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You have one choice in what you assume about the world before engaging with others. Either you can think people are genuinely good, rational and fair if you make them feel understood, respected and acknowledged. Or, you choose to see that everyone around is just trying to hurt you, cheat you, and lie to you whenever you give them the opportunity. Either there is such a strong gravity pull or spiritual longing to be altruistic in the hearts of human beings—or this society is just another jungle or Wild West where there is nothing other than the evidence of our selfish nature.
I can tell you from my own experience that to be in a frequent “survival” state of being— a state of hypervigilance— is not a nice place to be in life. This is the place when, in doubt, you default to thinking that others are full of negative intent against you. Even those with whom you share your environment. This mindset optimizes the short term by “minimizing the risk” of being betrayed— when correlating trust and vulnerability as a weakness— in exchange for a long-term feeling of constant fear, separateness, and nihilism. This mindset sees other people as a means to an end and not an end in themselves.
Most of us have been deeply hurt by the actions of a person in the past— a lover, a business partner, or a larger community or institution. This, in turn, makes us less naive and innocent and invites us to be as cynical and radically skeptical as possible to avoid getting hurt for a second time. What no one speaks enough about is that while cynicism will help you not get betrayed by free riders and unethical individuals, it also brings a cost to your psychological well-being.
The fact is that as self-sufficient as we aim to be— we are at all times embedded in a larger social network. Anything that happens in this social ecosystem will eventually have a repercussion on us. Because such is a reality, the invitation is to resolve to play the game of life with the acknowledgment that it isn’t possible to fully love without being willing to get heartbroken in the process.
Real maturity is knowing that cynicism is just another state that has to be overcome, just as simple naivety. The road less traveled is trusting when knowing that others have the potential of damaging. We will be willing to take the risk because we know that we, too, have such potential. Sooner or later— we will all witness how, in certain circumstances— we hurt others even when we don’t intend to. We ourselves can fall prey to greed and envy, resentment and arrogance, and behave mistakenly when feeling angry or having had a bad night of sleep.
Although there is no virtue of being in a constant state of dependency, being obsessed with being “independent” will not allow love and connection to flow with its full capacity. Mature trust is the only bridge to a state of interdependence with other people. All that is needed is to constantly take a leap of faith and believe that, in the long term, trust is the first step to mutually alleviating suffering.
Gaining the trust of others and not betraying that trust will win you a good reputation. Doing good will give you a psychological reward that makes it easier to be proud of what you stand for. And because over time you have cultivated a positive intent towards others, you start opening up to the assumption that others who are interested in flourishing as individuals will also act from a positive intent because they also have arrived to the conclusion that there is no better alternative.
This mindset is not conditional to life being fair. Getting cheated occasionally is a small price for trusting the best of everyone because when you trust the best in others— the truth is— they generally treat you best, and you will live a much happier life.
With all love,
Santiago Barragan Noguera
Coach & Educator — Artistic Polymath
Copyright © 2023 Santiago Barragan Noguera. All rights reserved.