Tuesday, April 11, 2006

If They Only Knew…

[NOTE: This blog entry was not written with ANYONE specific in mind.]

It’s amazing the secrets we can keep. Some big, some little. Some probably wouldn’t change anything if they were told, and some would change things if they were told. Some legal, some illegal. Some healthy, some unhealthy.

With so many secrets, one can never seem to stop learning about one another…

Couples who have lived 50 plus years together can still learn something new about their spouse that they never knew before. Secrets that have been kept for years can emerge out of no where, especially on deathbeds.

The secret can be an event of the past, a belief one has, a continuing behavior one takes part in, etc. There is always SOMETHING that is kept secret, even from those we claim to be the closest with in our journey through life.

So why do we keep these secrets? Is it that we are ashamed? Do we view the event or behavior as a “fault” of ours? Was it a “failure” we had not expected and still have yet to let go of? Could it be that we think it would not achieve the acceptance from others, therefore we mark it as being viewed as a “disappointment?” Or maybe it just “upsets” us to even think about and/or relive the event, so we choose to not talk about it, thus keeping it a secret.

Life provides us with so many different situations in which we are expected to behave in one of a few “appropriate” manners, and it is when we deviate from those manners, and we venture to behave in what society would view as an “inappropriate” manner, that we are faced with an event of the past where we have to choose whether to admit to it, or hide it. It is when we choose to hide it that the so called “secrets” develop.

So if we don’t publicly admit to the events and behaviors of the past, is it impossible to learn from them? Of course not. We can learn from our actions of the past and hopefully choose not to behave in that manner again, should the circumstances arise, but this is not always the case.

Sometimes our “secrets” are behaviors we continually partake in, however, in undisclosed manners. Even if we choose to continue with this behavior on multiple occasions, it does not necessarily mean we do not view it as a “fault/failure/disappointment.” Maybe we do, maybe we don’t. Maybe we do not necessarily see it as “bad,” but we are aware of the stigma society places on it, which in turn influences us to hide it. Yet still, there are some continuous behaviors we have that we ourselves view as a “fault/failure/disappointment,” but we are unable to control the impulses due to lack of coping strategies. It is then that help should be sought out, because it is that person who is aware of their struggle, just ill-informed on how to overcome it, who is the best candidate, so to say, for seeking professional help.

We all have secrets. I’ve recently been reminded cognitively of some “secrets” I have from when I was a young kid growing up. I look back on them now and think of how immature I was then and I could have probably gotten in a lot of trouble for them back then, had they ever been “revealed,” but I can say I have learned through my years of maturing from those mistakes of the past. I do not talk of these events, as I can not think of anyone I have ever shared them with, but they are still there. Does this make me less of a person or inferior to anyone else? I do not believe so. Would people think differently of me if they knew my “secrets?” That’s possible, but would it change the person I am today, if others knew about them? No.

With my examples, they were specific events that took place in my past—so they are not continual behaviors I deal with today and keep secret, so in cases like that, it is easy to keep the secret, especially if NO one else was involved in the event. It could be a secret that is kept till the grave, should one choose too. And if the secret was a one-time-event, and you have learned from it and have come to peace within yourself about it, it is very possible that no one will ever find out about it, no matter how close they should come to you. However, it is when one has not been able to come to peace with their short-comings of the past, that they can resurface, or in other words, cause us to still dwell on them in the future, possibly leaving us in a state of a distraught nature. It is then, that it is possible for others to get close enough to know that “something” is bothering us, enough that it is affecting our functioning—whether that be our daily functioning, or functioning of a specific nature, such as in a romantic relationship, in a friendship, in a job situation, etc.

It is then, when others begin to notice a “strain” or a sense of a distraught nature, that we have “shown” our secret in the sense that one might become curious as to the nature of the “strain.”

What makes you so uncomfortable with being physically close to another person? What makes you unable to look at a young child without a sense of hesitation? It is then that people begin to question…

With events of the past that are “secrets,” I recommend seeking advising (and no, I do not say that simply because it is my soon to be profession). I say it because of this…

If it is a situation that one feels so uncomfortable about it, that they have chosen to not share it with even the people they are the closest too, and one has been unable to “overcome it,” so to say, on their own, a fear could still exist for the individual. This fear could be that of which I just described earlier—a fear of people being able to note a sense of “strain” in your character, possibly leading to questioning, causing one to feel a sense of discomfort as they struggle to preserve their “secret.” The key to seeking “help” in a situation like this is the idea that a professional is someone you do not have to worry about their judgment of your “secret” affecting a relationship you have. Meaning, you most likely do not have plans to preserve a friendship or a romantic relationship with your therapist, or for that matter, you probably wouldn’t even have to ever see that individual again after you hopefully “overcome” your “secret,” therefore leaving the individual who you “let in” on your secret totally out of the picture in your life in the future.

It is easy to think, “why would I want to tell a total stranger about a deep dark secret that I have, when I won’t even tell the people I love the most about it?!” To that I say this: many times it is the ones that we love the most—the ones we are the closest to—that we fear “disappointment” and judgment from the most. It is the ones we look up too that we do not want to know about our “failures.” Many times we can be satisfied with our “faults,” but we do not want others to be aware of them for fear that they will view us as our “faults” and “failures.”

So what about our “secret” that is a continuous behavior?

Believe it or not, I would be willing to bet some of your closest friends have continual behavior “secrets” you have NO idea about! Day after day I learn of more and more “secrets” I was never aware of, and they were practically in my backyard.

Think of your closest and best friend. Now just imagine him/her cutting their self. Imagine them stepping out during a movie to “use the bathroom,” only to return with a less full stomach. Or maybe he/she doesn’t sleep much at night because they are too busy feeding their impulsive urges for internet porn…

Maybe you are right in saying, “my best friend does not do any of those, nor would he/she ever;” but maybe you just don’t know…

It is these types of continual behavior “secrets” that are more prevalent than we would ever guess. Eating disorders, self-mutilation (cutting one’s self or causing other bodily harm to one’s self), porn addictions, sex addictions, etc.—behaviors such as these, that are taught in our society to be behaviors that are to be kept to one’s self. Because of the “secretive” nature of these behaviors, one is very careful and selective should they choose to reveal their behavioral existences to someone, if anyone at all. And as society continually teaches us that these types of behaviors are a “flaw” in our character, or a “disappointment” to our existence, we will continue to hide them, especially from those that we care the most about how they view us.

So up to this point, all the sorts of “secrets” that have been referenced have been given the generalizing impression of “big secrets.” “Big secrets” meaning they would be viewed as a big deal to the person who is keeping the secret, as well as, those who the secret is being kept from; however, all secrets are not of this nature. Obviously, all secrets are a “big deal” to the person keeping it secret, or else they would not choose to keep it as a secret in the first place, but what about “secrets” that truly would not be a big deal to those who are having the “secret” kept from them?

It is possible, that what I choose to keep as a secret because I fear it would be viewed as a disappointment might not be viewed that way after all? Maybe I view a “weakness” of mine as a “character flaw,” when it just so happens that those who I’m the closest too have the same “flaw” so to say. God forbid I find out it isn’t as “bad” as I thought.

But maybe my best friend doesn’t have this same “weakness.” Maybe it just so happens to be a strength of his/hers, so I do my best to keep it a “secret.” But aren’t we all aware of the fact that not a one of us is perfect? We can not possibly have a “strength” without something to be weaker than it, otherwise it would not be able to be considered a “strength” in the first place (this being since “strength” and “weakness” are terms of comparison). I suppose it comes down to our reasoning for choosing to keep this “weakness” or self-defined “fault” top secret.

What makes me not want others to know about a certain characteristic of mine, or a behavior of mine? Is it that I, myself, view it as a disappointment, or really more that I feel it would be a disappointment to others? If it is the latter, it is based on assumptions and expectations. It is possible that the expectations I feel others have for me can be so overbearing that I fear ANY short-coming, therefore causing me to hide any unsatisfactory mark. A lifestyle defined in that manner, for sure makes for a tough way to live. Or, maybe it just comes down to expectations I have for myself. Maybe I feel anything short of what I expect is unsatisfactory, therefore causing me to feel ashamed of my missed expectations, so I hide them.

There are so many possibilities, all of which can lead us to hiding from others information that is tied to us.

So what is it we do with a life infested with “secrets?” Often times we choose not to “let people in.” We fear letting someone get close, because too close could reveal our “secrets,” and should our “secrets” get revealed, we could be judged in a manner we see as unfit. So we continue as if there is nothing to do but to keep the “secrets” and adjust to our way of living where we do not allow people to get close enough to get a sense of the undisclosed. Because it is then, then when we feel violated—in the sense that we feel someone is getting too close to a “secret”—that we shut them out. It is definitely a tough life to sustain, especially if the “secret” or “secrets” are continual in the nature that we can’t possibly overcome the thoughts of them if they keep occurring.

Basically, in the end, we all have “secrets.” Some secrets for what most of us would consider to be good reasons to be “secret,” but still others that possibly only we our self have what we believe to be good reason for keeping them secret.

I end with this. A great point shared with me by a mentor of mine. Dr. Trevathan once said that EVERYONE has a "closet" in their life. The “closet” being stuff you are ashamed of or information you choose to keep secret. We all have different contents in our "closets" but we all have them. Now, just think about your "closet" and imagine who you would want standing there if your "closet" should get kicked open. Just think about it. Do you have people in your life that you could trust with the contents of your "closet"? If so, you should really treasure those individuals in your life that you would trust guarding your "closet". And though none of us would want our "closet" kicked open, it could happen. So think about it…

Do you have people in your life that you could trust with the contents of your "closet"?


julesforstenholm said...

Interesting perspective. I must admit that I don't think any of my secrets are "big", as in life-changing or revolution-causing; however, like you wrote in the blog, they mean something to me... and I'll be very honest about what I like to keep to myself - I think it's an issue of pride, more than anything else.

I don't like people to know when I fail... at anything, from a little homework paper to a question on my comprehensive exam (which happened - aagghh!, I admitted it! :)) Regardless, I just don't like to be compared to other people - I hate divulging grades, school admissions information, job application information... anything that might make me look "not up to par". And I don't like people to use those things to compare me...

Pride. One of the seven deadly sins. In fact, I believe it might be the first of the seven deadly sins... yikes! This pride issue of not letting others in to me, the real me, is something of which I've been aware, but it's something with which I struggle daily. Sometimes I just want to break down and say, "hey, I'm having a bad day... I failed a test, didn't get into the school I wanted, and frankly, don't know what I want to do with my life"... but I don't do it. It just bothers me too much to talk about stuff like that.

I hate failure! But more than that, I hate having to admit failure! I'm such a dork! Now everyone is on to me! Haha! Good blog, blogger!

julesforstenholm said...

By the way, my comps exam is now passed and completed - just a clarification! I just realized that I might be leaving people with the impression that I failed! Can't have that happen, right? ;)

FeedingYourMind said...

julesforstenholm: You know, if you keep commenting like this, I'm going to have to blog daily, because with each comment you seem to bring up a topic I want to blog about. Now it's pride.

I have a DEFINITE issue with pride (pretty sure I've talked about it before in this blog, though in reference to religious issues).

However, mine is more related to HATING to admit I'm wrong, more than hating to admit my failures (and yes, those can be different though many wouldn't think so). Matter of fact, a couple of my favorite stories to tell is how I BOMBED two Dr. Trevathan tests, like got a 42% on one (the lowest in the class that time), and a 54% the other.

But with me and "failures," including those two examples, I'm REAL good at joking them off and just doing my darn bestest to make sure they never happen again.

Yes, I did bomb that second test after having bombed the first, but it was in a different one of his classes, and I learned from the first time that I can TOTALLY bomb a test in his class and still get a "A" or "B" (kinda like a reinforcement in a strange way).

So pride. A deadly sin? Yeah, I guess. A struggle of yours? So you say. A struggle of mine? Yep. (not to compare of course...HA...just to show that you are definitely not alone)

Heck, I even take my pride issue to the extreme with joking and consider the pride in it's self as a "failure" or "flaw" so I often times joke it off as my "fault" that places me leaning toward narcissism....HA!

Oh no....does this all mean I've admitted the basis of my jokes?!?! Nooooooooooo.... ;)