How happy and relaxed we feel in our lives has a lot to do with trust. This week's tip explores how much we trust the people and things in our lives, and how that affects us.
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A number of years ago I found a great dentist. I'd had various experiences with dentists, not all of them good, but this one I trusted completely. I trusted him to give me a good opinion, to do the right thing and to do it well. I also trusted him, which was important, never to do anything that was unnecessary. This was not only important to my pocket but also my teeth. An alarming study many years ago showed, in a large cohort of people, that there was a linear inverse relationship between the number of visits made to the dentist over their lives and how many teeth they had left. In other words the more times they'd been to the dentist in their lives, the fewer teeth they had. That is because every time you fill a tooth you lose some of that tooth. Armed with that knowledge, I really needed to trust my dentist!
As well as being a good and trustworthy dentist, he was a lovely man. Gentle, kindly and calm. He took beautiful care of my teeth, my partner's teeth, my children's teeth for twenty years. You can therefore imagine my consternation when I heard that he was retiring. What would we do now?
He had been replaced by two young dentists and the next time I went I booked in to see one them. I was disappointed. A bit of a flash Harry, it felt as though he had much more important things to do than look at my teeth. He checked, cleaned and polished them in about seven minutes. The word 'cursory' came to mind.
Reluctantly, because this practice is a short walk from my home, I asked around for recommendations for other dentists. Nobody seemed as keen on their dentist as I had been on mine. I decided to give the second of the duo at my old practice a chance.
He was delightful. He checked my teeth with meticulous care. He told me I didn't need a crown for my broken tooth, a filling would be fine. He explained everything as he went along. In the background he played old favourites on the radio. He was gentle, reassuring, kindly. I relaxed. Had I been able to I would have smiled.
It occurred to me that going to the dentist is a bit like life. Variable and unpredictable. It may all go smoothly and you happily leave in about twenty minutes with no damage done. It may not, and you find yourself facing some unpleasant (and probably expensive) procedure, and maybe some more unpleasant procedures in the future. There will be frightening sound effects, judders in your mouth, pain at unpredictable intervals. You don't know how long it is going to last. You can think of a thousand other places you'd rather be.
All of this is a great deal worse if you don't quite trust your dentist. You're tense, vigilant, nervous and perhaps skeptical of what he says, alarmed by every sound, every instrument, braced for every twinge of pain. You lie back, rigid, knuckles white on the arms of the chair and hating every moment.
If you trust your dentist it is quite different. You trust his or her opinion. You relax back in the chair, knowing that you're safe. There may be pain at times, but it will be ok. You listen to the songs on the radio. You watch the kindly eyes of your dentist, knowing that your welfare matters to him and that he's doing the best possible job. Maybe you would rather be in Gail's bakery having a coffee and eating a chocolate and almond croissant (or perhaps the scone bake?), nevertheless you are, strangely, happy.
1. Think of someone who has a part in helping or supporting you who you trust completely, or someone you have trusted in the past. It may be your dentist, your doctor, your lawyer, your car mechanic, your electrician, plumber, builder. What is it like when you're trusting in someone or something? What happens to your body, your feelings, your thoughts?
If you have trouble thinking of someone, think of something. That the sun will come up every morning. That your home will look the same when you arrive back there. That your bed will be as comfortable tonight as it was last night. That the chocolate and almond croissant in your local bakery will taste just as good today as it did last week. What can you count on in your life, and how does that affect the way you feel and behave? Enjoy that feeling for a while.
2. On a scale of one to ten, score your levels of trust in the following:
Your employer/boss (if you have one)
The important people in your life (each one)
Anyone or anything else that interests you
Notice how your different levels of trust affect the way you feel and behave.
3. Given that we rely on life, the universe and everything for much of what happens in our lives, what does it feel like when your trust in life is less than 10?
If you scored 0-9, imagine for a moment what it would be like if you scored 10? If you knew that sometimes life would be good, sometimes painful, sometimes confusing, but that something was ordering your existence, delivering to you the experiences that you need? What difference would that make to how you feel from day to day, and how you live your life?
What are the pros and cons of trusting and not trusting, and which would you prefer?
Have a go at trusting life a bit more this week, and see what happens!