Do This Simple Activity To Determine Who You Can Actually Trust


Following my series of posts last month about how to deal with your insecurities, a subject that has been discussed recently with my clients is the concept of Trust.

Not only how one uniquely defines trust, but also what criteria must be met for one to both receive and offer trust. I have recently written on healthy ways of establishing a support system, but I did not go so far into the establishment of trust with those within the support system.

To do so, I am going to tell you a story. 

The Solar System Activity

I used to work in a short term crisis stabilization treatment program for teens who had either considered or attempted suicide, were self harming, and who experienced anxiety, depression, and many other related emotional presentations. 

Early in my tenure there, I worked with a fifteen year old girl who was so mature for her age that she had trouble navigating friendships. She got bullied for being intelligent, spent too much time taking care of others, and ended up feeling isolated and depressed. She had a close friend group, but she could not figure out on whom she could rely or to whom she could go for support when feeling down. 

I introduced her to the Solar System Model, a simple activity that maps out one's "circles of trust", so to speak. Here is how it worked:

She was a good artist with phenomenal handwriting, so I asked her to draw her own depiction of the Solar System and label the sun as herself. 

Next we used the metaphor of planet proximity to determine who was most trustworthy in her life, the closest planet representing the most trustworthy person. Once she had the planets drawn, she assigned a name or two to each planet, the asteroid belt, and even a couple moons.

We did not stop there, though. 

It is not enough to simply map out who is more trustworthy than others.

For her, the most important thing was knowing for what specifically she could rely on those individuals. The kind of support that those individuals could predictably provide.

Before indicating that on her Solar System, we made a separate list of the categories of support that she might need, and what it would look like. Everything from homework help from a certain teacher to emotional help from a very specific friend was on the list. 

Once she had her support list, she assigned a code or keyword next to each name on her illustration that indicated the category of trust on which that person could be relied to provide.

The Result

She now has a literal map of those people in her life to whom she could go for support as well as a framework for what kind of support those people can give. 

This means that, depending on the type of distress she is experiencing on a given day, she can look at the map, find the keycode for the support she needs, and then has a name or several names, ranked perfectly by their trustworthiness to her, of who to contact that can help. 

The map eliminates the stress, fear, and overwhelm involved in asking for help, especially when in a moment of emotional distress. 

Your turn

What would your solar system look like?

There are of course a hundred different variations of the Solar System activity for your system. A common variatoin that I have also used in the past is ordering the planets and moons by physical proximity, as in who is easiest and closest to contact when in need of a certain kind of support. Another one is making a whole Solar System focused on one singular form of support at a time. 

For instance, one Solar System of people to whom you could go for relationship advice, another for work stress, etc. In the young girl's case, one map could be family stress, another one could be academic stress, and yet another for emotions related to her social life. 

PRO TIP:  Not an artist? Write it down in order of the planets with you being the sun. Make a list that indicates the exact same planet proximity metaphor of who you can trust the most and for what. 

A lot of the kids I worked with put these illustrations up on their walls, so you should too. Photocopy it and post it at home, in your car, at your office, in your phone, everywhere. 

Life is too short to not know who you can ask for help any time you need it.