We are conditioned not to talk about family secrets. I was taught in so many ways that ‘some things are not talked about’ and I was so afraid of the consequences of bringing shame on my family that I ignored the solution to overcoming the mental health issues that I had. Rejection from my family when I was a little child would have meant death. I believed as an adult that it STILL meant death. I had to overcome that fear.
Even when the family members are dead, the victims of dysfunctional family situations are very often STILL just as afraid to reveal the family secrets, which is very telling about just how deep this fear goes when it comes to the belief system.
People told me that they didn’t have a choice about keeping the secrets even when they became adults. I agreed with them because not taking my choice about telling enabled me to have an excuse to not have to do the work that it took to take my life back. I had to look more closely at what it meant for me to believe that I didn’t have a choice. I had to see that it wasn’t that I DIDN’T have a choice as much as it was just that I didn’t KNOW I had a choice.
This belief that I could not, must not tell was rooted in victim mentality and I had to keep in mind that this “victim mentality” is how I survived a childhood of abuse and emotional neglect. Victim mentality was my friend when I was a kid. It saved me. It was hard to understand that victim mentality was not my friend anymore. My mind warned me constantly NOT to see things differently, believing with all my heart that the only way to survive this life was to operate in that same child mindset that kept me “safe” from further harm. Telling would have made things so much worse and I could not accept that telling (at least someone) was part of the answer now.
Victim mentality taught me to FEAR the consequences of honoring my choice to reveal those secrets. Victim mentality tells me that I am safer to keep the secrets and protect the perpetrator. Victim mentality taught me to protect the person who covered up for the perpetrator, believing that I am less deserving than the perpetrator, BECAUSE that is what I was taught about myself through the actions of those who were in charge of me.
When I first started this website I would have a fear related adrenalin rush when I clicked the publish button on certain articles especially if they revealed anything about toxic and dysfunctional family relationships. That was my childhood fear of going public with my past. It was not fear for what others would then know about me but fear of what the consequences would be if I “told” on the abusers and those that didn’t protect me or if I revealed the family secrets. I didn’t understand that fear based adrenalin rush then as well as I do now. I had to reassure myself that the consequences for talking would not kill me that I was no longer that helpless child anymore. I had to remind myself that hundreds of times.
Another huge fear that I had was that deep down I was sure that if I could love my mother the way she needed me to love her, then everything would be fine. Telling the family secrets was like giving up on the last thread of hope because I knew that if I told the truth about what had gone on in my life, I would burn my last bridge and ruin my only chance that my mother and possibly even my whole family would love me. “Telling” represented the death of that hope.
I had to be willing to face the possibility of that rejection.
Today I see this so differently. Why was I willing to protect the people who never protected me? They taught me to believe that I didn’t have enough worth to have equal value to the perpetrators, the neglectors, the abusers, the withholders, the teachers and all the other adult gods in my childhood.
I no longer care if the truth hurts someone else’s feelings. When I decided to heal and move forward with MY life, I had to stop taking care of other people’s feelings and finally validate MY feelings. When I finally put my own healing first, I began to see the dysfunction more clearly. I finally saw that I was contributing to the sick dysfunctional cycle by going along with it.
As I took those baby steps in the beginning and started to look at the dysfunctional family conditions that I had been raised with, I started to realize that in many ways I had in fact always been rejected. Not being heard is a rejection. I had not been protected is a rejection. Not being valued and not having my human rights validated is a rejection.
When I began to see things through new eyes, I started to get a glimmer of hope that perhaps I could be good enough for me, and that if I could achieve that status, then others opinions including my own families’ opinions, would no longer matter. I began to realize that I had been agreeing with their rejection of me because I didn’t know anything else. As I grew stronger I began to stop rejecting myself.
Perhaps the truth hurts, but does that mean that we should stifle the truth? I don’t think so anymore. It was important for me to look at who I was protecting and the truth about why I thought that they were more important than I was.
Please share your thoughts or feedback. I look forward to the discussion here.
NOTE: I did not reveal anything publically when it came to family secrets until I had several years of healing and I am not suggesting that you reveal your family secrets before you are ready. It would not have helped me to push myself too quickly and very few people choose to write as publically as I do. Please feel free to use a screen name. Only the name you use in the comment form will be seen by others.
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