Over the summer break I’ve been reading The Neurobiology of Attachment Focused Therapy by Jonathan Baylin and Daniel Hughes, it’s a good read and it started me wondering if blocked trust is currently a very common problem. Are we all suffering from a form of blocked trust?
I understand Baylin and Hughes to be saying that this phenomenon of blocked trust is the outcome of being parented by adults with blocked care. This, in turn, creates a lack of attuned attending which then influences the development of trust. What I understand this to mean is that the child can’t trust that an adult will adequately take care of them; and for the adult it means they fail to read the various cues that a child is sending, resulting in continual surprise or shock by what the child does.
Of course we all have our moments, but watching the news over the last few weeks it feels like Trump’s election is the outcome of the blocked trust of a nation. Frighteningly, then there is our own local Australian politics and we seem to be suffering from the same blocked trust phenomenon. The danger, as I see it, is that people stop thinking and so it enables the selling of very simple and utopian solutions – we can make America great again…
The way this is done has a long history and is usually the fodder for war. Firstly: target a
group; then sell the idea that getting rid of them will fix everything. This basic formula has been repeated over and over again.
Those of us who work with families know this is also a common solution for families. Albeit on a much smaller scale. Parents who have problems that feel too difficult to face often engage in a process of denial of an underlying, often very serious, problem. A child, usually the most sensitive, tunes into the denied undercurrents and reacts with problematic behaviour. This then sets them up to become the target: “If little Johnny could just be good we’d be fine.” It can become a circular escalating problem. Where the more the parents need protecting from the denied problems, the worse the child’s behaviour becomes. The child, in a sense, sacrifices
themselves for the unity of the family.
In essence, the same problem solving mechanism is being used by Donald Trump. The world, including America is facing some very serious problems, global warming being the most notable example of denial. Just looking at this one example, we are all observing a change in our climate but no-one in power seems to be seriously addressing it. The escalating concern and fear around this one variable is denied, add in the sliding of our standard of living, lack of permanent employing, the erosion of the socially stabilising middle class – we should be having a full scale panic.
The scene is set for simple solutions because the enormity is too hard to get a grip on. This generates fear that enables a sort of emotional blindness, disabling the ability to reason logically, and question the motives, or even the reality of the simple solutions.
Fear, whether real or imagined enables this “blocked trust” and in turn simplistic solutions.
A few weeks ago I was spending time at the beach, a great Australian pastime. Whilst daydreaming in the sun, (very naughty but I did have on factor 50 sunscreen, even though I have a vitamin D deficiency), I noticed along the beach a couple of large family groups who happened to be muslim’s. Yes, I did feel wonder at the women who did, to my mind, have way too much clothing on for enjoying a hot day at the beach, but when I glanced past them to their children they looked like any other Aussie kids having lots of fun at the beach.
Despite the layers of clothing, the women were also having a great time, lots of chat and laughter and food… all very yummy looking. It was pretty hard to sit and watch what came out of those esky’s – my vegemite sandwich wasn’t much comfort.
I was reminded of my own childhood days at the beach when there was always a scattering of over-dressed mediterranean mamma’s. They would sit under the small circle of shade provided by the beach umbrella and spent the day handing out food. In fact, probably the most noticeable difference was the quantity of shade. The portable beach huts provides shade for everyone. The men hadn’t changed much either, they were fishing off the rocks or kicking around a soccer ball.
As a first generation Australian I do feel back then the country trusted us to belong. Yes of course there was hostility and the word wog was not uncommon, but there was a sense that we were here to make a contribution and would enrich the country.
How much could never have been anticipated. If we just think about how exciting our food is – it reflects the richness of what cultural diversity can provide. But is there a group of Australians who still fear garlic and would just prefer mutton with white sauce?
My mother wept when she bought her first loaf of squishy white bread and realised (in the early 1950s) that was all there was. Maybe this is what is feeding the fear … What will we have to eat next?
If you look at how much the first generation of European immigrants has changed the quality of life in Australia,is this terrifying for some, are some early settlers still wanting the country to return to eating flavourless food, and have the dunny out the back, full of blow flies and spiders? Is this what people who fear immigration want?
So back to blocked trust and my beach holiday, the Muslims were all on holidays too. Each day we all returned to our same spots on the beach and over time I became more and more fascinated. I started to think – we’ve lost trust in our country and our way of being to do the job of belonging newcomers. Don Watson in his book, ‘The Bush,’ would say that Australians (indigenous people excepted) have never had trust in their country, hence why we’re still trying to control it, and still treat it very badly. I could add, and why we are still not a republic.
If trust is blocked there is no ability to envision new ways of being. I have no doubt that over the years our country will imprint a way of being on all new arrivals. Yes, and some of their ways of being will imprint on us.
Trusting in this process and our strength to reject or adapt practises according to our own taste, is what is currently missing. Blocked trust erodes kindness and generosity of spirit, it feeds meanness and reactive hostility. Whether within a family, or nationally, that’s the challenge; to think about how we can all play a small part in undermining the emotional driver of fear.