Trust, with Dr. Dave Richo

January 29, 2020 Kim Forrester Season 5 Episode 2
Trust, with Dr. Dave Richo
Trust, with Dr. Dave Richo
Jan 29, 2020 Season 5 Episode 2
Kim Forrester

David Richo, PhD, MFT, is a psychotherapist, teacher, workshop leader, and writer who integrates the psychological and the spiritual. His many books include Daring to Trust: Opening Ourselves to Real Love and Intimacy. On this episode of Eudaemonia, Kim Forrester chats with David about the importance of trust, and learns how our lives are enhanced when we develop greater trust in others, ourselves, a higher power, and in the process of life itself. 

Show Notes Transcript

David Richo, PhD, MFT, is a psychotherapist, teacher, workshop leader, and writer who integrates the psychological and the spiritual. His many books include Daring to Trust: Opening Ourselves to Real Love and Intimacy. On this episode of Eudaemonia, Kim Forrester chats with David about the importance of trust, and learns how our lives are enhanced when we develop greater trust in others, ourselves, a higher power, and in the process of life itself. 

Kim Forrester:   0:00
Studies have shown that there is a clear link between trust and greater happiness and well being. But how do we become more trusting when the world can appear to be so unscrupulous and unreliable? I'm Kim Forrester and today, on the Eudaemonia podcast, we're going to take some time to talk about trust.  

Intro:   0:24
Welcome to Eudaemonia, the podcast that is all about flourishing. Plug in, relax and get ready for the goodness as we explore the traits and practises that can help you thrive in life with your host, Kim Forrester.  

Kim Forrester:   0:44
Dr. David Rico is a psychotherapist, teacher, workshop leader and writer who combines Jungian, poetic and mythic perspectives in his work, with the intention of integrating the psychological and the spiritual. His many books include 'Daring To Trust' and his latest publication, 'Five True Things: A Little Guide to Embracing Life's Big Challenges'. It's my absolute delight to be chatting with David today about the importance of trust, and to learn how our lives are enhanced when we develop greater trust in others, in ourselves, and in the process of life itself.  

Kim Forrester:   1:23
Dave Rico, thank you so much for joining me here at the Eudaemonia podcast. How are you today?

Dave Richo:   1:28
I'm doing fine. Thank you for inviting me.

Kim Forrester:   1:32
I think trust is such an important topic for us to explore. In your book about trust, you maintain that we actually only have a word for trust - we only know what trust is - because we know what it is to mistrust. You explain that it's like a fish who only has a word for water when they actually experience dry land. Is it that you consider trust to be some kind of default human condition?

Dave Richo:   1:58
Yes, it defaults from our early life. Because we recognised as soon as we were born and we expressed our needs for nurturance, that we had to trust our caregivers to come through and to fulfil our legitimate needs. And since they did, we got the impression that we were born into a world that we could trust. So we simply took trust as the default; as kind of like taking it for granted. And in a way, this is good because it prepares us to keep trusting. And that's good. But it doesn't prepare us for one of the givens of life, which is that people are not necessarily trustworthy all the time.

Kim Forrester:   2:56
You say that it's important for us to understand our history of trust, and it's certainly something I think that most people are totally oblivious to. How does our history of trust affect our present day relationships, and how can we determine what that history actually is?

Dave Richo:   3:14
Since the original needs could be summarised by what I call the Five A's; the five basic needs that we came into the world with. We needed attention, acceptance, appreciation, affection and allowing. So when we were born, we needed to trust that caregivers were paying attention. That's the first 'A' to our needs. And when they came through, we were beginning to build a sense of trust. Also, when they held us affectionately, we instinctively knew that we needed that kind of holding. And now we even understand that our brain doesn't develop well unless we have physical holding. So we know it is important for our survival. That was the second 'A' - affection. With this, we had the feeling when they, the caretakers, made so much of us that they appreciated us; that they valued us. That's the third 'A' - appreciation. Then as we started to show our individual personality, and we noticed (of course I'm describing the best of all possible worlds) that they did accept us just as we are, rather than try to turn us into what they thought we should be, that was the fourth building block of trust. And the final building block, and one that's most important, is the day on which we crawled across the floor and no longer needed to be carried across, followed by the day we went to school on our own, followed by all the times we made our own choices and followed our own will rather than obey all the rules. And that's called allowing. They allowed us to make the choices that we needed to make for our own freedom. (Of course, this is within reasonable limits. They were trying to protect us from danger, too.) When you put those Five A's together, that's the equivalent of the building blocks of trust, and also those Five A's tell you what real love is about - since love and trust are deeply intertwined. So when we received these Five A's in early life, we were preparing for a lifetime of trusting. And then, as we noticed - well, balanced that with the given that people are not always trustworthy - we started to set limits on how much we would trust. That was healthy, also. So that's how it all comes together with respect to early life, in my view,

Kim Forrester:   6:33
It seems to me, though, Dave, that very few people on this planet would have had all five of those vital needs met in terms of building that initial sense of trust. Is that what you have experienced? Is that your point of view?

Dave Richo:   6:48
Yes, it's rare that you received all five. But, as I say in my book Daring to Trust, if you didn't receive these five, or if you received only one or two of them - and by the way, you don't have to receive them perfectly. Child psychiatrist D. W. Wainscot says, all we need is 'good enough' parenting, not perfect parenting. 'Good enough' parenting means you can remember a reasonable number of instances in which one of these, or more, came to you. So if you did not receive them, since you instinctively needed them, that means you felt a loss of something that you knew was important for your growth. So, in the present, you want to think back to how deficient your childhood was, and you want to grieve for what you missed. But do it in such a way that you don't blame your parents. You simply say, 'Well, this is what happens, and blaming is not going to get me anywhere. What I need to do is feel sad about what I missed out on. Feel some anger about it. Feel some fear that I may never get my needs met'. It's all perfectly normal. And when you keep going through this experience of grieving, you get stronger and you start to trust yourself. So, your style in an adult relationship, since you've already learned 'I can't just automatically trust someone' - you learned that in childhood - you bring that into the adult relationship in this way: Instead of 'I trust you', it's 'I trust myself to receive the Five A's when you give them', and to say ouch or make a bid for them when you don't receive them. And you do all this without ill will or retaliation if you don't get what you want. So this is how you make up for what was missing in early life. You grieve for what you didn't get and you change your style of trusting: instead of 'I trust you' it's 'I trust myself to receive from you when that's happening. And to receive with gratitude. And when it's not happening, to speak up with assertiveness, but without ill will.'

Kim Forrester:   9:45
That's really powerful. David.

Dave Richo:   9:47
The 'without ill will' is not psychological, it's spiritual. It's your spirituality that takes away ill will.

Kim Forrester:   9:57
And imbued in that spiritual sense of 'no ill will' is a trust that people are always doing the best that they are capable of doing at any particular point in time. Would you say that's correct?

Dave Richo:   10:09
Well, I have a new way of putting it. So let's try this out. And this refers to people and parents from our past. You know, we sometimes say, 'My parents were doing the best they could do.' My view is a bit radical. I say, 'Hardly anybody does the best he or she can do all the time. Sometimes, they were doing the best that they could do, but always they were doing the best that they were willing to do.'

Kim Forrester:   10:46
Oh, wow.

Dave Richo:   10:48
That's how I put it. For instance, the dentist told me I should spend five minutes on my teeth every morning, but I spend one minute. So I start the day not doing my best. But now, talking to you, I believe I am doing my best with this interview. But in the morning, I'm only doing the best I am willing to do - that's as far as I'm going. I'm not following what he recommended. Of course, I'm not making a good decision. It would be better if I did follow what he said, but I'm just not doing it. So that's what I mean by we're not always doing our best.

Kim Forrester:   11:29
David, how much influence can our own expectations and projections play in our ability and our willingness to trust someone else?

Dave Richo:   11:38
Well, since we want someone trustworthy, of course, we could project on someone that he or she will be exactly what we want. But we need to bring in a kind of, shall we say, radical loyalty to evidence. So when the evidence shows that someone is trustworthy, we go with it, knowing that at any time anybody could be untrustworthy. But if it's pretty much established - there's a long series of trustworthy fidelity to ground rules in relationships - then we can rest easy that we can go on trusting. If, instead, that isn't happening and we keep telling ourselves it is, or hoping that it will be, those are all projections and expectations. And that's what's now called 'being co-dependent'. You keep believing something is there, when it isn't.

Kim Forrester:   12:44
There's a tendency, particularly in today's very tribalistic society, to automatically trust those who are in your in-crowd and to mistrust those who have a particular label that you do not align with. Obviously, rising above the superficial desire to label people and bucket them as trustworthy or untrustworthy is a part of what you're talking about there, is that right? So we have to sort of step more into the evidence of what's provided to us rather than our preconditioned labels.

Dave Richo:   13:19
Right. We can't trust, just because this is a person within my tribal structure, that he or she will be reliable. Because that's contrary to the one of the givens of life, which is - and I talk about this in my new book, which is called Five True Things. One of these five true things is, people are not loving or loyal all the time. So we would have to be ready for whatever they are. We say ouch when they hurt us, we don't hurt back when we have a spiritual programme, but we do back off so that they won't hurt us again. If they are trustworthy and they're not hurting us, we stay with them. And I know this sounds very easy when we talk about it, but it's extremely difficult. In fact, this is my 50th year anniversary of being a therapist. And I would say that if I were to ask myself, 'What is the most common problem of all my clients over the 50 years?' I could answer without hesitation: staying too long in what doesn't work.

Kim Forrester:   14:42
Oh, wow. I wonder if those occasions where people stay too long in situations that are unhealthy for them ... is that a situation where someone is willing to trust another more than they trust themselves?

Dave Richo:   14:58
Exactly. Right. So in that sense, it's a child's way of trusting, rather than the adult way. Adult trust is based entirely on evidence.

Kim Forrester:   15:08
Oh, I see. I trust ...

Dave Richo:   15:11
I trust you because I see that you're trustworthy.

Kim Forrester:   15:13
Absolutely. So how important is it, then, for us to learn to trust ourselves and, Dave, to trust the process of life itself?

Dave Richo:   15:21
Well, that fits with my compass analogy in my book, Daring to Trust. I say that trust goes in four directions. So if you could picture a compass: north, east, south and west. East is, I trust myself. West is, I trust other people who are trustworthy, like trustworthy friends, trustworthy partners, trustworthy family members. So there's our horizontal plane: east-west. I'm at one end, and all the people I trust are at the other. So, east and west. Now we go vertical. North, we trust a higher power in whatever way we configure it - it could be God, it could be the universe, it could be ... By higher power I mean higher than our own ego.  And this trust in the higher power is not trust that things will always turn out right. It's obvious that that's not in keeping with the laws of life. You could be the best person in the world and things will turn out badly. So our trust is not that. Our trust is that ... is described in the 23rd Psalm: I may have to walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, but the one thing that makes me different as I walk through it, is that I'm not afraid. And the reason I'm not afraid is because I have the sense of being accompanied. I don't have a God who says, 'You won't have to walk through the valley'. But I do have a God who says, 'I'll walk through with you'. So that would be a mature religious view for those who see things religiously. So that's an  example of what I mean by a higher power, and not asking too much of this high power. And then, finally, south is trusting bedrock reality. And that's what you brought up - that you trust that things are working ... No. You're not trusting that things are working in such a way that everything will come out right in the end. That would be childish; that's not in keeping with the laws of life. Things don't always work out in the end. But there's one thing you can say. You can trust that, no matter what may happen, within it will be an opportunity for growth; for the practise of loving kindness and mindfulness. So that's how we trust reality; the things that happen. "I trust other people, but only in so far as they show that they're trustworthy. I trust a higher power, but only as accompaniment, not as change agent. I trust reality, but not as 'it will all come out right for me', but only as 'there will always be an opportunity for the practise ... for my spiritual practise'.

Kim Forrester:   18:43
Let's talk about that spiritual practise because you've already touched on it a few times, and it is throughout your book there. You talk about developing a spiritual consciousness and remaining heart-centred. Why is this helpful to us, Dave? How can it enhance our experience of trust, in particular?

Dave Richo:   19:02
Carl Jung says that we become healthy when we live from an unconditional 'yes' to the conditions of our existence, without protest. So it's described very well in the famous prayer used in the twelve-step programmes: the serenity to accept things we cannot change. So I'm saying 'yes', unconditionally, to the way things are and to the things that I can't change - especially in my personality and that of others, and in the way the world turns. But I'm also always looking for the courage in myself - activating the courage in myself - to change the things I can change and the wisdom to know the difference. So I see those three as the central three spiritual practises. And each one is 'yes'. The first is a 'yes' to the way it is. That's acceptance. The second 'yes' to making changes. That's courage. The third is finding the wisdom to know the difference.

Kim Forrester:   20:18
So let's compliment that spiritual perspective with a scientific perspective. Researchers believe that around 50% of our capacity for happiness comes down to genetics. Is there any link, as far as you're aware, between our genetic makeup and our capacity for trust?

Dave Richo:   20:37
I don't really see it that way. I see it more as the sum of our original experiences and the pattern of later experiences. But I would certainly say that, in cavepeople times, the ones who trusted implicitly did not survive. So we're the descendants of the suspicious ones; the ones who said 'Wait a minute. There may be something hidden behind that bush. A sabre toothed tiger may be crouching, waiting.' Those are the ones who survived. Not the ones who blithely, you know ... like, looked like The Fool in the Tarot pack, who's just whistling and he's ready to fall off the cliff.

Kim Forrester:   21:34
It's interesting then. So that we are ... we are the descendants of the suspicious ones. However, are we doing ourselves a disservice if we become too suspicious and too mistrustful off the world in general?

Dave Richo:   21:49
Well, I look at in in the framework of the Goldilocks story. So we're always confronted with three choices: on the far left is 'too much', on the far right is 'too little', and in the middle there's 'just right'. Now she, Goldilocks, tried the first bowl of porridge. It had too much heat. When she went to the next one, that one had too little. But the third one had just the right amount of heat. So, on the topic of trust, we can trust too much, too little, or just right. How do you trust just right? One, trust yourself. Two, base your trust of others on evidence. If they show over and over again that they can be trusted because they keep agreements and they work things out with you - so that's how you know they're really committed to you - and you can trust them. Or if they don't do  that ... No, no. Let's put it this way. You base your 'just right' trust on what I just said. But you could overly trust; you just trust everybody. That's the 'too much'. Or don't trust anybody, no matter what the evidence is. That's too little; that's the equivalent of Mama Bear's porridge. Too little. Papa Bear is 'too much'.  Baby Bear, 'just right'. It's always those three. So a good way to check in on yourself when you're making a decision, is to ask yourself, 'What does 'too much' look like?  What does 'too little' look like? And what does 'just right' look like?' That really helps you make a wiser decision.

Kim Forrester:   23:57
In each moment, in every situation.

Dave Richo:   24:01
Yeah, in any situation.

Kim Forrester:   24:03
Dave, the Eudaemonia podcast is about flourishing in life. And I'm really interested to know, since you've been learning and teaching about trust, has it changed your approach to life? And I know you've been doing this now for many decades - congratulations on your 50 years of therapy work - but how has knowing more about trust changed your approach to life, to yourself, and to others, and perhaps to a higher power?

Dave Richo:   24:31
I have noticed that, as I've come to understand this more, I've been a combination of more careful and more prodigal. So, sometimes I experiment with being more trustworthy ... more trusting. And sometimes, being less trusting. And I get it wrong about half the time. But the one thing that has changed through all that I've learned about this topic of trust, and what led me to write the book - and this is a spiritual realisation - that what matters most is 'can I be trustworthy?' So, the work I'm doing on myself, it's about how I could be as trustworthy as possible, rather than asking the question over and over again, 'Why in the world can't these people be trustworthy?' I'm not asking that question as much because I'm accepting the given - that people just are not always trustworthy.

Kim Forrester:   25:37
And you do that - you accept that - without ill will.  

Dave Richo:   25:41

Kim Forrester:   25:43
My final question, Dave, is one that I ask all of my guests on the Eudaemonia podcast. Can you recommend a morning reminder - so this might be a ritual or practise, perhaps an affirmation - something that can help my listeners develop a healthier sense of trust in their daily lives?

Dave Richo:   25:59
Yes. First of all, on my website, which is, if you go to the button that says 'free articles', the very first thing is affirmations for letting go of fear. And that's the equivalent of building trust. And it's about 10 minutes long and you can listen to it daily. It's free. And just by kind of going with me in the affirmations, that really helps you build your trust. And I see it as a good daily exercise.

Kim Forrester:   26:44
David, that sounds like a truly wonderful practise, and I encourage people to go to your website, check out that article and perhaps learn to practise letting go of the fear, on a daily basis. Dave, I am incredibly honoured and grateful to you for spending your time with me here on the Eudaemonia podcast. Thank you so much for all the work that you do and for sharing some of your wisdom with me here today. 

Dave Richo:   27:08
Well, thank you for giving me the chance to share. And I don't know anything of myself. I believe everything I know is a grace. I'm thankful for how the Holy Spirit has helped me know what I know. So thank you.

Kim Forrester:   27:24
The German poet, von Goethe once wrote, 'As soon as you trust yourself, you will know how to live.' You've been listening to the Eudaemonia podcast. If you'd like to learn more about how to live a truly flourishing life, please subscribe and check out for more inspiring episodes. I'm Kim Forrester. Until next time, be well, be kind to yourself and trust that life is always working in your favour.