Thursday, October 04, 2007

I PROMISE NOT TO TELL

I've been thinking a lot about secrets lately. At the Ruth King Celebrating Rage retreat we did an exercise with secrets. The exercise was meant to foster compassion and empathy for ourselves and others, and it was highly effective. What struck me with the secrets that were shared (anonymously) were how many were related to sex. Seems we, women at least, have lots of shame/guilt over sex. Lots and lots of our sexual selves is a big secret.

I've also been thinking how good we are at keeping secrets. It's almost like the more dysfunctional the family is, the better the children are at keeping the secrets of the family. We're also really good at keeping secrets from ourselves, and telling ourselves we don't know what we actually DO know. This is perpetuated when a child does risk telling a trusted person a secret, and then subsequently not being believed. It doesn't take a kid long to figure out there's no point in telling, they won't be believed anyway, then the kid starts doubting themselves, etc., etc., etc.

I still struggle when it comes to "telling" and even recently I've had the "I don't believe you" experience. I tell myself it doesn't matter what others think, I know I'm telling the truth, but it hurts like hell when you're not believed.

Thanks to my friend, Jerri, I learned of this fascinating website, Post Secret. Again, I'm mesmerized by the secrets, and the percent that is sexually related.

I have a theory, if we lived in a society where children were believed (and children lie to avoid consequences, not because they are natural born liars) we could stop the abuse that perpetuates and keeps sexual predators safe, and the victims held hostage by their secrets.

Just a theory.

11 comments:

Michelle O'Neil said...

Secrets and shame go hand in hand and shame is one of the lowest vibrations out there.

I think this is a lot of what memoir writing is about. Exposing ourselves in order to let go of shame.

Kathryn Johansen said...

That's why support groups like AA say you're only as sick as your secrets. Lots of people medicate to cover up those secrets they can't tell.

La La said...

Yep. I agree. Secrets are poisonous, and the shame is toxic as well. I've been telling my family's secrets for years, and it has gotten me rejected more often than I care to think about. Most often, I'm met with, "that's not true," or "that's not the way it happened," or "you're exaggerating!" All of these cause self-doubt and more shame. It can be so crazy-making, but living in the truth is how I aspire to live, and even though it's uncomfortable, I still want to do it!

kario said...

You're barking up my tree, Carrie. I've discovered that the longer you hold it all in, the more layers of shame you have to swim up through in order to finally tell it. There ought to be one safe haven for every child, at least one.

Anonymous said...

Wow! This time the comments were as interesting as the post.

Jess said...

Yes, we need to listen to and believe children. So important.

Little Tree said...

Carrie, I've been waiting for a window when your faithful readers could request some topics for you to explore. Sometimes you can take the most everyday annoying pet peeve and make the most extraordinary comments not to much have your readers clenching their sides with laughter. So, I'm hoping you will put your rage to the side for a while and take requests. I'll go first. The other day while making a rare appearance at the bank the teller said to me, "Mrs. Jane Doe, since you have excellent credit you might consider...." well I stopped listening to the whatever was next because no responsible financial institution should be asking me anything other than to consider a second job, liquidation, or if I consider myself qualified for non profit status. Actually, if I think about this seriously how people are encouraged to be debit it could cause me to become enraged. This is indeed a serious issue in our society. So rather than taking any more of this young "want to climb up the coorpate ladder" professional's time, I just said, "Don't take this personally, but clearly you must be on drugs." I took all but the last $100 out of my checking account and walked out hoping I would hit the overdraft before my next paycheck. I just know your readers have a thousand things that want you to comment on. I just feel some of my rage lifting just writing to you. Shit you're becoming Dear Abbby on line.

Eileen said...

Secrets are so damaging on so many levels. I see this every day in my work and of course personally. It can make you schitzo., when you are told, "that did not happen" or "you are making that up", and on and on the covering up goes. The Thought Police come in your head, and go, "but yes, it did!" Denial, shame, lies families are so good at this, and children learn so early. It is so sad, because it is so damaging and as we all know the damage stays with us right into adulthood.
I constantly praise the children at my work for being brave and telling the truth, and let them know I believe them. Even when they come back the next day, to tell me they made it up or lied, I tell them, I know they told the truth and it is ok. They usually nod, some cry but always look relieved. I hate that parents tell their children to lie. HATE IT!!
Great Post Carrie!

fiN' said...

I've heard someone say that there are no lies...everything is true...if we just look to see the truth in what is being said...if we just stop and really think about it...but we are so scared and quick to react...that inquiry doesn't happen and so, out come the sticks and the stones....very interesting time!

Deb said...

Children are the very closest to the clearest truth. We need to believe them. Imagine a world with no secrets at all. Where would shame be then?

fin' said...

Amazing site, amazing concept, amazing book....