Back to Basics: Basic Trust (Honey Badger on the Couch)

January 4, 2012

Welcome to 2012—as we slog through our potential post-holidays blues, here’s to hoping we can make it a Happy New Year for all of us, one with a little less work and worry and a little more fun and hanging out.

Given whatever clouds of Mayan Calendar mystical mumbo jumbo this year may come in trailing, perhaps it serves us to get back to basics:  Basic Trust.

“Basic Trust” is what Erik Erikson, an esteemed and influential developmental psychologist framed as the very first psychological/emotional stage of life.  In the first year of life, Erikson believed, an infant develops either trust—the trust that caregivers will respond, soothe, feed, protect and love—or, more sadly, mistrust (and then the rest of life sort of sucks).

Basic Trust is the foundation of hope, of positive expectations, of the capacity to give love.  Obviously, we want to instill this in our children (and we shall talk more about how we might work together to do this in coming weeks), but we also want to get this basic trust thing going for ourselves.  Erikson had enough basic trust to become a professor at Harvard, Yale and Berkley without himself earning even a BA degree.

While we may ourselves be trailing wounds and trauma owing to stumbles along our own first step by virtue of wounded caregivers during our infancy, thanks to the ingenuity and plasticity of our brains and our hearts, if we cultivate loving kindness and consciousness we can achieve more than a modicum of basic trust (and we shall talk more about how we might pull this off too, in weeks to come).

The Buddha suggests that enlightenment is to be found when we relinquish fear and desire.  We’ve been focusing on fear this past year, the opposite of basic trust.  Next up after stage one comes the second:  initiative vs. guilt (i.e. are we paralyzed by our fearful mistrust, or are we ready to play with the toys and explore the sandbox?).

So, while we will try to cultivate basic trust for our kids (and ourselves), we parents can also drop our guilt and fear-based inhibition and turn toward taking loving initiative.  But before we can relinquish desire, perhaps we have to first have a little desire (even if it is desire to feel safer, more creative, more self-expressed, more connected, etc.) pulsing in our enlivened hearts?

While I may idealize Mary Poppins and Atticus Finch as iconic parenting heroes, I would also like to nominate a parenting mascot for 2012:  the honey badger.  And I’ll tell you why:  Honey Badger Don’t Care.

If you haven’t seen what’s up with honey badger, click here to join 30 million folks who already know just what time it is by some abstruse virtual viral maybe Mayan Calendar.

Honey badger is a bit like that cheesy trope at the zoo where it says:  “The Most Dangerous Animal on Earth,” but you’re looking into a mirror.

The honey badger is half a Buddha:  honey badger has relinquished fear (or never drank from that cup in the first place, having been given basic trust by mama honey badger) yet it has not relinquished basic earthy desire—particularly for food, and who can’t relate to that?

We are wired for love as parents, to be giving and loving, and are then asked to suffer the slings and arrows of tantrums, melt-downs, attitude, rejection, demands, and the like.  Just as sports teams need intrepid mascots, parenting needs the honey badger.

So, while none of us is any super-parent, playing on the same team together in mind and spirit we might invoke the honey badger as our patron saint of snark and perseverance lest in our over-earnestness we die of sanctimonious saccharine crunchiness.

“Namaste” means “the light in me recognizes the light in you” and I’ve been seeking a way of saying as well “the darkness in me recognizes the darkness in you.”  Perhaps “HBDC” (Honey Badger Don’t Care) is just the meme we’ve been looking for?

“Randall,” the gifted narrator of Crazy Nastyass Honey Badger has landed a book deal, and this seems to track perfectly with the Mayan Calendar’s predictions.  So, let’s fasten our seat belts, it’s going to be… some sort of year or other—why not make it kinda fun?


BTW Support your local bookseller:  yours truly’s book, Privilege of Parenting, is now to be found at a very cool bookstore in Brentwood:  Diesel Books (225 26th Street).  Am I shamelessly self-promoting?  HBDC

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Kristen @ Motherese January 4, 2012 at 11:04 am

My daughter turns 11 months today, which means I only have one month left to ensure she develops basic trust. You had me worried there for a second, but then you offered me the Honey Badger and I thought, This? This I can handle.

Namaste and HBDC.


Bruce January 4, 2012 at 11:56 am

Does honey badger need a group hug? No, HBDC.

But as for the rest of us… a big virtual hug, XO


Cathy January 4, 2012 at 4:01 pm

Off topic slightly but just bought your book. (Sorry couldn’t go to Santa Monica to do it though.) I really need to figure out how to deal with my 16yo especially going through this divorce. Hope it helps…. Happy New Year.


Bruce January 4, 2012 at 7:15 pm

Happy New Year to you too, Cathy—I do hope the book helps, and look forward to connecting, discussing and working together with our fellow-parents (and there are many in your situation) for the benefit you your kid and all our kids.

Especially in working toward an amicable divorce there will be times for Namaste and other times where HBDC must lead the way.


Wolf Pascoe January 5, 2012 at 4:45 pm

Do they make good pets? I think my son would want one.


Bruce January 5, 2012 at 6:37 pm

HBDC, and that’s precisely what makes him such a great pet (unless you’re a snake, in which case you have to do obedience training and learn how to Be the Honey).


Katrina Kenison January 6, 2012 at 8:02 pm

Bruce, The website looks terrific, and congratulations on the book. “Wired for love” we are indeed, and I continue to be surprised by just how tangled those wires can get. Thanks for being a voice of compassion in the struggle. And all good things to you and yours for 2012. Basic trust sounds like a fine plan to me!


Bruce January 6, 2012 at 8:38 pm

Thanks so much for the kind and encouraging words, Katrina. Your spirit—kindred, yogic, writerly, authentic, compassionate and so much more—lifts so many hearts, very much including my own.

All Good Wishes to you too & Namaste


rebecca @ altared spaces January 18, 2012 at 5:33 am

My house feels like a better place having your book here within its walls. It’s as if your wisdom has moved in to reside.

Yesterday, as I was finishing up my totally short yoga practice I said, “Namaste, Rebecca.” aware of the light reference and how goofy I felt saying this outloud to myself. But all the while, like you, I was looking for a way to say howdy to my shadow. Thanks for this little wave to my Honey Badger. I’m closing yoga this way today.


Bruce January 18, 2012 at 7:20 am

Namaste to you too, Rebecca—and HBDC to our collective Shadow, may we integrate it wisely into our hearts that we hope to both soften and strengthen, do less harm, cultivate more robust and resonant love, love with a little tooth and not merely crunch.


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