History will show that Iyanla Vanzant is one of America’s most profound spiritual leaders and acclaimed empowerment legends. Her body of work spans over three decades to include 15 published books, 5 New York Times best sellers (translated into 23 languages and with sales exceeding 8 million copies), CDs, television, radio and on stage performances.
Iyanla Vanzant is a woman of passion, vision and purpose catapulted into world prominence and recognition, Iyanla refuses to accept “celebrity status.” She is grounded and remains connected to the people she serves. Her unique gift is her ability to simply walk right into your heart. Likened to other great African American Women in our history, Iyanla embodies a no-nonsense approach in her message and teaching style. Outspoken, fiery, transparent, truthful, and sage-like are just a few of the common adjectives used when describing Iyanla Vanzant. Her latest book is called: Trust.
Mastering the 4 Essential Trusts: Trust in God, Trust in Yourself, Trust in Others, Trust in Life
Interview with Iyanla Vanzant
Dirk Terpstra: Why this book? Why is the issue of trust so important to you?
lyanla Vanzant: Trust is a natural, inherent part of who we are as human beings. It is the glue that holds our lives together. Learning to trust is so simple, and yet it is the hardest thing we must learn to do in this life. Over the decades, I have worked with many, many people, all of whom were at various stages of experiencing a trust breakdown or breakthrough. Many of these individuals never learned that they could trust themselves. Some placed their trust in others, only to be abandoned, rejected, or exploited; others never learned that trust builds character and spiritual power. Each person whose trust was violated represents a microcosm of the world in which we live—where anger and fear, confusion and isolation, lack of faith and a wanton disregard for the divine process of life cause people to act against their true nature. Since our true nature is to be trusting, every small violation of individual trust creates a ripple effect that ultimately impacts the entire world in which we live. That’s how important we are as individuals, and that’s how powerful trust is in our lives. That’s the reason that the pervasive sentiment that—“you can’t trust anyone” is so disturbing.
Dirk: What is Trust?
lyanla: First of all, trust is a noun, not a verb. Trust is a way of thinking, being, and living that grows from experience, desire, and choice. Trust is a demonstration of hope, courage, and perseverance that moves the mind, heart, and body beyond what is known into the realm of what is possible. From the time you get out of bed in the morning until the time you fall asleep at night, you are functioning, operating, and depending on something or someone you trust. For some strange reason we have come to believe that trust is something that we can do or not do. The truth is that trust as a state of being and a state of mind develops and unfolds in response to our willingness to be alive. That’s right! Just staying alive is an act of trust. If you don’t believe it, exhale and try not to inhale . . . If you allowed your body to take that next breath, you were trusting that it would happen, that you could do it, and that everything would be fine until you were ready to do it again. You were consciously exhaling, inhaling, and trusting.
Dirk: What are the most essential aspects of trust?
lyanla: The absolute necessity of trusting yourself! Trusting yourself is the prelude to and foundation for trusting everyone and everything else. There is a process and a practice to trust. Life gives you the process through your experiences. People provide you with the opportunity to practice. You will also find it easier to trust if you understand that what you put out will come back to you. Trusting life is easy, but it requires that you understand and embrace the laws of life. Cause and effect, correspondence, vibration, attraction, love, and forgiveness are all concrete laws that govern the movement and unfolding of life. It is unfortunate that we are not taught these laws in school. It is even more unfortunate that we do not pay attention to how we do what we do, because that is how the laws are made practical and personal for us.
As human beings we often seem primed to remember who and what hurt us rather than focusing on how we made it through the pain. Some of us have lived through some horrific experiences as children and adults. At some point, however, if we ever want to trust who we are and the power we have, we must choose to remember that we can in fact rely on ourselves to handle difficult situations, circumstances, and people. In order to learn to trust ourselves, we must be willing to surrender and forgive those who may have caused us hurt or harm or who threatened our mental, emotional, or physical survival. Learning to trust yourself means focusing on the good you are, the good you have, and the good you desire so that the truth can heal all error thought and allow you to see the blessing hidden in all that you have been through, gone through, and grown through.
Dirk: What are the first lessons that human beings learn about trust?
lyanla: Trust is an essential soul need and the first task of the human ego. It grows from the need to be safe, to belong, and to survive. Learning to trust others and ourselves is something the ego struggles with for a lifetime. As infants, we are dependent on others to provide all of our basic needs: food, clothing, warmth, protection, and affection. We trust our parents and/or caregivers blindly, because we know nothing else. If our needs are met consistently and responsively, not only do we learn to trust our parent’s ability to provide for us but we learn to trust our environment as well. If, for any reason, our basic needs are not met consistently and affectionately, we develop a sense of mistrust toward people and life. Then as we grow up, our unmet and unaddressed trust needs can turn into blame, resentment, anxiety, frustration, suspicion, anger, and a sense of helplessness and rejection. Such feelings often fester and grow into dysfunctional behavior patterns that impact every aspect of our lives.
Dirk: Self-trust begins with self. It is an individual experience that grows both from your relationship with yourself as well as your belief in and experience with something greater than yourself. It may or may not be supported by others. If you don’t trust you, it doesn’t matter what anyone else says or does. When you don’t trust yourself, nothing will sound or feel or look right, because you will be waiting for a guarantee that will never show up. And even if it were to show up, chances are you wouldn’t trust it anyway. A huge part of your journey to self-trust will be learning how to deprogram yourself from all of the misinformation that has hijacked your mind since childhood.
Self-trust has nothing to do with passively expecting that you can or will have and receive everything you want, when you want it, just like you want it. Self-trust is about having an inner voice, being connected to that inner voice, learning how to hear and follow that voice, instead of all of the other adult authority voices playing in your head. Self-trust means having the confidence in your own value and worth and in your ability to do what is best for you, moment by moment. And if the choices and decisions you make do not work out for your highest good, you know and believe that you will still be okay.
Dirk: Why do our feelings matter?
lyanla: Not only do our feelings matter, they are at the core of whatever we believe is the matter with us. Feelings are a fundamental means of communication that arise from inside us. Feelings cannot be faked. As adults, we think or talk ourselves out of what we feel. We convince ourselves that working is more important than eating, or that watching television, doing the laundry, or finishing an assignment for work is more important than sleeping. We tune out our feelings, essentially committing a form of self-abuse and neglect.
When you are unwilling or afraid to feel your feelings, when you don’t want to cry or say the wrong thing, you can get stuck in thinking about what you should feel rather than acknowledging what you actually do feel. When you are not in touch with your feelings, when you cannot name them or do not give yourself space and permission to feel them, you are left with needs that do not go away and that you are unable to fulfill. This leads you to believe that you are not safe in the world, that you make bad choices, that you cannot have what you desire, and that your best efforts will never be good enough. You spend so much time gathering facts externally that you miss the information you receive internally through your feelings, and this is how you miss the boat outfitted to deliver you into self-trust.
Dirk: What are some of the sure signs that “you don’t trust yourself”?
- You have a hard time recognizing, understanding, or believing in your innate value and worth.
- You think that you could have done something to change or stop the childhood abuse, neglect, or abandonment that you experienced.
- You do things to prove yourself and your value to others.
- You try to control everything around you so you can feel safe.
- You minimize or deny your own needs.
- It’s sometimes difficult for you to recognize or tell the truth.
- You are unable to find, or value, your own voice.
- You mentally relive or rehash past traumas or adverse events.
- You break the promises that you’ve made to yourself.
- You fail to keep the commitments and/or agreements that you’ve made with others.
- You deny or minimize your power of choice.
“Love is always present, surrounding us; guiding, growing and teaching us.”
Dirk: How can firm boundaries help to build trust?
lyanla: A boundary makes and keeps us aware of how far we can go, how much we can do, and what we can expect and will accept from others. The purpose of having boundaries is to protect the physical, mental, and emotional self from unwanted intrusions. When you know what is expected of you, you have the power to choose whether or not you want to participate or be in relationships with people. Having clear boundaries and honoring them is a critical element in the development of trust. Too often we allow people to “behave badly” and to overstep our boundaries. Even when we do summon the courage to draw a line in the sand, when someone actually crosses that line, too often we go back and draw another line.
Boundaries related to privacy, confidentiality, time requirements, personal space or property, and commitment expectations can serve to enhance the quality and integrity of any relationship. You need to be able to tell other people when they are being or behaving in ways that are unacceptable or frightening to you. When people care about you, they will respect the boundaries that you request and expect.
Here are some proven tools for establishing and maintaining healthy boundaries:
- Always communicate the parameters of your boundaries. Explain the “what and why.” Don’t ask other folks to read your mind.
- You’re not only responsible to let others know that a boundary exists, you must inform them if and when they have violated it.
- Spell out the consequences of violating your boundaries.
- When someone violates a boundary, you have to enforce consequences. Don’t just issue wolf tickets.
- If someone repeatedly violates your boundaries, you have to be willing to surrender the relationship. If not, you’re setting yourself up for repeated hurt or heartache.
lyanla: Trusting others is a difficult task and a powerful lesson. It means that we place our confidence in someone to be honest, to keep his promise, to honor her word, and to treat us with decency and respect at all times, no matter what. The point we all seem to miss is that trusting other people means that we have a realistic understanding and perspective about people and that we must prepare ourselves for their failures. It means knowing that people are sometimes broken and complex, that they will lie when they are afraid and sacrifice our feelings to keep themselves safe and comfortable. Trusting others means recognizing, acknowledging, and accepting that we all have a history, and in some instances that history is filled with hurt, pain, and wounds that can and do impede our best intentions, resulting in dysfunctional behaviors that can have a devastating impact on those we know or love and care about most. In essence, trusting others means knowing that at all times, under all circumstances, in every situation, and with all people, we must be willing to trust, forgive, and start all over again.
Dirk: We have been speaking about trust ourself, which is of course directly related to self-love. What does love mean to you?
lyanla Vanzant :
- Love is what you have come into life to give.
- Love is always present, surrounding us; guiding, growing and teaching us.
- Love is a principle. It is the presence of God active in our consciousness.
- Love is what we are. It is the energy by which we were born.
- You cannot get love from the outside until you ARE love on the inside.
- Love is the foundation of the universe. It is the reason we come to life and the reason for living.
- God is love and what God creates can never be destroyed.
- Love is the voice of God whispering to you from within yourself.
- Love is the greatest, most enduring power in the universe. Then again, there is no other power.
- God’s love is present everywhere, at all times. Where love is, there is no fear.
- Every experience, every encounter, every lesson learned is life’s way of training you to be a greater expression of love.
- Love is right where you are, wherever you are, in this moment. Love is available to you right now. Will you be available to love?
- Love is the only experience that replaces fear. Peace is the result.
- Love is divine. Love is the activity of God, and the only energy in which God exists.
INTERVIEW BY: DIRK TERPSTRA – SOUL LOVE FOUNDER
This interview also appeared on OMTimes.