Trust: Authority and Abuse of Power


Originally published on Jan 2016

Trusting people is embedded in us from birth. We trust our parents to do everything for us. They are the definitive authority on EVERYTHING.

As we grow older we are taught to respect our elders and to listen to our teachers. Everyone seems to be in a category of “bigger & older = knows better” – and you accept it. Why wouldn’t you? These people have taught you everything you know; to speak, to read, to write, to eat… everything. You trust these people without question, or at least are quickly put down if you do question.

We make choices and follow people, from our parents to religious leaders, based on trust. This is actually quite an issue as to an extent as, at young age, everyone is gullible.


“easily persuaded to believe something; credulous.”

We often trust those closest to us enough that we accept without question. As we get older we might start to question things, or learn “Truths” we have been told are not true.

One of the first experiences most in the western world have is learning that Santa Clause is not real. You might have started to not believe it on your own, had your parents tell you, or overheard other people speaking about it. This revelation that Santa Clause is not real can feel like your whole world has dropped away from you. You might start to question other things you know, but more often than not; people accept that it was just a bit of fun whilst they were young and everything else they have been told is still “True”.

Even if you are a cynic you can still be easily persuaded to believe something in the right circumstances.

For example:

Almost a decade ago my first son was born to me. It is amazing how it changes the world for you, and how you will change for your child too. It’s no lie that you will be more emotional, at least where your child is concerned. Unfortunately the way you feel can interfere with the way you think, even to the extent of you losing all rational thought.

We got my boy his vaccinations, but he had a bad reaction to one of them. It was only fever and vomiting for a couple of days but it scared the crap out of us.

His grandmother, from his mother side, used this opportunity to install fear of vaccinations in me. As a leading hypnotherapist and NLP practitioner there is no doubt she could have been manipulating me with persuasion techniques, but the key thing she did was play on my emotions.

Knowing that I quite like science, she spoke about a scientist who had been studying how they can affect the brain. Knowing I been told I had ADHD when I lived in america, she spoke of how a scientist hand linked Vaccination with ADHD. This was just a correlation but at the time I though “I’ve been vaccinated, I’ve got it..” not considering the millions who do not have ADHD but had their shots. She played the conspiracy card, I’d already bought in at this point but this just added fuel to the fire.  She gave me a few names which I researched and looked around at other articles and I found a wealth of information. The thing I forgot in this instance was to research the other side, in fact.. why would I? It would all be lies right?

By this point I had flaming hot belief. I couldn’t be reasoned with. My child was not getting any more poison in his veins!

Looking back I feel so guilty about how I essentially risked his life over an unfounded belief. I’ve forgiven myself, but not forgotten. Every time someone says something this pops up in my mind as a reminder to verify facts before thinking a certain way. The less I know about a topic, the more I should research!

Eventually I started noticing holes in her story. Suddenly it wasn’t ADHD, it was autism. I considered the stance on mercury, and found that there is more mercury in one tin of tuna than most people get in a life time of vaccinations. I consider that we all have small quantities of substances in our body that in large quantities would kill us but in the amount we have they are perfectly benine. Some even are beneficial. I consider that if we drink enough water it can kill us, but we need that for our every day survival. I wonder how a few foreign cells in our body can cause something as significant in our brain as autism.

I start researching. I brush up on vaccines. I find out that the whole autism thing had been debunked and the Doc in question had been banned from practicing medicine. I found that scientist thought it nearly impossible and there was a complete lack of evidence to support vaccines can change us in any way other than enabling us to build the antibody.

I learned about herd immunity. I discovered that not all immunisations were 100% effective, and considered; a condom isn’t 100% effective at preventing disease or seminal transmission but I would take 98% over 0% any day. I learned that some people were too weak to get vaccinations and require the help of those around them, because if they got ill they could die.

It took a while to convince his mother, largely as she was still concerned about his reaction last time, but we got those vaccinations. Better late than never. He was a bit older and we explained why. He was so brave, and gave the lady a cuddle after. She’d never had a child do that to her before. He genuinely got that she was doing what was best for him. That’s that childish trust again. In this instance it was in the right place but critical thinking also needs to be installed!

So yeah, I was very gullible. I put my trust in someone I respected and saw as an athoratitive figure. Someone I actually loved and saw as my second mother. someone who seemed so knowledgeable.


“The action or process of persuading someone or of being persuaded to do or believe something.”

You may think I am a total fool for what I describe above. I will admit to being foolish, but I learned from the experience. You are only a fool if you keep falling in to the same traps.

How was I persuaded? Let’s recap.

  • Trust: I respected her and took what she said to be true without thinking she may be wrong.
  • Fear: Played on emotions. “Damage to your baby” –  Wasn’t thinking straight.
  • Correlation: Related it to something that connected it to me: ADHD
  • Mistrust: conspiracy theory.
  • Confirmation Bias: Only looking at the point that 100% backed up my belief without considering anything else.


“consciousness of one’s own dignity.”

The hardest thing most people find to do is admitting when they are wrong. This is often due to their sense of pride or fear. How will friends picture them if they were wrong. It is hard enough admitting that you were the one that forgot to take the dog out which is why he messed on the floor, let alone admit that one of your beliefs you have been fighting for and has been molded in to part of you personality was erroneous.

This can keep people peddling the same belief, in fact with a renewed fire. On some level they must perceive that getting other people to believe in it will somehow strengthen their own.

Again, these people abuse their trust.


“the process of establishing a relationship or connection between two or more things.”

I briefly touched on correlation in the gullible section. Correlation is a powerful tool that people use to build trust in what they are saying. But what does it really mean?

All it means is you link two things together. Whilst you could link drinking alcohol to having a hangover you also have the evidence of this. Some things that do correlate can lead you to the root cause. They are a great place to start an investigation but you can never take the correlation to be the cause without evidence to actually back it up. Correlation is not causation. Here is a funny little site that puts some great examples of correlation:

Possibly one of the best linked is this one with a 99.7% correlation rate.

landing on space vs hanging

One of my favorites is this one linking the number of films Nicolas Cage has been in vs Number of people drowned in a pool. This only has a 66% correlation but it does make me giggle.

correlation trust nicolas cage

Neither of the above are actually linked, yet set on a graph in that way it looks like they could be. Graphs seem to make everything seem factual and logical, even in the face of a lack of both.

This is the same as the whole vaccinations causing autism or homosexuals being given rights to marry causing storms. Correlation is not causation.

Not wanting to know

Some people operate purely on a “My friend said” “My friend knows” level. Their trust is totally in someone else and they relay the bite size information they can remember/understand to peak other people’s interest.

People are so desperate to have everything they want handed to them. How many people have you worked with that wanted the promotion but wouldn’t put in any additional work themselves? Or those that won’t learn a new skill by researching and practicing.. no.. they want the company to send them on a course. Why learn for yourself when you can be spoonfed by someone else?

The same can be said for religion, anti-vaxxers, or any similar topic. They barely even want to know or understand the detail of the belief they are fighting for, let alone consider a different opinion. More than once I’ve heard, “I should let my friend explain it to you, she understands the science” or similar.

How can any rational person peddle something they don’t even understand?

Never Know?

Can we ever truly know the truth? Speaking generally, of course not. What we can rely on is evidence and rigorus investigation. You can either choose to get a degree and become a scientist in the field you are interested in, or you can trust things that 99%+ of scientists agree on. Most findings have plenty of articles you can read, all peer-reviewed and mostly objective. You should also make yourself aware of opposing articles. And research as best you can add validity to any claim.

The thing is with science, if anything is ever found to be wrong, they correct their findings. As technology improves so does our knowledge and understanding of ourselves improves. Could we one day find a better alternative to vaccinations? Maybe. At the moment they are the best we’ve got.

Is Faith Just Trust?

An interesting question I asked my self. “Self,” I said, “Is faith just trust?”
I pondered the question. Just, as in fair? Is it fair to have trust in something completely unknown and inconceivably bigger than you? I suppose if it makes you happy… but is it fair to impose that on other people?

Of course, that is not what I was asking myself at all. After blithering on to myself for about 20 minutes I returned to the original question and its true meaning. Is faith just (as in only) trust?

One definition of faith is exactly that: complete trust or confidence in someone or something. Another definition is: strong belief in the doctrines of a religion, based on spiritual conviction rather than proof. But that belief is based on trust. You are trusting that it is true.

One could argue that faith is trust minus evidence. If we think about trust vs faith in a religious sense the I would suggest just that. Faith is trust without any evidence. Trust is learned from experience.

Why do people have faith?

Trust. Do you ever wonder how christian parents seem to have christian babies? Or how Hindu parents have Hindu babies? Sure from time to time one leaves the flock but in general people are the religion they are born in to.

The parent’s belief becomes the child. They know no other side of the story. The threat of eternal punishment is often used to strike fear in the hearts of children. They mught not even question it because they fear that will land them in hell. Sometimes families reject children that reject their relgion. People attach emotions to their faith. Both fear and love. Communities are built round it. And they have their leaders who speak to God and act in his stead.

People in positions of trust persuade people in to their faith in very similar ways to the previous story.

  • Trust: Authoritative figures, parents/priest/vicar/etc
  • Emotions: Fear and Love. (in some instances hatred)
  • Confirmation Bias: The bible is true because it says its true in the bible. Only taking time to read/understand things that back up your belief.
  • Mistrust: Anyone telling you your faith is a lie is an agent of the devil! (Conspiricy!)
  • Pride: Can’t admit when wrong “On some level they must perceive that getting other people to believe in it will somehow strengthen their own”
  • Logic: Erroneous Abductive Logic

Never Know?

We’ll never know, at least until we are dead, in fact even then we might not know because the likely hood is; there is nothing.

Is it worth worrying about? If you live your life doing good things to be good, rather than just because you think it will get you into some paradise after you die, doesn’t that make you a better person? Doing good, “just ‘cos”.

Faith in the face of evidence leaves us with people that think the world is flat and only 6000 years old.

We may never know if there is a God or not, all we have got is evidence. Most people don’t get to choose their religion, they are thrust in to it. However for a critical thinker do you think atheism is a choice?

Who should you trust?

“…when all their words turn to dust” – S. Payne

When it comes to someone making a claim, in all honesty; no one. Not even yourself. You may think you know, but you don’t know you know till you verify it.  I would try to surround yourself with people who think critically. Anyone can be drawn off at any time, but with enough critical thinkers around you there should always be enough fresh thought to keep you going.

Whilst you may grow to trust in many people, always stay objective until you have fully researched something yourself. Make objective decisions based on evidence, logic, and reason.


David Ian Livingtone

Related Articles