My parent’s generation did it. Almost anything was fodder for secrets.
Keeping secrets is a strange dichotomy for most of us, and if you grew up in a home where keeping secrets typically meant there was some serious shame involved that shame can transfer from the secret bearer to the secret keeper.
It’s true of course that there are times that minor innocuous secrets are kept, i.e. Surprise party, gender of an unborn child, and maybe even keeping confidences can be seen as secret keeping. But the secret keeping that can scar a person are the kind that cause a sense of desperation and may even be motivated by shattered heartbreak or shame.
Family secrets especially are secrets that in the end can scar our heart and souls. Many of us carry the burden of a family secret. From illnesses, betrayals, deceased siblings, to arguments and sexual orientation —I know that some will argue that there are legitimate reasons to hold back information or hide the proverbial family skeletons, but I wonder if the health hardships behind keeping the
It’s true that most everyone has had one, you may have one now, sitting there in the back of your mind, or on the tip of your tongue waiting to come out. Secrets are all around us. I think we should ask ourselves what can bearing and sharing secrets do to people and their relationships with others? Certainly there will be both negative and positive outcomes and they affect some people in different ways than others.
Keeping a secret involves at least two main characters The Secret Bearer. The Secret Keeper.
The Secret Bearer:
The bearer of a secret faces many obstacles to finding the contentment of self peace. Harboring inside a secret holds us back from peace, keeping things bottled up inside usually makes people unhappy. Understanding that the burden of holding on to a secret is exhausting mentally and spiritually is no stretch, yet we have little understanding how this can impact us physically. There is of course the actual physical sense of a weight on our shoulders, shouldn’t we listen to that? Secrets take so much energy to maintain and they can beget mistrust and suspicion which sure can interfere with how we live our lives. All of this can erode away any personal desired connections. Everyone needs to be able to make informed decisions and choices in their relationships and they need enough accurate information to be able to do this. Secrets often get in the way of any credibility.
The Secret Keeper
Many of us grew up where secrets were simply part of our lives from an early age and became our normal, the lack of honesty or authenticity became our norm. The family secret may be that a parent drinks too much, or says or does inappropriate things. The secrecy may be about illness or how a family member actually died.
My own family had a secret, and to this day although my siblings and I know about the secret we have little information about how our 3 year old sister died. We still are not talking about it. I thought when our mother died we’d have a long talk, that has never happened. Even more curious is why my siblings and I seem to be perpetuating the secret keeping, (for instance my adult nieces must come to me for information because my brother, their dad, won’t talk.)
I think we make the mistake in believing that if we remain silent our children won’t be hurt by what they do not know, but on some level children sense there is a secret and most often they have an idea of what the secret is. Yet because of the family rules about secretiveness, they feel that they can’t say anything. This dynamic makes for a very lonely isolation and feelings of being deceived by not giving them an honest answer. Or we simply deny what their feeling. We should perhaps give our children more credit that we have raised them well enough so that they can handle information about shameful and painful events.
Secrets and lies are toxic to relationships. It may seem to lighten that heavy weight on our own shoulders, heart and soul by asking another to bear witness to a secret, but now we’ve placed a burden on another by creating a secret keeper.
Even more damaging are the life threatening secrets kept.
Despite the dangers, keeping secrets is part of human nature.
However now we know….
Neuroscientists now believe it’s biologically better for us to confess our secrets, or better, just to refuse to be party to someone else’s. Reason being that holding on to secrets puts our brain in an awkward, compromised position.We are hard wired to tell the truth The “cingulate cortex”- essential to our emotional responses, this “logical lobe” signals other regions of the brain to share information so it can move on to more important functions, like learning. But when we keep a secret locked inside, we’re not allowing the cingulate cortex to perform its natural functions. Instead, the cortex becomes stressed, and our body responds accordingly.
So….keep in mind….considering whether to take on the weight by locking away sensitive info or not is ultimately a healthy exercise — and that’s no secret.