5 Rules for Lessening the Grip Secrets Could Have on You
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:
- 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.
- You cannot freeze just one emotion, like sadness, without damaging your capacity for happiness and love.
- 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.
- Both you and the world change all the time. See rule #3.
- 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?