Step 5: Once You Trust Yourself, You Can Trust Everyone

When my dogs meet friends, canine or human, they squeal and frolic with joy. But other people evoke a very different response. For example, we pass a bulldog named Chunky whose human frequently screams at and threatens other humans—not to mention poor Chunky. They go by in a cloud of weird, the man trying violently to make Chunky obey, Chunky straining furiously to escape. Everyone, canine and human, avoids them.

Last week, Chunky's human went into a violent tirade at another dog walker for no apparent reason. Today he waves and smiles, as though everyone who saw the event isn't mentally scarred. I wave and smile back, thinking, "I hope Chunky kills him in his sleep." I'm pretending that Chunky's human doesn't give me the creeps, which may be courteous, but it's also dangerous—or would be, if I acted "socially appropriate" while stifling the inner voice that was telling me someone shouldn't be trusted.

Dogs don't make this mistake. They trust their instincts, their bodies, their feelings. And this means they can trust all others—to be exactly what they are. Trusting yourself means you know what, and who, is authentic. You can trust liars to lie, cheaters to cheat, abusers to abuse, crazy makers to go on making you crazy. This trust will be based on what you actually sense and believe, rather than polite words and social pressure, and that's the only kind of trust you can always trust.

I'm perpetually surprised that people ask my advice when ordinary life is so crammed with useful lessons. I don't know about Shakespeare's trees, brooks, and stones, but I definitely find tongues in beagles, books in the running Labradors, and sermons in Scotties. Maybe your life teachers aren't dogs; maybe they're cats, or children, or shopping malls. Open your eyes and mind, and you'll see them everywhere. If not, you can always come walk my dogs. Just make sure you bring a little something for Cookie, because he's starving.

More Martha Beck Advice


Next Story