5 Rules for Lessening the Grip Secrets Could Have on You

September 02, 2015

secrets  When I was 7 years old, I came home from school to find my hysterical mother feverishly trying to clean up the mess that was left over after my father had hastily moved out of the house. While I was at school and my mom was at work, he loaded up most of the furniture and household appliances and moved out to an undisclosed location.


My mom’s despair and disbelief about being robbed by her own husband were excruciating painful to watch. Suddenly, she had become a single mother with very meager means to raise her child. The dishonor of my father’s actions was shocking then and still is today.


The humiliation that both of us experienced in that moment was very hurtful and long lasting. I remember thinking that one of us, or both, must have done something unspeakably wrong for my father to leave like that. Shame, guilt, and blame made a quick and powerful entrance into my very young life.


I immediately started feeling deficient and faulty, thinking that if I had been a better daughter, none of this would have happened. There is a lot of literature about the self-conscious emotions, like shame, but until you have experienced it profoundly, you cannot really grasp its meaning.


Our neighbors’ glances pierced us to our core. It was awful. Soon, we moved to a different neighborhood and I came up with the idea to reinvent myself as an undisturbed kid from a “normal” family. I was so ashamed of my father’s action that I myself started keeping it a secret.


It was also the beginning of my absolute aversion for any secrets or surprises conducted by close family members or friends. You start looking at those closest to you with extra caution.


I now coach a lot of people who have been battered around by life and made vulnerable in similar ways. As a result, these clients have developed negative patterns of emotion and thought. Often, this includes self-sabotaging behaviors that cause them problems and inability to function well and to enjoy life.


I deal with stories about fathers, stepfathers, and mothers who violated and abused my clients when they were little children. I hear about abandonment. I listen to stories about husbands or male partners (typically) who hide cash and assets from their wives or manipulate the system to gain financial advantage over their spouse. These men are often lawyers and entrepreneurs, even professional soldiers.


As I listen to these stories, I am again reminded of what my own father did to us. I can literally feel how my clients must feel. And I can understand why they are often uncertain of themselves, distrustful and suspicious.


To them, any secret or underhanded act translates into being unloved, abandoned, and dumped, sometimes many times over. You cannot comprehend why the people who are the closest to you resort to deceit and masking their true disposition.


Secrets are costly and burdensome. They grip and haunt us. They also compromise our relationships and our well-being on every level: cognitively, physically and emotionally.


Sometimes people protect themselves from the pain that secrets can cause by numbing their sadness. I know I did for many years.


A more effective way to protect yourself – that is, your sense of self – is to invest in yourself and things that you have control over.


I know five rules for self-investment, as an antidote to deadening yourself:


  1. You cannot control other people or anything outside of your own self. I could not control my secretive father, as my clients cannot control their parents or their cagy spouses.
  2. You cannot freeze just one emotion, like sadness, without damaging your capacity for happiness and love.
  3. You must believe that anything is possible. I never thought that I would be able to forgive my father. And yet I did. Anything is possible.
  4. Both you and the world change all the time. See rule #3.
  5. You have the power to re-do your thinking and emotional patterns.


Re-read all of the rules above.


What are your rules for lessening the grip life events have on you?

15 Comments. Leave new

Thank you for sharing and reminding me that my ‘hurts’ hurt myself and others. Forgiveness is powerful.


Charlotte, thank you and you are very welcome.


This showed up in my email just when I needed to hear it.


Thank you for sharing.

Margaret Reynolds
September 4, 2015 6:22 am

Everyone carries so much hurt from their childhood. I don’t know anyone who didn’t suffer some trauma that influences their lives decades later. Hard to let go……


So true… It is hard to let go, but I think that it is even harder not to.


I do like the rule nr4… “Both you and the world change all the time”. How true and how often we forget…Plan to be surprised someone once said…
Thank you Renata for your insight!


Thanks Basia. I was not the same person yesterday as I am today. No one is, although often we assume the opposite. I agree – plan to surprise yourself.

lidia danielski
September 5, 2015 9:14 am

Only a fear of public speaking is stopping me of any comments , not a lack of appreciation.
I want you to know this,Renata.
Any insight of yours is very valuable to me.
Thank you for sharing your secret with us.


Thank you for leaning into your fear.


I received this comment through my email instead:
Renata…you are so right about secrets. They are debilitating woundings of the soul..they sap our energy and undermine our sense of self-worth. They are also, more often than not, a lie that we have told ourselves to avoid something else….discover the something else, discover the greatness within and the secrets lose their power to compel the desire to be small and to hide in the shadows of self…thank you for your gift in my mail box. With love always. C.

Cristina Renner
September 8, 2015 6:23 pm

Dear Renata,
Yes, Lidia is right, any insight of yours is very valuable to us. You hit on a lot of emotions that I have and continue to feel, it comes up from time to time. Through my life’s events had made me stronger but right now I’m in a state of emptiness and I can’t see beyond it.
One more thing some counselors try to help us, how can they if they have never had any thing happen to them?


Thank you for your comments. Please consider that there is not a person that has “never had anything happen to them”. Nowhere!


Great conversation starter and point for all of us to begin healing, sometimes over and over again until it sticks! Thanks!


“Until it sticks!”. Love it! Thanks Betsy.


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