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Parenting

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What lies beneath…

Many of us are proud to say that we grew up in a stable family, where we felt loved and supported. But sadly even in the tightest of families, there may be a secret or two lurking in the background which has remained hush hush for a long time. Some of those secrets may have lost their sting throughout the realms of time but others may still remain as powerful as they were when they were hatched, in fact they could be so powerful they could actually upset the whole family dynamics if they ever came to light!

When we choose to take out a metaphorical shovel and bury a secret deep in our mind, it never fully goes away no matter how much we kid ourselves that we can function as normal and no-one will ever know. We may think that we are coping well and then one day, out of the blue, someone will say something or something will happen which will cause the heart to race, the mind to reel and the throat to become dry when put on the spot. Children are particularly good at sensing unease and if their questions are never fully answered their inquisitive little minds will start working overtime.  When parents do not provide a thorough and concise explanation, little minds start trying to work things out all by themselves. This could send them off in many different directions with many distorted variations of what happened each one implying that they were to blame for the outcome.

On the surface, it may seem easy to keep a secret, you simply keep it locked in your head where no-one can hear it and you take it to the grave without ever revealing it. In theory this is true but in practise, harbouring such information can niggle away at the subconscious. Sometimes it is difficult to sleep at night, other times the mind blows it out of proportion and occasionally you could find yourself slipping up and saying something which could blow the lid off your secret. Keeping something private could be like keeping a ticking time-bomb in your head. It could play havoc with your nerves and some days you could feel as though you are going to explode and just blurt everything out, some secrets are nothing more than heavy burdens which we carry around with us.  Whilst the facts remain in our head and we do everything in our power to stop that information from passing our lips, we do not realise how much we actually reveal in our body language. How often have you tried to keep schtum about something without looking shifty? The eyes may begin to flutter or the eyelids may close for longer than usual, often the hands or the fingers will go up to the eyes as a virtual way of trying to shut out the truth. Some people sweat or blush, others fidget when they are under pressure, they may fiddle with their clothing or with objects as a way of releasing nervous energy. A person trying to conceal information may also seem cold and stand offish, sitting with arms folded and legs crossed.

Another tactic used to swerve the conversation away from delicate matters is the swift change of subject. This may work for a while but eventually people will wonder why a person constantly avoids talking about a certain issue. Take for example a child who is being raised by someone he believes to be his biological dad. He may start having doubts if he doesn’t like the same things as him or cannot bond with his father. As the years pass by, he may have a lot of questions. Parents could use every trick in the book to avoid a complicated conversation but a child usually knows when a parent is avoiding the truth. Children probably know us better than we know ourselves as they are aware of all the funny mannerisms we display when we are trying to avoid something.

Secrets within the family are the hardest as family members are the stitches of love which hold us together, the nucleus upon which we have been able to form our identity. We trust our family and value that closeness and solidarity; we trust wholeheartedly that each and every family member has their heart and soul firmly cemented into this special bond. If a secret bubbles under the surface one family member may start to unpick those delicate stitches and we may notice other members beginning to distance themselves from the fold. There will be a lot of talking behind backs and communication with certain members may be discouraged as such, ripples of uncertainty will start to resonate.

In some instances a secret may be the best way to keep a family together, a way of preserving its dignity. Some children are expected to conform to certain standards, if those standards have been dropped, some may feel safer letting sleeping dogs lie rather than awaken them and face the wrath of anger and disappointment. Some children fear being disowned and would rather live with the guilt rather than face the reality.

Is it better to come clean?
This is something that no-one can advise upon as all circumstances vary and there is no right or wrong answer. Usually a person will rely upon their instincts to help make the right decision. In general, if a parent was responsible for the breakup of a relationship, maybe as a result of an affair, it may be easier to explain to a child that adults are not perfect and often make mistakes that they later regret. There is no need to go into the finer details. A child would probably feel more content knowing that mummy or daddy left because of something which was caused by someone else rather than them. A simple explanation may be all that is needed to satisfy young minds. However, avoiding the matter completely could result in more interrogative and invasive questions being asked when the child becomes older. They may wonder why something just didn’t feel right. Only a parent will know the right way to approach such a situation.

If a child has let down the family, some parents may choose to disassociate with the offspring but some may benefit from counselling. This will allow them to save the family unit rather throw a loved one out of the nest. For example, certain religions do not believe in the western form of courtship and prefer to arrange partners for their children. If a child does not want to accept a spouse this way, the family honour could become tainted within the community. Some parents may feel disappointed with their children’s decision and find it hard to accept such betrayal. In such an instance, counselling may be a way for parents to understand why their daughter or son did not want to share the rest of their life with someone that they did not feel connected to. Support and guidance is always an option if a secret is too much for a family to cope with on its own. This could be a great way to bring the truth out into the open and repair the hurt in a controlled environment.

If you are supressing a secret which you believe would open up a big can of worms if the lid was lifted, the best thing to do is discuss the matter with a therapist. What better way to get things off your chest than with someone unbiased? Talking is the best way to see a matter from all perspectives and reach a decision. Granted, it may take a lot of nerve to make an appointment and actually choose to talk about something personal but doing so could allow you to release a lot of pent up emotions so as you can start to heal from within. Such therapy may provide a way to rekindle that relationship with those family members you have kept at arm’s length for many years.

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