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If you’ve ever watched the hilarious comedy Meet The Parents, a tale of male nurse Greg Focker (Ben Stiller) who spends the weekend at his girlfriend’s parents home and has to deal with her nightmare father played by Robert De Niro, you will recall how part of poor Greg’s stress is about being allowed into The Byrne Family Circle of Trust. When the father thinks that Greg has been smoking weed, he reminds him that once he’s out of the circle, he’s out and can’t be let back in.
I was thinking about The Circle of Trust this morning and I realised that we can learn a hell of a lot about ourselves by working out our own.
You should be at the centre (or center for Americans) and the only people who should be in your Circle of Trust are people whom you trust. The people who are closest to you and with whom you share unquestionable trust are the ones who are closest to you in your inner circle – see top image. You then have various ‘circles’ or bands of trust within the circle reflecting the degree of closeness and trust you have with various people in your life.
Just because someone is in your life, it doesn’t mean that they should be in the circle. In order to be inside your circle, a person should consistently have your basic trust levels. If they’re dipping below, that’s a code amber, possibly red alert.
By having a reasonable level of self-esteem and a basic level of trust in you and others (let’s call it 70% trust for them), it means that you increase trust based on evidence and consistent experience of it over time and you decrease in recognition of when there is a boundary bust / clash in values – The Debit and Credit Trust System.
Family doesn’t automatically qualify for being within your ‘inner circle’ unless you have the high degree of trust with each family member. You can love a family member but they may be further out in your circle (you trust them but you would be cautious over certain things or you just know your limits) and… some family members may be out of the circle because they repeatedly bust boundaries although they may feel that they’re entitled to ‘inner circle’ status.
Some acquaintances (but not necessarily all) sit right on the peripheries. They’re not in your Circle of Trust but as your interactions progress and you get to know them, some may enter into your ‘circle’.
Outside your Circle of Trust is the rest of the world – strangers, barely there acquaintances and ‘threats’ including enemies. Threats may include people who maybe used to be in your circle somewhere but have shown that they cannot be trusted and are possibly still trying to tap dance all over your boundaries.
If somebody has been allowed into your Circle of Trust and they have taken advantage of or even abused you, they shouldn’t be in there (boundaries need to be enforced) and it should take a hell of a lot, possibly hell freezing over in some circumstances, for that person to be allowed back in. There would need to be consistent evidence over time and they shouldn’t be granted ‘inner circle’ status immediately or too quickly.
It should go without saying but bearing in mind the stories that people share with me each day about their experiences with people they don’t trust, here it is: If you don’t trust someone, they shouldn’t be in your Circle of Trust.
This also means that the way in which you interact with this person should reflect the lack of trust and/or knowledge. For instance, sticking with someone who you can’t trust should come with a major hazard warning.
There shouldn’t be anyone in your inner circle with whom you don’t have a mutually fulfilling relationship with love, care, trust and respect. No exceptions.
What you should never do is increase trust with someone who for whatever reason has given you a reason to feel distrusting because it’s a cackhanded attempt at loading them up with more trust in the hope that they will reciprocate by ‘changing’ into someone more trustworthy and meeting your needs, expectations, and desires.
Basically, phase in trust so that you have time to consistently experience evidence of it.
Working out your Circle of Trust and the circles within can help you to get an at-a-glance view of your own little world. You may find that you have a few Circles of Trust, so for instance, you may have a work one – there may be certain people who professionally and even personally to a degree, you feel very confident in your dealings with them but others who you suspect would screw you over in two shakes of a lamb’s tail.
Use your circles to understand where you need to address trust problems whether it’s with you or others.
If you don’t trust anyone, it means that everyone has ‘stranger status’ regardless of whether they’re strangers or not. You cannot ‘acclimatise’ to healthy trust levels if you don’t learn how to trust and rein in trust – The Debit and Credit Trust System. Trust based on results not hope.
If you don't trust anyone including you it means that you have no Circle of Trust.
If you put others before you it means that you're either outside of your own circle or that you're in it but not in the centre - that is a big problem. Remember that when you neglect you, any 'ole body can come along with a crumb and between you and this person it will be inflated into a loaf because it will appear to be more than you're already giving to you.
If you meet someone new and you trust fast and grant entry to your circle or even your inner circle, you are in effect treating this person as if they're your nearest and dearest. Have they really earned this trust? Of course one of the reasons why you might grant a virtual stranger inner circle trust even though it doesn't genuinely exist might be due to not having others in your circle.
The other reason why you may be letting people into your circle though, is that they're 'similar' to people who are already inside even though they shouldn't be.
It's like referencing your 'database' and recognising 'shady data' and granting entry due to familiarity of an unhealthy pattern instead of granting based on a mutual, trusting, respectful relationship.
Looking at your Circle of Trust, who is in there and why there may be people who you don't know or trust, is a great exercise in building self-awareness. Gain some understanding on which factors are used for granting trust. For instance, talking to some readers, sex is an 'open sesame' for entry into the circle. When you start to think about where you have given away trust (see The Effed Up Circle of Trust above) you can see where you're selling you short.
The key thing to recognise is that everyone's Circle of Trust is different. I would place strangers outside of my circle although it doesn't mean that I'm distrusting but judging by the number of tales I hear about virtual and casual relationships, some people have strangers in their circle or even inner circle. Unless you'd trust these people with all of your worldly goods or even your life support machine, they shouldn't be there.
Trust is like a muscle - the more you use it and learn from the feedback of each interaction and experience, the stronger it gets. It's critical that you differentiate your relationships healthily by maintaining good boundaries.
Natalie Lue is the founder and writer of Baggage Reclaim and author of the books Mr Unavailable and the Fallback Girl, The Dreamer and the Fantasy Relationship and more. Learn more about her here and you can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter - @baggagereclaim .
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