Sunday, April 17, 2011

We're Only as Sick as our Secrets

"The times I most want to hide out with my secrets are probably the times I most need to reach out and share (with someone trustworthy)."  Courage to Change.

I grew up in a family where image was everything.  The very first priority was to look good.  It was a small town and my parents were school teachers so they felt their jobs depended on looking perfect to the whole town.  I knew I wasn't perfect and felt ashamed.  So I learned to never ever say anything about my imperfections to anybody.  By the time I was an adult I was carrying a heavy load of secrets.  If I made mistakes, the proper response was to lie.  It was so deeply ingrained that I didn't even have to think about it.

In the recovery program I heard the saying, "We're only as sick as our secrets."  I couldn't even imagine what that meant.  Then there was the saying, "(the program) requires rigorous honesty."  I was clearly in trouble since I had no idea how to be honest and no understanding of why I should be.  But little by little, because I was so desperate to feel better, I began to tell the truth about myself and my life to trustworthy people and experienced the relief and freedom that brought me.  I felt like I was floating about a foot off the ground. Now the telling of the truth - especially admitting my mistakes - is so ingrained that it is automatic.  If you ask me a question, I will tell the truth before I even think about lying.

Recently I've realized that there are tons of people in the world who would consider my openness about my thoughts, feelings and mistakes totally wrong and crazy.  They probably think I'm completely wrong to do it - that nice people don't air their dirty laundry - and they seem to consider the most minor stuff something to keep secret.  I forget that this way of being is extremely common in the world and with a lot of people consider it a virtue.  I am sad for them because they won't be able to experience being themselves.  When I was hiding and lying trying to look good, I lived with shame and lost the sense of who I even was.  I wish I could give the gift of truth to everyone, but that probably is not going to happen.

One of the other things I've learned in my recovery program is that when I'm noticing other people's imperfections, I probably need to look myself to see if I am practicing those imperfections myself.  So, it must be time to see where I am hiding secrets myself.  At this moment I don't actually see it, but I'm sure I will now that I'm aware.

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