Telling Family Secrets about Abuse

The_Hero_Illustration

The Hero Illustration

Be quiet, don’t tell anyone ever.  Suck it up.  The child raised this way is a very special person.   The denial required of children in their effort to protect family secrets creates feelings of helplessness.   This is the legacy of family secrets from the loyalty of children who do not wish to speak out against their parents.   Children involved in keeping family secrets have a high potential for participating in an abusive relationship as an adult.  Keeping secrets, as a family illness, parallels emotional and compulsive disorders.  There is a strong association between compulsive behavior (alcoholism, gambling, physical abuse, and/or sexual abuse, etc.) consistently identified in families with a “don’t tell” rule.  Regardless of the disorder, family members are often unaware of their own pain when the family does not even acknowledge there is a problem.   This makes it impossible to heal what we don’t allow ourselves to feel.  No one speaks of his or her loneliness and loss of sense of self.  Abuse is abandonment because when children are abused no one is there for them.   Toxic secrets lower self-esteem, increase shame/guilt, and block a child’s ability to grieve losses and hurts.

The impressions and feelings caused by keeping family secrets remain with those children and tend to be carried into adulthood.   Adult children often continue to experience problems related to talking about relationship abuse.  They have learned to tolerate whatever abuse is being handed out in intimate partnerships. To heal adult children must come out of hiding.  As long as your secrets are hidden, there is nothing you can do about it.  Sometimes secrets may have been repressed because they are emotionally charged or threatening to you.  It’s possible to have secrets you are unaware of or may minimize to protect yourself.

The best way to come out of hiding is to find a supportive intimate social network.   Choosing a safe person or group needs to be done carefully and over a length of time.  True love heals and affects personal growth.   To heal you have to risk exposing yourself to someone else.   You have a right to talk about problems and you have a right to feel.  You don’t have to pretend that keeping secrets isn’t making you feel crazy, lonely or confused.  You don’t have to analyze or justify your feelings.   What is most healing is to acknowledge secrets and sharing secrets that may be damaging you.  Telling what happen can increase self-esteem, decrease shame, allow you to grieve, to feel love and be loved.  You may find feelings associated with the secrets and repetitive self-destructive behavior or choosing abusive relationships end.  You will then choose relationships that grow out of awareness and sensitivity to your innermost needs.

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Thank you for reading this article. I’ve dedicated my personal and professional life to the importance of non-violence and self-compassion by teaching from my experience.  As a result, I’ve learned a lot about what it takes to create healthy relationships.  And, as I learn and grow, I teach self-compassion and give advice I use myself, in the hopes that it helps you to improve your own life.

 Roberta

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