Why I Can’t Shut Up | Secrets Are Like Poison
Very recently, I went through a highly emotional and somewhat scary situation with someone I was quite close to – someone who, despite setting off a few of my inner alarm bells, I sidled up to and I allowed to do the same. Our friendship was like a well-blooming tree. We watered it for nine months, and it birthed a closeness that looked and felt like a long-term friendship. I exhumed harmful lifelong patterns and stories of trauma and showed this person what I found, what I learned while digging. Like a picture book for my friend to thumb through, to study. I wanted to leave it behind, and being honest felt like the best way to slay negative behaviors once and for all. In the end, I came to know I had attracted this person to play those ill-formed behaviors out once more, hopefully for the last time, not to bury them together like in a time capsule ceremony.
Sharing the embarrassing and nightmarish showdown that went down between us with friends would normally fall into the category of way too revealing, way too embarrassing. I mean, the thought of course crossed my mind that my own shortcomings brought this person in, that I was a tragic and flawed figure who attracted a somewhat angry person. But sharing was and is my savior now. I took full responsibility for not showing up in our last encounter the way I’d liked to. I bumbled words; I got defensive. I wasn’t comfortable enough and we weren’t close enough yet to slip into true vulnerability. I took those mistakes on as I relayed the story to others because they felt true and because there are lessons embedded in every situation. But every friend said the same thing, which I’ll paraphrase into one unified voice: “One bad conversation doesn’t justify what happened to you, quit making excuses for other people, quit defending the byproducts of anger, quit focusing on people’s backstories and the why, the how could you have done better. Sometimes people are not good for us, and you were given that sign.”
Here is why I share this: I likely would have kicked around the ole analysis can for quite a while longer with my counselor hat on, asking myself what about this person’s past – traumas, hurt, childhood tales – could cause that much anger. I’d keep kicking that can down the road, and I’d probably pick up a few more cans: “how can I help?”, “will I be forgiven for the part I played?”, “how did we get here?”. I’d soon have a six-pack full of worthless, albeit illuminating, thoughts and queries about the situation. But I wouldn’t feel better. I’d still feel loss, for my relationships are everything to me. I’d still feel partly to blame. I’d still wish I hadn’t misjudged the situation.
Dr. Brené Brown’s books via Audible have been a mainstay of many of my commutes this summer, she of “Daring Greatly” and “Rising Strong” fame. Prior to this whole scenario, a few weeks back, I’d written down several of her quotes that were most important to me, ones that epitomized my journey this year. First: “If we can share our story with someone who responds with empathy and understanding, shame can’t survive.”
Oh, the shame story I would have let build within me like a nasty cold if I hadn’t shared my story with loved ones – it might have been my undoing.
Another: “I think we carry shame in our bodies just like we carry trauma in our bodies. One of the interesting studies on this was from James Pennebaker at the University of Texas at Austin. He studied trauma, expressive writing, and physical wellness. What he found is that for people who held on to a secret of trauma—because of shame or because of guilt—keeping that secret had a worse effect on their physical well-being than the actual traumatic event.”
Yeah, maybe not a nasty cold, maybe more like a cancer. Sharing is essential to our being as humans. The medium should be the right one, however. Not everyone needs to know of our traumas; the quality of the receiver is vital to our detox of shame, of self-hatred, of blame and of our finding truth. Identifying your Pack, your therapists, your advisors, and bending their ears with your secrets is one of the most important acts you’ll undertake in life. We support you. We SHARE this act with you.