Do you remember a time when keeping secrets was viewed as a positive character trait? We used to place value in that friend or family member that would hold our precious thoughts and feelings to themselves. But throughout the years, we are learning that secrets are often unresolved and are becoming silent killers. Many victims of childhood rape and molestation were done so because someone was asked to keep it a secret or they were manipulated/scared into keeping quiet about being violated. Families also have been afraid to talk about the obvious elephants in the room. I have talked with several suicide attempt survivors that say that the pain of keeping secrets led them down a road that they couldn’t see themselves out of.
So how do we reframe this word “secrets” and keep it from destroying our families? First, we ask our Love ones to not keep secrets from us. We want to them to tell us if someone is doing anything that makes them feel uncomfortable. Including us as their parents or leaders. If they are encouraged to ask questions and express themselves, they are less likely to become victims.
Additionally, we have to stop being afraid to say, “mental health.” When we are not educated or open about certain illnesses, we attach a stigma to them and make them a taboo. We are afraid to say, “my son suffers from depression,” and instead we keep him locked up in the home because we are embarrassed and ashamed. Or we choose to ignore the symptoms and don’t deal with it at all. These types of secrets make it more difficult for people to seek help because they too become embarrassed, ashamed or tend to self-medicate.
So next time you find yourself using the word “secret,” ask yourself how this will affect you and your family for years to come. Of course, this doesn’t apply to recipes and certain healthy traditions, like the surprise party that you want to through Uncle Robert for his 90th birthday.