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Everybody has a story.
Some of those stories might even be referred to as skeletons in the closet. But just because you have a story doesn’t mean you have something to hide. Granted, there are those who do have things to hide—like really bad things—and they hide them for a reason. But that’s not what I’m talking about here: I’m talking about the story that so many of us have. The story that changes who we are as human beings. That story that we keep hidden not because we are embarrassed or shameful of it, but because we want our privacy protected and we don’t want to have to give explanations as to why we behave the way we do or why we no longer have relationships with people who aren’t healthy for our emotional well-being.
Some of the stories that we have are painful ones and not all of them are our fault.
I’m talking about the stories of childhood trauma in particular because those are the ones that most people don’t talk about openly. If you don’t have that kind of story, you might be wondering why someone wouldn’t talk about it, bring it out into the open, or use it as a platform to raise awareness. Listen, some people can do it and sometimes they do. Obviously, my hat goes off to those who don’t find shame in telling their story. But what I want to offer you is a tangible, valid reason as to why more people don’t share their truth and it’s really rather simple: they don’t want to not be believed.
You might think that the notion of that sounds ridiculous, because after all, why wouldn’t someone believe what another person says?
Look, there are a plethora of answers to that and we all know the story about the boy who cried wolf. Sometimes, people make things up for attention, they do! But most don’t. And when that story is the truth, the person telling it is often invalidated and re-victimized in ways they never should be…
…he would never do such a thing! He’s a deacon at the Baptist church! (So?)
…you’ve imagined that! Your mother is a pillar of the community! (And?)
…why are you making things up? (But what if I’m not…?)
…it happened over 30 years ago, why does it matter now? (My personal favorite.)
I’m going to tell you why it matters.
It matters because most traumatic experiences change us to the core of our being. And if those experiences take place in childhood, we learn unhealthy ways of coping such as abusing substances, keeping secrets ‘for the good of the family’, eating an entire box of Nutty Bars because we don’t know how else to deal with it, or isolating ourselves because we feel shame for something that was never, ever our fault. Yet it’s made out to be.
I’ve often wondered over the years why it is that people respond to situations the way that they do.
Most of the time, the people we think of as ’emotionally healthy’ are the ones who are actually the unhealthiest. If I had to guess why those who profess to love us are as unsupportive as they are, I would say that it’s because the truth is uncomfortable and most just don’t have the capacity to deal with it. To be completely candid with you, it takes a lot of personal strength and awareness to be able to face an ugly truth, especially when it’s about something taboo or someone we love.
I want you to hear me loud and clear when I say this:
Normal, emotionally healthy families do not keep secrets, nor do they encourage them. Moreover, if they do, and you’re one of those people who has such a story, they’re doing it so that they don’t have to deal with accepting that they weren’t paying enough attention to what was going on within the confines of their own tribal unit.
You are not their scapegoat.
You never have to sit through another family dinner with the person who created your trauma.
You should not be expected to have relationships with people who don’t honor your feelings.
And you do not ever have to sacrifice your truth for their comfort.
Your story matters.
And your story doesn’t only heal you, it heals those around you as well. Understandably, not everyone can be courageous enough to speak their truth, especially when they’re scared of not being believed. But when you do speak it, you touch people in the places they’ve kept hidden out of fear. Transparency is your very best friend, whether you realize it or not. So if you have a story that you need to share with those around you so that everything that’s buried in darkness can be resurrected into the light, then do it. If that means you need to confide in a trusted, unbiased person such as a therapist, then I really, really want you to do it because you don’t deserve to suffer in silence for something that was never your fault.
I hear you. I see you. I believe you.
You are worthy.
You are brave.
You are a survivor.
And your truth is magnificently beautiful.
Til next time, stay sassy.
Interested in John Bradshaw’s work?
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