I have worked with clients for the past two decades, and everyone I have met has experienced hesitation and shame when they finally open the dark, dusty closet door full of family secrets. Shame and family secrets is the topic of discussion, and I intend to shift everyone’s perspective. You see, some family secrets are clouded in shame. Sometimes, the guilt can be so unbearable, deep and thick, like a swamp. Then, some family secrets are too embarrassing and shameful that everyone within the family has nailed the closet door shut, thrown away the key, and nobody mentions that family member’s name again.
It takes trust, faith, hope, and courage to open that closet door labeled family secrets. Clients have told me stories they have not shared with their spouses, friends, or other family members. And let’s get personal here. Everyone on this planet does have a few secrets of their own. Afraid to tell another living soul because of shame, fear, rejection, abandonment, and heartache.
Shame and Family Secrets
Yet, we are stopping us from living our truth and speaking our truth. We have all heard that the truth will set you free, and it does. Because I had a big family secret, I was stuck in fear. My fear was about anger, rejection, retaliation, and bodily harm. Sounds pretty scary, right? Well, it was not as frightening as I thought when I finally came out and revealed my family secret to a sibling. And when I did, the response I got was completely unexpected. There was no anger, yelling, threats, insults, humiliation, or heartache.
There was only joy. It was a relief, as if this massive weight I carried on my shoulder was lifted. I was holding my breath, and after I told him, I did let out a deep breath of relief. The issue is I was stuck in fear. Yet I realized the timing was perfect. Timing is everything; if I had told this family member earlier, I might not have gotten the same response. Therefore, the stars aligned, and I went with the flow of our conversation to allow me to reveal this work everyone enjoys.
And trust me, I have been wanting to share this family secret for a long time now. I saw this person during the holidays and at my wedding. Still, it did not feel right. I have learned to trust and listen to my gut and intuition. I feel everyone should because it does communicate our own individual truth within that moment.
So, here is my family’s secret. I have kept my book, blog posts, podcasts, speaking engagements, book signings, and mental health presentations all hidden from my younger brother. Are you shocked? I did it for a specific reason. It was not about shame, guilt, or embarrassment. It was about disapproval, anger, retaliation, and threats to tell other family members. Can any of you relate? And this is why I share this story. Even though it is family, some family members cannot comprehend or understand you.
Well, I have always been considered the black sheep in my family, and I am proud of it. Why? Because I am honoring myself. I respect and stand up for me. I give myself a voice when a family member wants to take their hands and cover my mouth. All this work I do comes from a place of LOVE. Love for humanity and our future generations. The good news is it was perfect timing because, at that moment, he connected and could relate with me from a parenting perspective.
You see, he married someone that was similar to the my son’s father. She is greedy, narcissistic, eats her emotions, unhappy in general, and does not know how to connect with her son. Currently his son struggles with the grueling divorce and his wife’s refusal to co-parent. Because of his current life experience, he is now standing in the same boat as I was years ago. And when I say boat, I mean it in terms of a metaphor. He feels trapped in this massive ocean of emotions without an ores to steer the boat to shore. He is just drifting and feels lost and desperately needs to send out an SOS signal. When I finally told him the truth, he said, “Good for you.” I could hear in his voice that he meant it. So, I need to say thank you to God and the Universe for this blessing.
Shame and Family Secrets
Now, I want to be transparent here. It could have gone badly, but it did not. Timing was everything and I am glad I listened to my intuition. I want to go even more profound here about shame and family secrets because there is a message for everyone. As you all know, I came from a highly unhealthy family. Not many people do what I did, but there has been this spiritual calling within me to clear away all the family secrets. This has been a life long task of mine because there are so many. And when I say many, I mean other family members secrets that did and do impact my life today. This will all make perfect sense as we continue.
I read a book when I was twenty that encouraged me to write a letter to my abusers and confront them. I wrote two letters to my stepbrothers, who sexually abused me as a teenager and when I was forced me to live at my father’s house.
One stepbrother apologized and wanted to make amends. The other stepbrother said, and I will quote him here, “Well, you got what you deserved.” Did I cry or feel shame for what I did or his response? The answer is no. Here is my point. I had to free myself from this nasty, ugly secret clouding my present and future. I refused to allow myself to feel less of a human being because of an act of violence and abuse. I needed to parent myself and love myself.
This was not suggested within the book, but my heart guided me to do it. I took a picture of myself as a little girl and held it. I talked to her and promised to do my best not to ignore her or shut her away in the family’s secret closet. Her and I do not deserve this form of self-punishment or treatment because we are one. Now I have suggested this approach to several of my clients that have experienced childhood abuse and trauma and they swear by it. There is something magical and beautiful that unfolds like a rose opening its petals to receive the warmth and nutrients from the sun light. We begin to bloom and blossom with self love and acceptance and so can you.
And this is humanity’s problem. We are born and created out of connection, yet we disconnect easily and quickly. Some people prefer separation or disconnection, but they fear vulnerability. And this fear was taught through life experiences or by another person’s fear based beliefs. Plus, all these superficial hookup dating apps just make forming an emotional connection with another human being ever more challenging. Those apps are about superficial sex and people are getting ghosted, used, and abused.
I want to give you a perfect example of why people need an emotional connection to truly thrive in life. I have shared that I honor and enjoy watching Love is Blind and Too Hot to Handle on Netflix. These shows are all about teaching people how to form an emotional connection with another human being. It reveals their fears, family secrets, self-doubt, self-sabotaging behaviors, and why they struggle with finding, creating, and keeping an emotional connection. Lives are changed and miracles happen on these two shows.
I highly recommend these shows because you will see these people doing workshops, self-reflection, soul searching, taking scary risks for love, and vulnerability. It might encourage you to stop allowing fear to dominate your life choices. This is therapy everyone! In my generation, if a family member was in therapy, it was considered a family secret because you don’t want to shame the entire family name. Don’t want the neighbors to think they are living next to a crazy person.
Yet in reality, the person was not crazy, just misunderstood and forced into isolation because at the time, we did not know there was a better way. So, it was recycle and repeat generation after generation. This must stop and I will explain why. People are not crazy, they are just misunderstood. Live Science reports that “Mental illnesses afflict 25 percent of U.S. adults, according to official numbers. But in reality, we’re all a little crazy. And for good reason: Nature doesn’t really care about our happiness.”
I need to address this statement, “nature doesn’t really care about our happiness.” I believe what the writer is trying to say is that humanity really doesn’t care about other people’s happiness because too many people make a snap judgment and paste a crazy label on that person, instead of taking the time to connect, communicate, and become friends with this person. And because of this, we are missing out on the opportunity to connect in the future because we already label this person as crazy. So, we will avoid connecting and comminating with them at all cost. This is wrong and this must change.
What this unfortunate crazy person really needs is someone with compassion and heart to listen to their struggles in life. They need to shift their perspective from the shame based seeds that the outside world planted and to give them tools to feel better. For example, if your mom broke her leg, you take her to the hospital. No brainer. If your mom was depressed, everyone stayed confused. Mom would not get better and family members might distance themselves from her because they don’t have the knowledge and tools to support mom. So, mom becomes more depressed and feels unlovable by her family members. This is the sad truth about humanity. There should be no shame about depression or mental health. That is why we all need to be brave and grab our flashlights.
Are you ready for some more shame and family secrets? I hope so because there is no price tag on LOVE. I have been tested once in that area before. Are you curious? Well, my daughter’s father was not the most incredible human being, and he gave me an ultimatum. He said, “I will stop hurting you and her if you give up the child support. In exchange, I will waive all my parental rights, and you will be free of me.”
I hope you all know that I did give up the child support and everyone was shocked. And here is another family secret that is written in my book, if you have not read it yet. When I was walking out of the courtroom after the judge and attorneys were still in shock, my daughter’s father said to me, “You can thank your father because he paid for all my legal fees.” Did your jaw drop? I hope so because I did not have anyone paying my attorney fees. In fact, I gave up my entire 401K, savings, and retirement fund to fight this man in court.
There is no price tag on LOVE. I had to let go my ego and pride. Of course I wanted to win and make him look bad. That is what the ego wanted at the time. Yet, my heart whispers words of forgiveness, kindness, and compassion. It reminded me that I was free and that I was standing at a crossroad of my future. Do I want to take the low road of misery, resentment, anger, bankruptcy, and revenge or do I want to climb the mountain and discover peaceful green pastures?
I was tired of digging my own grave because here is the truth. He wanted for weeks to talk to me about this subject and I refused. I tried to fight it out in court but I was too stubborn to stop and listen. It took me years to come to this realization and truth. Therefore, I cost myself thousands of extra dollars in a winless battle. The reality is that I would never win. I had no sugar daddy in my back pocket paying for this fight. Because I did run out of money and my attorney let me go. I could only afford a public assistance attorney to sign the legal documents to end child support.
I am being real, honest, and open here. There is no shame, just disappointment that I refused to listen when the opportunity presented it myself over a dozen times. The truth is, I was not willing to listen to HIS TRUTH. Now some people might call me stupid, but I am a mamma bear. I will fight to the death for my children. I wanted to make an example of him, but that’s a childish approach. He just did not want to be a father or responsible for a child. I cannot force anyone to do the right thing.
And yes, he was using my father because he had money. I am sure he made some empty promises to my father and he believed it. It took me twenty years to finally tell my father this shameful family secret of truth about my daughter’s father. In my father’s eyes, my daughter’s father could do no wrong. And when I did, he did not believe me. He blew up and yelled at me. It was all lies in his mind.
My younger brother validated it and our father bit his head off. He refused to listen to the truth and reason. So, our father still cling to a story built upon lies and deception. Again, my father’s reaction did not impact me in the manner he preferred. He expected me to kiss his feet and apologize. Groveling and kissing his feet is not in my nature. He wanted me to apologize why his grand daughter was no longer in his life. Of course I did it to protect her from him, but that truth would be like sticking a knife in him. I am not a cruel person. So I did apologize, but in his mind it did not matter. I was already dead to him. In the end, I stood my ground and only felt sadness and pity.
Here I was with open arms asking this man, I call father, to embrace me, explain himself, and apologize. I wanted to hear him say, please forgive me and instead he rejected me once more. And let me point out that I picked my words wisely. I did not NEED him to apologize to feel better about myself. Need and want are two different things. When we want something, we have the option to change our minds. When we need it, we need it. I had no expectations in that moment. I just created an opportunity to repair and renew our relationship. I was tired of having a disconnected relationship with my father.
Therefore, I am my father’s teacher of what unconditional love looks like in the face of separation. It is sad that he could not even embrace what he created out of love. And yes, I did not have to share this deep and personal shame and family secret. Why I share this information is to give you the strength and courage to shine a flashlight into your own family closet. It might not be as scary as you think. Times have changed, perspectives have shifted and evolved onto a higher vibrational plain. What we have all kept in fear can be transformed and transmuted when we allow the light of love to enter our hearts and minds. Encouraging and calling us all to open those shameful family secret closets.
This could explain why it is scary to be our authentic self. Fear can be an illusion and other times, fear is real. Fear can play tricks on our minds because of our past experiences. If you grew up in a home that did not talk about their feelings and emotions and the subject matter of showing one’s emotions was considered a sign of weakness, then life is going to be hard. We can only stuff down so many feelings and emotions before one explodes into chaos. And I want to praise how far humanity has come in terms of change and communication. We all had been lied to in the past on a massive global scale. Vulnerability is not a weakness, but a strength. It is a strength because it take courage to face our demons head on. You cannot become your authentic self without it.
So, grab your flashlight and shine a light upon those shameful family secrets. Times have changed and what aunt Sally did 60 years ago is probably not that scandalous in 2023. Some people might actually admire her. Many people are coming out of the closet around their sexuality, relationship preferences, smoking pot, clothing attire, religious preferences or no religious preference, career choices, and marriage/children.
Since I do talk about mental health and the title of this blog post is shame and family secrets, I do have an important family secret that almost got thrown in the trash. And this family secret unintentionally impacted my son and my relationship with my older brother.
This family secret of mine is about mental health and how proud I am that mental health has evolved in the manner it has in our generation. This family secret is about my older brother, who passed away in 2019. First I will share how I discovered this family secret, which my father kept hidden and has denied his whole life. I believe he will take this family secret to his grave, but NOT mine or my brother’s grave. And I must give you all a shock warning. In 1981, mental health was in my opinion still trying to figure out the human brain. Here is my story, my brothers story.
When I wrote about my brother passing away in the book, The Undetected Narcissist, I wanted to show the power of EMDR and trauma. My brother accidentally died and I had not spoken to him for several years. I will explain that more later and why. When I was alone in my brother’s apartment cleaning out his estate, I picked up a yellow plastic storage container. I saw that it had a file folder in it with some drawings. My intention was to stick it in the trash pile.
As I was walking out of his bedroom, I was stopped in my tracks (shock warning). On my left shoulder, I felt a hand grip me so tightly that it hurt. I could not move. I knew it was my brother’s spirit because we could feel him inside his apartment. My younger brother and I saw a few times a black shadow form in the kitchen and living room. He died in the kitchen across from the living room. Since I knew it was him, I realized there was something vital and important within this yellow plastic storage container. I stood there and said out loud, “Rob, please do not hurt me. I love you. I realize there is something very important in this container and I promise that I will not throw it away. I will keep it and open it with our younger brother. Please let me go, Rob. Please trust me. I love you and I am sorry our relationship was not as close as I would have preferred.”
Then he let me go. It was scary, but I kept my promise. When my brother came back from picking us up lunch, he was in shock when I showed him the file in my brother living room. The ceiling lights flickered, the power went out for a brief moment, and we saw the shadow form at the same time move across the kitchen wall. If you have ever watched Ghosts Adventures, well this was that moment.
Inside the container was my brothers confidential psychiatric intake evaluation for when he was placed in Fred Finch Youth Center when he was fourteen. After reading his family secrets, I cried. It stated, “Robbie’s problems began when he was approximately four years old. According to the father, Robbie was a hyperactive child and was given Librium for a period of one year. His emotional problems became more apparent specifically after the parents divorced, when Robbie was seven years old. His stuttering became noticeable at this time, and was involved in speech therapy.
Robbie is seen as a highly intelligent young man, having an I.Q. of 120-129. He was described however, as lacking flexibility in his thinking patterns and of being over-involved in his fantasies. Furthermore, he is seen as being extremely insecure and suffering from a very low self-esteem, adopting the conviction that he is “a freak”.
Diagnosis: Schizoid disorder of adolescence, conduct disorder – undersocialized, non-aggressive, possible borderline personality disorder, and dysthymic disorder.”
I believe my older brother had autism and ADHD. Nobody knew about autism during that generation. And it appears my brother did not have a secure attachment with either of my parents and I believe it must of been disorganized. Because there is a part in his evaluation that states, “by history his judgment appears impulsive. He tends to avoid eye contact. His voice is soft and low. His affect appears depressed.” I also wondering if my older brother had PDA – pathological demand avoidance because did report physical abuse by his father and stepmother, not our mother. The report went on to say, “he could not follow rules and regulations, he was socially withdrawn, and out of touch with his feelings, and he retreats to his fantasy world – magical thinking.”
Now here is my truth. I wish I knew about this family secret sooner because my son has autism, ADHD, Aspergers, and PDA. All the same symptoms and signs as my brother. There is a reason WHY doctors ask a parent about our family history. Therefore, this family secret influenced and impacted my son in a negative manner because I told all the doctors at the time, No. There is no history of autism, ADHD, depression, or Aspergers on my side of the family. This was a BIG lie and this family secret that hurt my child.
There should be no shame when it comes to this family secret of mine. Only love, compassion, sympathy, and regret. Regret that I was in the dark. I wanted to understand and connect with my older brother, but it was challenging. There was no support tools or information out there. And my husband looked up the medication my brother was given at 4 years old. He said it was extremely bad. It was designed to give to people that had anxiety before surgery. It is very addictive and dangerous. Then my husband said, “Imagine what his life would have been if he was born during this generation. Imagine the support and help he would have received. It is such a shame and I am sorry his life was so troubling.”
This explains why he had addiction issues. He became an addict when he was four years old and in my mind, this is insanity. He got into pot when he a teenager and in his twenties discovered meth. All his teeth rotted out and I did not know at the time that is was because he was an addict. I just thought he had a terrible diet or just bad teeth.
And I can understand why my father would want to keep this a family secret from everyone. It was his own shame because there is no shame about mental illness. Therefore, in honor of my older brother, Rob, I am sharing his story. Nobody should be treated the way he was treated growing up. I know he was an embarrassment to our father, but he is not in my eyes or heart. This form of truth brought about the realization of how important it is for all of us to be brave. To stop listening to lies and become detectives into our own family history. You might discover something similar to my older brother’s story.
Before I share one more important family secret, I must give a warning. When all of us die and leave this Earth, some of our family secrets might be revealed. Therefore, it is best to come clean because it can devaste and destroy another human being. For example, if you hold a parent up on a pedestal, in your eyes this person can do no wrong. This false expectation always leads to devastation because we are all perfectly imperfect. We all make mistakes.
Yet, what if this person you hold on a pedestal has the true nature of cheating on their spouse, gamble the family fortune away without anyone knowing, or has committed acts of violence. My husband shared a family secret that even he is afraid to shine a light upon, but deep down he wants to know the truth. Therefore, he has asked me to shine my light upon several documents in his possession and report back to him my findings.
So, why I share this is sometimes a kind and caring person can soften the blow, instead of shattering this image of “perfection”, into a thousand pieces. The reality is, this false image was really clouded by smoke and mirrors. So, if you feel you cannot do because it will be too painful for you to learn the full truth, find someone that can do it for you that you love and trust. They can tell you what you need to know so you can heal, grow, and evolve.
Shame and Family Secrets
Lastly, I will share one last dark family secret. My grandmother on my mother’s side had a family portrait of her that was considered scandalous. When she passed away in 2012, none of her children wanted the painting. They didn’t want to give it to Goodwill or sell it. My uncle said it was embarrassing and shameful to see his mother painted in such a manner. My mom knew the story behind the portrait, but was embarrassed as well. What are we going to do with this important family painting?
Well, I did not see shame, embarrassment, or humiliation. I saw strength, courage, beauty, sensuality, grace, and sophistication. My grandmother was stunning in the painting and I proudly put it up in my house for everyone to see. And, this painting was done is 1949. That took a big pair of balls. Here she is, my grandmother.
The story behind it is my grandfather was a ladies man. When I was cleaning out their estate, I found his gold plated Playboy bunny membership card. It is hard not to laugh at this family secret. Well, she got tired of him going out and drinking with his buddies at the Playboy club. So, she wanted to give him a visual reminder of what is waiting for him at home in his bed. I am so proud of her because people during her generation did not get divorced. Instead of beating herself up and taking it personal, she stood her ground. She made a shocking statement with that painting. Yes, it was shock value, but she got the message across loud and clear. And…my uncle still has the bra with the hand prints.
Now that she has passed and I explained my perspective of the painting. With this shift in perspective, it brought about a new realization of change within my uncle. Now he is proud of his mother because he realized it did take a lot of balls for her during that generation . It took strength, courage, love, and pride to wear something like that and sit hour after hour in front of a stranger painting her picture. My grandmother was very classy and sophisticated. In a million years, I am sure nobody saw she had this strength within her to wear something so revealing. Yet, that is what my grandfather was seeing every time he went to the Playboy club.
Now, if any of you are students like I am of Paul Selig channeling work, I have something fascinating to share. I have been working on this blog post for two weeks now and I listen to what needs to be shared from me to you.
The Book of Innocence was just released on Monday, September 18th. I am listening to the audiobook version and I just listened to Chapter 7 – True Mind. In this chapter, he talks about raising the global consciousness of humanity because we must evolve and change. When he was explaining what we students need to do, I smiled. This whole blog post and message is exactly what we are being guided and directed to do for humanity. To shine a light upon those things that we as a collective whole have left in the dark for centuries and we must move past the shame and bring it into the light. Pretty mind blowing, if you ask me. I am doing it before I am learning about it. So, if you are confused with the teachings as Paul was, I hope this podcast and blog post gives you the realization of WHY we all must shine a light upon our shame and family secrets. It is time!
I hope you have enjoyed this blog post about shame and family secrets. It was my honor to honor my family members that were stuck in that unnecessary closet of shame and family secrets.