Friday, January 18, 2008

Secrets: The Chains That Bind Us

I have often heard at 12 step meetings we are only as sick as our secrets. Some of the secrets we keep are purposeful and we keep them to protect ourselves or our loved ones. Things like over drinking or drug abuse in us or others and the consequences, like loss of job, verbal, emotional, sexual or physical abuse to name a few.

Some secrets we don’t even know we are keeping, like our childhood experiences or the quality of our lives or our relationships. Many of us have no frame of reference and believe that we had a great childhood or the relationship we have with our parents, partners or children is a close and happy one, or at the very least adequate. If any thoughts of dissatisfaction come to mind we push them away and feel ashamed and guilty for having them. What kind of a child hates their parents? Or what kind of parent is not pleased with their child? What kind of a partner is angry and disappointed with their relationship? Our conflicted feelings cause a progressive distortion in our thinking and reality. Many of us deny our feelings because often it’s the very people we should be able to trust who are hurting and betraying us. Allowing those secrets into our consciousness is shameful and painful.

The important thing is to be able to share our secret concerns, fears and shameful feelings in a safe environment. Confiding in a trusted friend or counselor is the first step to freeing ourselves from the denial that enslaves us. In the 12 step programs we learn that protecting loved ones from exposure and keeping their secret is enabling them to remain in their disease and prevents them from realizing they need help. We perpetuate the illusion that their harmful behavior as a result of drinking or using drugs is okay. Keeping secrets cause us to be lonely, isolated and in our own self imposed prison. By finding a safe place or person to reveal our secrets we can start to become aware of those secrets we don’t know we are keeping.
Shedding light on our secrets requires a great deal of courage but it is an essential step toward a sober mind, and personal liberation.

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