Stage One: Trust versus Mistrust is from birth to 18 months and the value associated with this stage is Hope. Too much trust leads to sensory distortion while too much mistrust leads to withdrawal. For the child to master this stage it would require 80-90% trust while 10-20% mistrust. Often times clients cannot see the value of mistrust but this is what prevents them from being too gullible. Sensory distortion means the child tends to see the world as a fairy tale. This may be appropriate early in life, however, as they begin school this becomes a problem. The child will have to face this issue sooner or later and if parents help them to learn to mistrust appropriately it will be easier as they deal with peers later. On the other end of the spectrum would be too much withdrawal. In extreme cases these children have difficulty making meaningful connections with others. Reactive Attachment Disorder has its roots here where there was not a mother-figure to care for the child. In such disorders the child grows up to be an adult who does not have the ability for meaningful relationships. Children who are abused and end up in the custody of the state are at risk. But that is an extreme case. More commonly children will have a difficult time going to a person unfamiliar to them and cry, this would be a normal situation that must be faced and with the appropriate support this can be accomplished. If there is an appropriate balance between trust and mistrust then the child is hopeful about the world.
The impact of unresolved issues for clients connected to Stage One in therapy can be significant. Fundamentally it is true that the earlier development is disrupted the more significant the impact will be felt throughout life. The events that may impact this stage, as will all stages, must be seen on a continuum. As stated all children face normal disruption, but it is when their care is interrupted by a parent with alcohol or substance abuse, domestic violence or other traumatic events that the delicate balance is upset. In such cases self-esteem, feeling safe, having mutual relationships and taking healthy risk all can be significantly impacted. In such situations there is hope, however, the treatment required may be more intense. Trust is a building block for all relationship and especially in therapy. For clients who struggle with these issues this will likely be a primary issue that must be addressed between client and therapist. It is perfectly normal to raise this matter and in so doing the opportunity comes to move slowly from a position of mistrust to trust. As I prescribe for all of my clients, three things are helpful: exercise, journaling and meditation. Please note there is a tab labeled 'meditation' and this can be used as a tool to manage thoughts, feelings and behavior.