The Power of Secrets
July 27, 2017
The English word secret is derived from the Latin words se, meaning away, and cerno, meaning separate, therefore a secretive person separates their thoughts and puts them “carefully away from others” (Funk, 1950, p. 378). Some family members acquire power by separating their thoughts and actions from others. Secrets such as:
- Mom really has vodka in her water bottle
- Grandpa molested his daughters
- No one told me I was adopted until I was eighteen
- My sister Claire had an abortion when she was seventeen years old
- Aunt Helen and her friend Susan are just roommates
- Uncle Fred’s death was really a suicide
Secrets of alcoholism, violence, emotional, spiritual, sexual, and physical abuse are common in families. Perhaps the door was closed (or slammed) when you walked by, or a conversation was stopped abruptly when you walked into the room, when others were discussing the family secrets. Perhaps you believed others were talking about you. These underhanded behaviors may have caused you to wonder “What is wrong with me?” When a person feels ostracized and silenced they often feel shame. Shame is about not being good enough, unworthy, or unlovable; guilt is about having done something against one’s morals and values.
Guilt = I have done something bad
Shame= I am bad
It is difficult to love or to be loved if secrets are kept. Our secrets can become a task master, especially if we don’t choose to examine the shadow. The shadow is a part of the person that moves towards chaos. We often try to suppress or reject the existence of our shadow, yet it still exists. People often project their shadow aspects onto others. Projection is psychological defense that occurs when we have prickly, upsetting and exasperating emotions we don’t want to deal with and we deny the reality of those uncomfortable feelings within ourselves and attribute those same uncomfortable feelings to others.
For example a bully might project her or his feelings of inadequacy on to others by telling others how stupid/ugly/horrible/inadequate they are. An angry parent might have a bad day at work and come home and yell at the kids or kick the dog. Projection is a form of blame that is misplaced. In order to heal the soul, mind and body, we must look at our personal secrets, the family stories that were kept separated and hidden, and the unwritten and complicit rules related to shame. Having an awareness of our secrets and shadows, allows us to take responsibility. Responsibility and awareness is the road to self-determination, choice and light. In order to find peace and congruence, it is necessary to wrestle with the carefully guarded shadows that camouflage and distort reality.
By looking at our secrets, a new perspective is revealed, shame and guilt can be faced with courage and confidence and thought and behavior patterns changed for the better. The process of change is to alter thinking and actions. When you transform your thinking and behaviors, change ensues. Your thoughts create your future, what you become tomorrow will be determined by what you think today.
David Johns has a PhD in Counseling Education and Supervision. He is a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) and Licensed Addiction Counselor (LAC) in the state of Colorado. He works enjoys working with people who want to look at their shadows, secrets, and projections in order to create more healthy spiritual, relational, and cognitive behaviors. For an appointment call 303-642-6636 or email at [email protected]
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Finn, A. (2011). Jungian analytical theory. In D. Capuzzi & D. R. Gross (Eds.), Counseling and Psychotherapy: Theories and interventions (5th ed.) (pp. 77-94). Alexandria, VA: American Counseling Association.
Funk, W. (1950). Word origins and their romantic stories. New York: Bell Publishing Company