The Dark Side of Secrets


I am talking about those deep emotional secrets that you keep, even from yourself. Secrets held from long ago, when your ability to cope was no match for the power of your circumstance.

Events that become dark secrets often happen in childhood. As children, we are more vulnerable. We are less able to protect ourselves, or make wise decisions.

They become dark secrets because: you never fully understood what was going on at the time, you were hurt or traumatized somehow, and you felt that you could not ask for help.

Fast-forward to the present

It is too frightening, painful, or stressful, to hold conscious awareness of those experiences without the ability to resolve them. Instead, you avoid thinking about them, and you instinctively sidestep emotions or thoughts that percolate up from the depths of those memories.

On the surface, you feel that you have left the past behind you where it belongs, but all of your fear and pain survives, waiting for resolution. It does not wait quietly or patiently though.

Your psyche serves up the same issues, repeatedly, until you understand, resolve, and release them.

But because you are keeping the original issue a secret to yourself, your psyche sneaks it into your everyday life disguised as your emotional response to current events.

It is hoping that somehow you will resolve and understand these overwhelming emotions, within the relative safety of current circumstance.

It would be very nice if that would work, but it rarely does.

Emotional secrets and the damage they cause

Instead of resolving and understanding your past, you end up inexplicably troubled by relatively innocuous present day circumstances.

By now, even if you are able to deal with your past, you are so far removed from it that you fail to see the connection between it and your seemingly out of place present day emotions. Because your feelings are disproportionately strong for current circumstances, you do not understand, let alone resolve them. They make no sense.

Until you reconnect your emotions to their proper place and time, they will remain unresolved, and they will continue to damage you with inappropriate emotional pain, fear, and poor self-image.

He who has never been traumatized, terrorized, abused, or otherwise victimized — cannot empathize. It is a lonely and dysfunctional world for those who hold dark secrets from themselves.

How can we achieve emotional healing?


Over to you now…

8 thoughts on “The Dark Side of Secrets

  1. Julie

    I think everybody has a dark secret or two… what would be a Zen Approach to the issues and problems of a haunting dark secret?

  2. John R. Post author

    Hi Julie,

    One technique for dealing with uncomfortable or inaccessible emotions, is to practice being present in your body, feeling what you feel — without judgment or labels.

    If I feel strong emotions that seem out of place, I try to be present, and experience them without saying to myself, “this is bad,” or “this is good.” If we can just be present in this way, we drop through the emotions into deeper levels. We can more safely arrive at the source of them this way.

    Understanding slowly comes and the dots get connected.

  3. ClinicallyClueless

    I try to be present to what I am feeling and thinking. It is difficult and often times I have to talk or do something to get there. Once, there my way of dealing with the dark secrets is telling my therapist like I did yesterday which was extremely painful. The first thing though was that I needed to be present. I had no idea where I was, so I talked about other stuff first, then I was present enough to talk about my abuse. When I’m by myself and I have a flashback, I try to remind myself who and where I am. “this is my car, i couldn’t drive then, i couldn’t reach the pedals. I am a 42 year old woman and this is my car that I drive…etc” Then that give me access to what I’m thinking and feeling in the moment.

    Is this the type of thing that is line with your thinking John? This is my first time here, so I haven’t read your blog, yet. I call this mindfulness which is one of the bigger “new” areas of psychotherapy as a way to treatment.

  4. John R. Post author

    Hi ClinicallyC,

    Yes, mindfulness is super important. Of course that is the last thing that our “hurt” selves want us to have. So we need to be courageous to be present.

    But do know what? If you practice being present inside your body, owning what you feel, but suspending judgment — just feel what you feel and breathe into it — it isn’t as scary as it seems.

    When you stop fighting and judging your emotions, you penetrate them. It feels as though you fall through the bottom of them into a deeper level. Each deeper level you arrive at carries more understanding and acceptance.

    At first, practice this in moments when you feel fine, then try to remind yourself to remain present in your body throughout the day. Make it the first thing you do before getting out of bed. Sit on the edge of your bed, close your eyes, and breathe. Just be there for yourself. Don’t judge anything you feel. Allow it to evolve and just practice being at ease within your body–accepting whatever you are feeling without going off on an emotional ride on them, if you know what I mean. Be there, observe, feel, but don’t follow them on a tangent.

    Mindfulness is a vital skill, and like any skill, you learn it a step at a time. Try that and let me know after a while how it works for you.

    Thoughts are with you,

  5. ClinicallyClueless

    I agree with you and do try to do this. But, for right now being present is actually terrifying due to flashbacks of severe abuse. I have severe PTSD. So, to be present right now is to deal with that which I have repressed for more than 35 pluse years…it is terrifying because it was. I’ve come to realize that the judgements that I have are not only automatic (mindfulness helps this), but it also a defense against being present to my pain.

    I am going to your site to my “blog roll.” Thanks, I like what you say.

  6. John R. Post author

    Thanks Clinically,

    I know that sometimes, being present is too much to handle.

    When I feel that, I try to tell myself to just go down the time line as safely as possible. Eventually I know that a moment will arrive when I have more strength and clarity. When that moment comes, I remind myself to be as present as possible and to take some action.

    A little at a time we chip away at it. As we do this, those moments of strength come more frequently causing our actions and mindfulness to become more influential in our lives. But yes, these things do “seem” to have a power of their own at times.

    Thanks for the blog roll addition. I appreciate that. I went to your site and I know that I will spend some time there reading. You are offering a valuable resource of experience.

  7. TheMrs

    “[…]He who has never been traumatized, terrorized, abused, or otherwise victimized — cannot empathize. It is a lonely and dysfunctional world for those who hold dark secrets from themselves.[…]”

    Wow.. that was excellent. Thanks for posting that!

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