Opening to Trust, Love and Intimacy: An Interview with David Richo Ph.D.

trust and loveMost of us have issues with either trusting ourselves or another person and yet trust remains the cornerstone of a loving intimate relationship either with ourselves or another. Today it’s my pleasure to bring to you David Richo, Ph.D., M.F.T. who gives us insight in his latest book Daring to Trust: Opening Ourselves to Real Love and Intimacy about how to open ourselves to real love and intimacy. David is a psychotherapist, teacher, workshop leader, and writer. He is also author of the consistently popular book The Five Things We Cannot Change: And the Happiness We Find by Embracing Them among many other books.

Today David talk to us about how our earliest relationships impact our ability to trust, what is naive trust, how mindfulness can help and some advice on what to do when trust breaks down.

Elisha: How do our earliest relationships impact our ability to trust?

David: The more our parents attuned to us and validated our emotions, the more we gained a capacity to trust ourselves and the world around us. Attunement is a communing; hence, it is reassuring and confirming. Authentic attunement provides us with a holding environment in which we can feel secure and can trust those who love us. Our trust grows not only from being held when we needed it but also from being let go of when we needed that. The parent who truly attunes to us will hold us but only for as long as we want to be held. Later in life that balance will be the hallmark of successful intimacy.

Elisha: In your book you mention that there’s a difference between naïve trust and healthy trust, can you give us some examples?

David: Healthy trust is directed toward someone who:

¨            Shows integrity and lives in accord with standards of fairness and honesty in all his or her dealings.

¨            May operate on the basis of self-interest but never at my expense or the expense of others.

¨            Supports me when I need him or her.

¨            Keeps agreements.

¨            Remains faithful.

¨            Does not lie or have a secret life.

¨            Genuinely cares about me.

¨            Stands by me and up for me.

¨            Is what he or she appears to be; wants to appear just as he or she is, no matter if at times that is unflattering.

¨            Respects boundaries

Trust is naïve when it is directed toward those who have shown themselves to be unreliable, offer a quick fix or profit if we invest, do not keep agreements, seduce us in and then withhold, do not honor our “No” but keep pushing, do not follow through on what they say they will do.

Elisha: What role does mindfulness play in learning to trust?

David: Mindfulness, a central Buddhist practice in meditation and in daily life, means that we keep coming back to the here and now, to pure experience uncluttered by mental chatter. Attention to our breath helps us to focus in that way. Mindfulness is a spiritual practice that liberates us into the authentic present by awakening us to how our mind distracts us with fear, desire, judgment, attachment, comparison, bias, and attempts to control what happens around us.

As we live more fully in the present, we begin to trust ourselves more and become more discerning about how trustworthy others are. Mindfulness focuses us on the moment and on our own presence in it. This is how trust grows.

Elisha: If you were sitting across the table from someone who was struggling in their relationship due to issues with trust, what might you tell them?

David: Mourning is our practice when we experience a loss of trust. We let ourselves feel sadness that our trust is lost, anger at the one taking it away, and fear that we will never find it again. We stay with the feelings of grief for as long as they are up for us. This automatically leads to a letting go of our pain, and we stop blaming ourselves or anyone else.

It is important to pay particular attention to our anger, defined as displeasure at an injustice. This means that anger is appropriate when it is based on the breaking of an agreement, a hurt at the heart level. Alternatively, an expectation is held by only one person. We are hurt at the ego level because our sense of entitlement was not honored. That anger is a frustration that can become aggressive and unhealthy. When we are committed to personal integrity, we look within ourselves to explore our anger. If it is appropriate, based on the breaking of a bilateral agreement, we express our anger directly to our partner, always nonviolently. When our anger is the indignation of our disappointed ego, we call ourselves on our projections and expectations. Then we bring our whole experience—and our unsatisfactory partner—to our loving-kindness practice.

Elisha: Thank you so much David!

As always, please share your thoughts, stories and questions below. Your interaction creates a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.

Reposted from Elisha Goldstein’s Mindfulness Blog on

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