*Dear Tamara:

In my lifetime I have been hurt and let down by everyone around me (my former spouse, family members, and friends). People have let me down so much in the past that I have a hard time connecting with anyone. I guess you can say that I have built a wall of protection around myself and it’s hard for me to trust people and open up. Because of this I spend a lot of time alone. I want to reconnect with my family and friends, but I really don’t know how to. How do I begin to trust people again?

Ready to Trust Again

Dear Trust:

I am truly sorry that you have experienced such painful relationships. Oftentimes we can find ourselves in a continuous cycle that we do not know how to break. When you have a stream of people in your life that you feel hurt you or let you down in some way, you really need to try and get to the root of this relationship pattern in your life. A lot of times we attract particular people and situations to our lives. And although we cannot pick and choose our family, those first relationships often shape future relationships and the people we find ourselves attracted to. So first examine yourself and what kind of people you are attracting into your life. Examine your relationships and try to pinpoint when these trust issues began. People can often ignore and/or or suppress experiences and feelings and not recognize how they play out in our daily lives and affect our everyday decisions.

And while it may be easier to point the finger at everyone around you, I encourage you to examine your own role in these failed relationships. You are ultimately in control of your own happiness. Many times we enter into relationships with unrealistic expectations. We expect the other person to somehow make us happy or to fulfill a specific role. When they do not live up to our expectations, we feel let down and disappointed. Look back over your relationships and be honest with yourself. Have all of these people really let you down?

Self examination is hard, so I encourage you to rely on your faith and/or seek professional help. Talking to someone may help you figure out the root of your trust issues and to begin to help you tear down the walls that you have built around yourself. No man is an island. We all need relationships with other people, especially family and friends.

Author of the upcoming book Been There Done That: And Lived to Tell About It (due out Spring 2011), Tamara R. Allen is Your Advice Guru giving REAL advice from REAL experience. Email your questions to [email protected]. You can follow Tamara on twitter @tamararallen or check out her daily column and archives at www.tamararallen.com.