Today's post is from the relationship advice column that I write for Insight, a Tampa newspaper. This past month I tackled two questions and this was the second. I discussed the first one in yesterday's post. I'd love to hear your feedback. What has your experience been with family secrets?
I’ve recently discovered a family secret that has me in so much pain, I am thinking about going to therapy. I am trying to cope the best I can but each day it is hard to even put one foot in front of the other and keep going. The information I found out has made it almost impossible to think about anything else. The people in my family who kept the secret are upset I found out and don’t understand why I’m taking it so hard. Right now it seems like no one understands. Talking to them about it just makes me angrier. Should I go to a counselor and be done with it? They don’t want me to share about it with anyone outside our family and I feel trapped. - Essie
My heart goes out to you. I wish I could be there to hug you in person. I understand the pain you are going through. There’s a popular saying you may have heard before: “you’re only as sick as your secrets.” The truth is, although you will benefit from counseling, you aren’t the sick one. The more secrets a person has, the sicker they are, and you aren’t the one who has been keeping secrets…you’ve simply discovered one and experienced for yourself how destructive they are!
My advice is: don’t fall into your family’s trap of secret keeping. I endeavor to live a secret free life as far as it depends on me. The only people who get upset about people who are transparent are people who aren’t free!! There is a difference between confidentiality when professional situations call for it, and secrets. There is also a difference between discretion and secrets. Be careful to know the difference. What some people called discretion back in the old days was really just a cover up for pride.
Some people walk around living broken for many years and wonder why they can't quite get it together no matter how hard they try. The truth is that covered things don't heal well. Think about when you have a cut on your body. You might clean it with peroxide or alcohol, then apply some antibiotic ointment and use a band aid. That band aid being on there for a few days is a good thing but if you left it on forever it would never heal. At some point the injury needs to be exposed to the air, to have complete healing. Our lives are like this. We can shove things down all we want but the truth is it never heals or goes away, it just festers until one day you explode.
Even when you are tempted to keep your own secret, think about the fact that what threatens to break you also has the potential to be the platform you stand on to help others through their own trials. What about when you live transparently and people talk about you in a negative fashion because now they know things about you that might not have been your finest hour? My answer to that is, the kind of people who talk are always going to talk. That's who they are. That's what they do. They've chosen to be who they are. You might as well choose who you are as well. Don't let somebody else make the choice for you.
Living free is a wonderful thing because no one has any leverage on you. What power is there in somebody letting a cat out of a bag that has already been running around for years? It's old news that everyone knows so no one cares. When secrets are exposed, they lose their power.
My thoughts and prayers are with you as you break free of this negative cycle that your family has been trapped in and find your own way in a secret-free world.
E--Mail your questions for future columns to firstname.lastname@example.org. Due to space and time every question will not appear in the monthly column, however Deanna welcomes you to interact with her where she blogs daily at www.deannashrodes.net.
Deanna is an author, speaker and certified coach who loves living in the Tampa Bay area with her husband of 25 years and their three children.