that you cannot change others, you can only change yourself and through that change you can have an effect others around you. As I hopped from car to car, I saw this same idea acted out over and over. I’d approach, be open, be trusting, accept them as they are and they in turn would react to my output with kindness, trust, openness and relaxation. By trusting people, I made them feel good! This was a revelation, but I still didn’t know what would happen when I finally had a bad right. What would happen when someone proved themselves untrustworthy.
Radical Trust isn’t blind stupidity. It is literally trusting until shown you shouldn’t trust. So, when I finally met someone with a creepy agenda, I could spot the signs, and something miraculous happened.
In times of trouble animals and people have three responses, flee, fight, or freeze. Most of us imagine ourselves fighters or flee-rs. No one wants to say, “in times of trouble I freeze like a deer and hope I become invisible.” But that is a normal response and the only way to know which you are is to be in a dangerous or scary situation.
I am a freeze-r and always have been. Through the years I’ve tried to change that, but nope, doesn’t matter if it’s something falling off a shelf or a bad person pulling a gun, my first natural response is to freeze. Yet somehow, after six weeks of practicing what it feels like to trust others and myself, I untrained that natural response.
It was late when the trucker picked me up and I was relieved despite dropping my glasses on the way into his rig. When he flirted, I deflected as usual but unlike the others who took the hint, found my chosen lifestyle interesting, and finished the ride with a fun conversation. This man proceeded to attempt to verbally bully and coarse a promise of sexual favors. After two deflections, heard something come out of my mouth I hadn’t heard before. A simple and final statement in a voice that seemed to come out of nowhere.
“I’m know I’m not what you expected, but that is not who I am and it will not happen. Since this is something you are not comfortable with and unable to accept, let me out at I-70.”
The voice was strong. My voice is never strong in borderline situations. It’s squeaky or rage-y or worse… silent. Suddenly he was apologizing profusely, tried to explain he was just trying to help **eyeroll** and he spent the rest of the ride driving in silent discomfort. When I got out, he again apologized and complimented me on my strength. I told him to enjoy his family and got out. I didn’t feel afraid or worried or shook up at all. What I felt was a radical solid unflinching trust in myself.