Taken from The Relational Soul – Trust fosters an open, receptive soul that is able to give one’s self and receive the presence of another in a free, responsible, and loving way. Mistrust leads to a closed, reactive soul that is unavailable to another in both detached and enmeshed ways. A receptive way of relating is the result of early relational connections in which one felt safe, secure, and deeply loved. It is marked BY a willingness to be present to others as they are without exaggerated evaluation or judgment or protection. The receptive person does not agree with everything others do because suspending all judgment is clearly unwise. But the receptive person has an “empathetic curiosity” by which one engages and explores relationships without feeling overly anxious, ashamed, or guilty.

By contrast, a reactive way of relating is overly anxious, fearful, suspicious, sad, or angry. It is the result of early relational connections in which one felt ignored, dismissed, rejected, and inferior. Reactivity is the energy underneath the “fight-flight-freeze” reactions in relationships. Sometimes we fight by clanging another with verbal denigrating and dismissive assaults. Sometimes we fight by clinging to another with unrealistic and overly dependent demands. Sometimes we literally walk away, refusing to relationally engage when conflicts arise. And sometimes we don’t walk away but are frozen, emotionally shut down, and give the “silent treatment” to others.

It is helpful to think in terms of a continuum when it comes to the matter of trust and mistrust. Most of us fit somewhere between the two ends receptivity and reactivity. And there are relational situations that cause us to move one direction or the other at particular times. These are not either/or categories. But we do have a propensity toward one side of the scale or the other. Our early history does indeed shape the soul to be fundamentally open or closed to relational engagement. We all have our particular setting in light of what we have lived (as well as our DNA … we will get to that later!).

Unless the reactive posture is understood as a strategy in service of maintaining emotional safety through either a detached or enmeshed style of relating, one will remain trapped. If the thermostat of one’s learned level of intimacy is too cold or too hot a healthy level of intimacy it will prove allusive. The avoidant as well as ambivalent (and certainly scattered) attachment pattern makes relational connection difficult.

Taken from The Relational Soul by Richard Plass and James Cofield. Copyright (c) 2014 by Richard Plass and James Cofield. Used by permission of InterVarsity Press, P.O. Box 1400, Downers Grove, IL  60515-1426. www.ivpress.com. Image from FreeDigitalPhotos.net.