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It makes me sad to hear clients or workshop participants say that they feel like the only one with a specific problem. Maybe it’s bingeing, bulimia, or secret eating. Or having a mom with a long-standing drinking problem or a Dad who came home from war with PTSD. Or that they were raped as a teenager or adopted as a baby. I’ve had clients who were so ashamed that a parent had been in jail or that their sister had been murdered that they’d never told a soul.
The odd thing is that if someone else had the same problem or secret, any of these clients would most likely turn all compassionate, feel sorry for them, and think the person was wrong for feeling so badly and so alone. Yet, they’d still hold on to their fear of sharing what they perceive is something very wrong with them or their lives, as if their secret was somehow worse than everyone and anyone else’s.
There is an old saying (maybe from AA) that our secrets keep us sick, and it’s the truth. I don’t mean secrets that leave you smiling about some funny thing that happened in your past. I mean the kind of secret you believe would make you want to die if anyone knew about it. It’s not even the secret that’s haunting you; it’s the shame you’re still holding about it. This shame will only disappear when you share it with someone and are met with loving compassion. It’s doubtful that without sharing your secret, you’ll suddenly awaken one day and not have shame about it. In fact, it’s likely that the longer you keep your secret and the harder you try to bury it, the worse it will make you feel.
Perhaps you did try to tell people about what happened and they turned a deaf ear. Or maybe they laughed or said that what you were describing didn’t happen or couldn’t possibly be true. Or they made you feel worse by blaming you for something that wasn’t your fault. If you didn’t receive someone’s validation and compassion when you finally dared to open up, you might think that’s proof that you’ll need to go to your grave holding onto your secret and being ashamed.
I encourage you to reflect on the secrets you’ve held on to that you think no one can bear to hear or can possibly understand or accept. The fact is that you are not alone and that thousands or millions of people have had the same thing happen to them in this big world, no matter what it is. If you feel unable to open up to a close friend or family member, consider turning to a professional whose job, like mine, is to help you unburden yourself and let you know that, whatever the problem, you are not alone.
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