I write a lot about my experiences flying because I fly a lot – so I have material. Much of what I write is snarky or an expression of my annoyance with my fellow passengers, the TSA, airlines, really all of it because there is a lot of material out there. For instance I might mention the need for attention to personal hygiene when flying given the close quarters and the gentleman whose rear-end is right now in my olfactory space and the fact that it is abundantly clear that he needs a primer in effective wiping. But I am also very aware of the fact that this whole up in the air thing and hurtling through space is really a miracle and I am grateful every time we land exactly the way we are supposed to. “Phew,” I think, “we made it,” and I do always say “thank you” to the pilots if they are standing in the front as I exit the plane. They did their job and they didn’t have to. There was a very sad reminder of that last week in France.
I work in what can be characterized as an office job. If I don’t do my job the consequences are that information is not shared, ideas are not promulgated, greater efficiencies are not realized, people don’t feel as empowered; no one dies. I was in a meeting this week with a large group and someone said something about relying on other team members to get them the information they wanted. “it’s a trust issue, “ they said, “I have to depend on you.” Well yes, that’s true, sort of. But you can also just look up the information yourself or ask some additional questions – if the other people don’t do what you want in this scenario the consequence is use of time, that’s it. Not exactly dire, and the statement made me think about how we trust, the nature of trust, and those things that really do require some risk taking in relying on another person.
I have struggled with trust issues in my life, not as much anymore because I have been working very attentively on it for the last few years, but I totally get the paralytic fear of not being in control. When we are in control of something it means that we get to determine our emotional experience, when someone else is in control it means that there is the possibility of feeling things we don’t want to feel: disappointment, abandonment, lack of care – loads of things that can fit in the barrel of unpleasant.
It’s funny though, this thing about trust, because we tend as humans (and a lot of studies have been done in this area) to trust in the reliability much more those things that we are not capable of doing ourselves, than those that we can do. The irony is that for the vast majority of us the things we can do really don’t have terribly dire consequences, but the things we can’t do – well those are really pretty scary potential outcomes if something goes wrong. I bet you trust the surgeon to do a good job right? Odds are very high that is true if you are not a surgeon, if you are the odds are much lower that you trust that guy standing over you with a knife. How about your attorney? Of course you trust them, they understand how to use all those strange big words. As an inactive lawyer myself I am a little more cynical on the competence of my fellow members of the bar but that’s because I get how the game is played. How about flying, how do you feel about the pilots on the relative scale of trustworthiness?
This is not to say that we shouldn’t trust, we should even though sometimes we are going to be disappointed. And I say this in no way to minimize the scope or scale of enormous tragedy that results from misplaced trust. I trust the people in the front of the plane to get me where I am going and to do their job to the best of their ability – I trust them not because I believe them to be fantastically altruistic and I think that they have deep concern for the passengers, I trust them because it is in their best interest to perform well. And I still express gratitude for the outcome of their behavior because maybe that connection does create a stronger connection between us, and also I really appreciate that everything worked out okay. Trusting lets us learn something about gratitude, also other people and what they can or will do for us, and about ourselves. It was a terrible breach of trust that reminded me to think before I make trust a big deal in places where it is not, and to deeply appreciate the places where it is.