Secrets and Shame

Everyone has at one point had a secret about themselves, which means that everyone has had something they’re trying or wanting to hide. Whether these secrets are embarrassing, shameful, or traumatizing, something compels us to keep these parts of ourselves bottled up and hidden from sight. Sometimes we keep secrets because we’re afraid others won’t accept certain parts of who we are. In doing so, however, we become unable to accept those parts of ourselves. This then engages us in a cyclical cycle of shame, which only further exacerbates any symptoms that may be manifesting from our psychological distress. While one is not likely to share everything with others, consciously hiding something can keep psychological wounds fresh and current.

Living in a society that frequently categorizes things in very black and white ways (i.e. good and bad, normal and abnormal, etc.) can further motivate people to keep hidden that which we are wanting or needing to expose. There is constant pressure to be perfect, even if that means dissociating ourselves from the quirks and eccentricities that aren’t typically accepted by larger audiences. However, again, it is this defense of needing to withhold parts of our true selves that can actually cause us such internal conflict and turmoil.

We as human beings have this innate desire to feel that we are seen, heard, and validated for who we truly are. When we are denied or neglected this opportunity it can have a variety of clearly linked or insidious side effects in our daily functioning. When part or all of our being goes unseen and unheard, we become estranged from certain aspects of ourselves.

Being actively engaged in psychotherapy is a great opportunity for people to expose that which they may have either consciously or unconsciously been hiding from themselves and others. It can provide people with a safe and supportive space to face and challenge conflicting parts of their internal world to the point where they can start to transform the idea of who they are within themselves. For example, it is astonishing to me how frequently I hear clients say something along the lines of “I’ve never told anyone that before” in the first few sessions. Within a handful of sessions later, we are able to see a much bigger picture of how holding onto that secret and shame has had drastic implications in other aspects of their life. This usually leads to them stating something along the lines of “I had no idea I was feeling this way,” “I can’t believe I never saw this part of myself before,” or even “I feel like I just came out of a coma!” This is what then prepares a person to accept, heal, and move forward with their life in a more personally satisfying way.

If you are interested in the general topic of secrets, I highly encourage you to visit the Post Secret website. It is an advertisement-free blog and supportive online community where people can anonymously share some of their deepest secrets to the entire world. It is updated every Sunday morning and never ceases be thought-provoking.

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