The Secret About Secrets
Everyone wants to be thought of as a loyal friend. Someone who can be trusted. Someone who will look out for others and can be relied on to have your back. Often, this means a friend will share with you something they don’t want others to know or that they have never shared with anyone else. It’s a good feeling to know that someone thinks you can be trusted with such big information. You feel like you are a part of the ‘in’ group. I know I love when people say they can trust me and lean on me. However, secrets can carry huge repercussions, especially if you aren’t equipped to handle the information.
- Secrets perpetuate abuse. Abuse that is not addressed or called out will only get worse. There are many types of abuse: physical, sexual, emotional and abuse of power. Abuse does not start how it ends. It begins with a minor violation of boundaries, that gets excused away and minimized. The excuses and rationalization is what gives your power away. It is your right to tell people what is going on and to insist the behavior stops before it gets worse.
- Secrets damage your self-esteem and cause self-doubt. The initial violation of boundaries could be as simple as a broken promise or a mean comment. Because you want to think the best of people, you tell yourself he ‘didn’t really mean it’ or I’m making this a bigger deal than it should be’. When someone treats you bad enough times you will start to believe the lie that person tells which is that you did something to cause the abuse and somehow it is your fault. It is a big deal and it is okay for you to expect the behavior to change without excuses.
- Substance Use Disorders. Have you ever noticed that by the time family and friends start to discuss a loved one’s problems with substance use, the problem has been going on for a long time and it is so out of control that everyone is afraid to ask for help or talk about it? This is because the person using substances is keeping secrets so family and friends don’t know how bad it is. And those close to the person mis-using substances are keeping secrets but they don’t even know how bad it really is. Misuse of substances is very common but because people have such an extreme vision of what addiction looks like, they are afraid to address it early and ask for help. Again, abuse does not start how it ends. The broken promises and the bad behavior is manageable in the beginning, but making excuses allows it to get worse. If you don’t understand the illness and behavior ask for help from an addiction professional, they will let you know if the behavior is normal or needs to be addressed.
- Depression. There is a difference between fun and happiness. People who suffer from depression can have fun at times but it does not mean they feel happy and content. Holding secrets about how you feel or about situations you have experienced can cause you to think badly about yourself and can cause or add to depression. Thinking that nobody will believe you or understand keeps you isolated and left to believe your faulty thinking. It is important to let this secret out so your family and friends can help you get the help you need. Sometimes, just sharing your secrets will bring such relief you will no longer feel depressed.
- Secrets cause stress and anxiety. Holding a secret for someone else means you have to be on high alert to keep from sharing the secret. If you know the secret can cause harm to someone this is even more stressful. How can you keep people safe and protect your friend’s confidence at the same time? Unless the secret has an expiration date, like throwing a surprise party for a friend (which is still stressful trying not to let the cat out of the bag) then it is okay to tell your friend that you don’t keep secrets. Have you ever noticed how often people expect you to keep a secret even though you did not ask to hold it for them?
I heard a rhyme a long time ago and it goes like this: Secrets, secrets are no fun. Secrets, secrets hurt someone. I have never heard of a secret that has not caused harm to someone in some way, unless it had an expiration date. If it doesn’t feel good and causes you stress, share it. If someone asks you to hold a secret for them, it is okay to tell them you don’t hold secrets because you don’t like the way it makes you feel. You deserve better.
About the Author: Dr. Irene Little is an award-winning author of The Book on Addiction and is a family therapist specializing in addictions and can be found in Frisco, Texas. She has been featured on Good Morning Texas and D Magazine. You can sign up for her free monthly newsletters via her website.
Author Contact Information: Irene Little, firstname.lastname@example.org, 972–905–6574, 4280 Main Street, Ste. 300, Frisco, Texas, 75033