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Toxic Secrets

August 1st, 2011

This week we are talking about secrets! Secrets come in many forms. There are healthy secrets, but also toxic ones. What is the difference? A toxic secret is one that will block you from intimacy and puts walls between you and your loved one. Support4change.com says, toxic secrets “hide a part of your heart, disguise your vulnerability which denies a gift to your loved one, or prevents your loved one from supporting you.”

Some will call them white lies, or lies of omission. People hold secrets to protect others, out of fear, they feel it could end a relationship, or because it’s their job. As a therapist I hold many secrets. I can’t count the number of times someone has said “I’ve never told anyone else that.” Usually after a person reveals their secrets they experience a powerful sense of freedom. As the saying goes, “The truth will set you free.” Toxic secrets can “haunt” you and cause emotional havoc. They can become poisonous and bleed dysfunction into your relationships and your moods.

Here are some examples of toxic secrets:

  • Abuse- Keeping the secret that someone is hurting you emotionally, verbally, sexually, or physically will make things worse for you and possibly for others. If you do not voice your pain, the perpetrator could inflict abuse to someone else down the road. Sharing this secret could save someone else’s life- including your own. (**If you are in an abusive relationship, please seek professional help to consult on a safe way to disclose the abuse.)
  • Affairs- When you have an affair, it will block the relationship from being fulfilling. Even if it is scary to reveal this secret, many couples are able to heal and create a relationship they never thought possible if they do it right.
  • Addictions- When someone is struggling with an addiction, it will only thrive more when they keep it a secret. The first step to overcoming an addiction is not keeping it a secret anymore to yourself and others.
  • Legal issues-Keeping these a secret could be dangerous and cause pain for others around you. If you have a legal matter, not revealing it in a close relationship could cause someone to feel betrayed. You are lying to them by hiding part of yourself.
  • Health concerns- Keeping these fears inside will block you from being able to lean on a support system and your doctor. You may need help from others. If they don’t know what is going on, they won’t know what to do to help you.
  • Emotions- Hiding your emotions can result in internal turmoil for someone. Keeping your emotions a secret will cause you to carry your pain alone. Sharing your emotions will keep you real and open up doors to emotional intimacy in relationships.

We are not saying you need to share every detail of your life with everyone you meet. There are boundaries to keep in mind and you need to make sure you are revealing secrets to people you feel emotionally safe with. Remember toxic secrets have more power when they are kept. The more you keep them, they more alone you will feel.

Check in tomorrow as Tammy tells us about healthy secrets!

Written by Teri Claassen MSW, LCSW, LCAC

Teri Claassen MSW, LCSW is a licensed therapist at Imagine Hope Counseling Group. Teri enjoys doing marriage counseling, individual counseling, couples and relationship counseling. Teri also does family counseling, child counseling, and adolescent counseling. Imagine Hope serves the Indianapolis area, including the surrounding areas of Carmel, Fishers, Noblesville, Zionsville, and Westfield.

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