By Amy Goldbeck, LPC, R-DMT, CHt
It’s funny to me how there are indirect messages to keep certain truths…hidden. You know, the sideways glances or raised eyebrows you get when you broach a topic, or the explaining away that happens if you say the “thing” out loud, or even when people brush you off with a light saying and walk out of the room–or even worse, when a punishing comment is hurled. We have all had this experience on some level, so why are we so discouraged to share our experiences?
Fear: that’s what I think. I think people fear feeling uncomfortable or helpless; that perhaps, they don’t want to know, because if they don’t know, then they don’t have to worry, and if it is not spoken, then perhaps it’s not even real. Personally, I find great relief in naming what I’m truly observing and feeling, especially if it repeats. I mean, in my opinion, that’s a nudge from the Universe, saying, “Pay attention to this!” Avoiding and ignoring are not serving behaviors.
Things need space and attention. Whatever issue it is, be it a learning, mood or relationship problem, needs time, space and attention to be understood–and THAT is the goal: understanding. Almost always, healing and progress can come through understanding with compassion. It’s not about judging and harping on a negative thing. It’s about curiosity and exploration about something that needs support.
It’s kind…to acknowledge someone’s unhappiness or struggle, because then they feel supported and seen, heard and felt. The burden is shared and direction can become clearer together. We don’t have to pretend that everything’s okay if it’s not. Those messages can cause a lot of internalizing and shame, which is simply unnecessary. There’s nothing to be ashamed of! Everyone struggles from time to time. Can’t we support each other to be our happiest, healthiest selves? If someone gets mad at me because I share my truth, then we need to get curious about that response, and now there’s another thing to explore, another thing to name.
This pressure to keep things hidden doesn’t help anyone, because someone suffering needs help. As long we name things with compassion and curiosity rather than judgment, we can become our best selves; we can connect and understand each other more deeply. We need to bring issues out of the shadows and into the light. It’s a big responsibility for one person or a cluster of people to hold a secret. Secrets are toxic and will eat away at you. It’s time to listen to “the nudge,” to let it have a space to be heard; to liberate the truth and know that you will still be okay, worthy, loved and lovable. Everyone struggles from time to time–it doesn’t signify weakness, it’s part of the human journey. Struggles are opportunities to strengthen and learn.
I have a friend who is a performer and talks about the “fourth wall.” The fourth wall refers to an imaginary barrier that separates the communicator from the receiver. It originates from the theater world with the imaginary wall separating the actors from the audience, but it reminds me of the taboos that exist in terms of appropriate topics to bring up.
In therapy, it reminds me of the process underneath the content, when that is identified, it is helpful information to become aware of, and it also makes me proud that therapy is a safe place to break through that wall and bring the issues into the light. For my friend, it’s about going into the audience with his microphone and getting audience members to break out of the observer mode and into a participator mode, that’s his goal, and the result is connection and increased joy.
What’s with the invisible walls and secret taboo pressures? We’ve outgrown that in terms of time-period progression. Let’s help each other come out of the darkness. Naming, identifying and exploring are ironically the things that help the struggles dissipate, like a family of feelings: each one needs to be given attention and a chance to be understood; a stage, so to speak.
This could be an opportunity to be honest about what’s going on, and/or to be curious about someone else’s story. I think that a lot of times, that is what holiday stress is about: anticipating the togetherness and thinking you have to present yourself as perfect. We should be able to show up just as we are! Allow yourself to connect more deeply with those in your life by coming into the light!