Across ages and cultures, multiple studies show the personal health benefits of sharing your private hopes and fears with trusted confidantes — and the corresponding detriment of keeping some secrets entirely to yourself. Which secrets should you not be entirely alone with? Secrets motivated by shame. The research is clear: shame is highly correlated with addiction, depression and violence. The first step away from shame can be as close as a shared secret and the words “me too.” As Brene Brown explained so eloquently “If you put shame in a Petri dish, it needs three things to grow exponentially: secrecy, silence and judgment. If you put the same amount of shame in a Petri dish and douse it with empathy, it can’t survive.”
Too often a person shares an experience but that experience itself is rarely the source of shame. They may have had a role to play, they may have been taught to sell themselves or become emotionally involved in manipulative situations that they themselves manipulated. They may have been violent, felt love for someone that hurt them when young then learning later this was a bad thing. Shame will always be a representation of something WE did, not what happened to us. There is a reason confession came into being as we all know the relief of being unburdened. Yet many continue to struggle due to shame which prevents them sharing the deeper secret, not of what happened to them, but the role they learned to play within that happening. It is difficult to do so with those we know and love and yet healing is impossible without doing so, at least to someone. Shame takes many forms but is easy to identify in your thoughts and memories are you haunted by something that happened or by what you said or did? Firstly you may need to acknowledge that nothing you ever did, needs to be paid for the rest of your life, nothing you ever did or didn’t do, makes you unlovable or a bad person.
It is clear where the term getting something off your chest comes from, as opposed to getting something off your mind. It is emotional and as such can have a devastating effect on your health and any situation or relationship that engages those very same emotions. How can you trust love when love hurt you? Not the professed love of the aggressor, but your own love for them. Recycling those emotions inappropriately destroys relationships, it may even feel as if you are in self-destruct mode, although it is more likely you need to engage trust with the right person, you need to trust that they will not use this information against you, but more than that you need to trust that you can have emotionally intimate relationships by baring your shame to that one person. This doesn’t have to be a loved one although the benefits of it being so are obvious, whether it is a therapist or the confessional, unburdening is of great value. Fearing that you will be judged is not the same as being judged, but here is the thing, even if you are judged by choosing the wrong person to tell, you will still feel immense relief in the telling.
There is always a right person to tell, there is always a right motivation for moving past the secret. For many this motivation is love, wanting more, wanting to be happy and in the case of real love, wanting someone else to be happy with you rather than to make you happy. Shame keeps you isolated not because you don’t trust others but because you don’t trust yourself. It is the ultimate in feeling you have let yourself down, let others down or live a lie that others can’t see or that you need to hide from them. The baring of your secret is the only cure there ever was, or ever will be.
A painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behaviour.
Synonyms: humiliation, mortification, chagrin, ignominy, embarrassment, indignity, discomfort