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Trust me” is an everyday phrase which we may hear quite often in our day to day lives.  In a conversation between van driver and map-reading passenger one may tell the other to “trust me, it’s next left and then just around the corner on the right”.  It may be easy to place our trust in such an assertion – after all, even if the instructions are wrong the end result may only be an extra two or three minutes’ journey time.  The stakes involved in trusting this person are low; if the route is incorrect there are not any long-lasting or serious consequences.

But what when the stakes are higher?  The amygdala is the part of our brain responsible for detecting and reacting to threat, and it does its job without us ever having to consciously think about it.  It learns which environments are perceived to be threatening, which situations may cause us harm and when to alert us to imminent danger.  It does this completely automatically, and it has a long memory.  After all, if we as organisms were not good at identifying threat then we may not survive very long in this sometimes hostile world.  There may be no second chances when it comes to running from a wild animal, or when pulling ourselves back out of the path of an oncoming car, for example.  It is an essential part of our make-up, yet it can also work against us.

What happens when our internal panic button is pressed not because of an imminent threat, but because of the memory of a once-threatening situation which has long since passed?  In such a case we can be left in a very heightened state, nervous and jumpy, when logically there may not be any real need to be.  This can cause us a bigger problem if it happens at a time when becoming jumpy and tense is especially not welcome.  When at work or when simply walking down the street, to be thrown into panic - alert and ready for action - can be a distressing experience in itself.  The way out of this bewildering dilemma is in the amygdala re-learning what is a threat and what isn’t.  It’s all very well a friend or partner telling you to “trust them”, that the situation isn’t really threatening, but when your heart is racing and you are sweating, the amygdala is not easy to reason with.

When a client learns to trust in the counselling process and the safety of the confidential therapeutic relationship between themselves and the counsellor, approaching those alarming and traumatic triggers is possible in a session.  Slowly, relearning can occur and clients can become freer from the instant and sometimes debilitating physical reaction to past trauma and unpleasant prior experience.  The trust a client regains is hard-earned, and can be very valued indeed.

Rob Oglesby MBACP (Accred) B.A. (Hons) BSc | Ashwood Therapy

Ashwood Therapy provides a discreet, confidential and professional online counselling service by encrypted video call, live instant messaging and secure email.  More details, including tips on wellbeing and information on current counselling session pricing, can be found at www.ashwoodtherapy.com

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Trust | Ashwood Therapy Wellbeing Blog