The Dangers of Secrets

The Allure

Oh that wonderful childhood feeling of sharing a secret with a friend! The closeness you felt in sharing something only the two of you know. The attention you got from those who wanted to know, but you wouldn’t tell. 

As a teenager, a secret is a sign of being chosen as the friend who is trustworthy and stands out from the rest. It is one of the ultimate signs of social acceptance by a peer. It is sharing the thing you are so excited about, you are busting at the seems to tell someone! 

As an adult, how cute is it to share a secret with a child about the hidden candy or the surprise for another person. “We are throwing a surprise party for Grandma, but it is a secret. So don’t tell anyone or you will ruin it. I’m trusting you. Shhh”. They are so giggly and feel so special for knowing something another adult knows. Some children even feel all grown up being trusted with this secret information. 

 

The Dangers

This all sounds so innocent. It can be a simple game for fun or a way to teach a child how to be trusted. The expectation being.... you never, ever, under any circumstances, tell. As innocent as your intentions may be to have secrets, having secrets can set an expectation which can go terribly wrong. You have just instilled in the child not to tell under any circumstances. In the black and white world of a child, any circumstances is a literal statement without discernment between types of secrets. Even without using those words, the message is that you are untrustworthy if you tell or, in certain cases, it is fun or you are special to keep a secret.

The pitfall is that the messages attached to these behaviors may support the dangerous secrets. 

Think on this:

A friend tells them about a plan to meet up with a stranger from the internet, but doesn’t want them to tell. 

This man on the internet told the friend to keep it a secret because no one will understand their love and they will try to break them up.  

Someone shares a secret that they are being hurt or are in danger. 

An adult tells a child that what they do together when the child is being sexually abused is a special secret between the two of them. 

A child is told by their abuser to keep the abuse a secret or the child with get in trouble with other adults. 

When we hear this, we respond with THE CHILD SHOULD TELL. Of course they should tell; however, they have been socialized and flat out told that sharing a secret is a bad thing to do and, sometimes, keeping a secret means lying to protect the secret. We have disarmed them without even realizing it. A big protective factor in regards to all types of abuse, is providing permission to share without judgement. 

 

Surprises, Privacy, and Secrets

Surprises: Information which is temporarily not being shared with certain individuals in order to do something good for someone else. The key is that it is something which will be shared eventually for a positive cause. 

Privacy: Information which is withheld out of respect of one’s boundaries and comfort. Changing behind closed doors is privacy as it is to respect one’s body and to be comfortable. The key is that changing clothes and having a body is not something to fear or be ashamed of. Privacy provides boundaries, not secrets. 

Secrets:  Information which is shared between individuals with the explicit understanding it will not be shared with anyone else and there would be consequences such as loss of trust, loss of friendship, punishment, etc. Even in your innocent secrets, the idea of loss of trust is still present. 

 

Combating Dangerous Secrets

This is really simple. Don’t use secrets, use surprises. Take away the idea that secrets are okay, and don’t allow them to be socially acceptable. Teach your child that if there is a secret, then there is something wrong. If there is something you are told you can not share with trusted adults, something is wrong. Be clear that secrets are not okay. Do this simple step and a child or teen does not need to wonder about sharing BECAUSE they don’t have to discern if a secret is dangerous or not.

Posted on August 3, 2018 .

She Said “Rape”, Now What? (To The Mister Who Loves Her)

***Trigger Warning and Not for the Faint of Heart***

 

She said those three very scary words “I’ve been raped”. After your brief Oh S**T! moment of shock, it is time to respond.... respond... respond with what? Total brain overload and a stumble of words?

Try this:

Unless you have been there, don’t presume to know how she feels. 

Express your sorrow and sadness over it, but don’t tell her what feelings she should have. “I can’t imagine how that feels... (or how scary that was, or how awful that was)”. This is different than “you must be so angry” or “you must feel awful”. If she wasn’t or isn’t feeling that way, she may be now (or have shame if she doesn’t) because you just told her which feelings are the ones she should be feeling or, at least, the ones you believe to be right. She doesn’t need you to add on feelings for her. She has a lot of feelings at the moment and they may be flooding her. Let her decide how she feels.

Understand that people process things and disclose on their own time. 

Rape very often is accompanied by shame. Shame is based on a belief of judgment by others. If shame feels bad, why would someone share it with others?  Some people need to time to grasp what has happened and the gravity of the whole situation. It can be confusing. Be thankful and honored they trusted you enough to tell you (no matter when it happened). We advise not stating that you wish they had told you sooner or ask them why they didn’t disclose earlier. They got there when they needed to, please don’t ask them to justify their timeline. 

 Keep your murderous desires under wraps. 

We imagine that you might be angry. Perhaps you want to end the existence of the person who could do this horrible thing. The pain you see in her may feel too much to bear. You may think you can express how much you care by telling her how much you want to retaliate. Anger is uncomfortable to be around and unpredictable- And now she tries to calm you down.  Whoopsy, the conversation that was about her just became about you. Just to be clear, the rape was not about you and retaliation makes it about you. Let’s not do this. So put the red undies and cape away, today is not your day to be hero. 

Try to understand penis privilege (yep, we said it). 

When walking by a male stranger who had taken the liberty of expressing what his preference in bed with me would be, an outraged male friend asked why I didn’t say anything back or shut him down. Good question. The answer is: If women were to fight back on every comment, look, innuendo, cat call, slap on the butt, or elevator eyeing; we would be exhausted, perpetually angry and completely unproductive in the rest of our lives. It would consume so much time and effort, we have learned to ignore it and move on. “But you should stand up for yourself” he says. How much does he really know what it is like to have to stand up for yourself? When you are a 5’5” female and 140lbs, you get bullied. When you are male at 6’4” and 220lbs, not so much. First moral of the story is: It is not that it doesn’t bother us or that we like it; it is impossible to react to it all. Second moral of the story is: Try to empathize but don’t claim to know.  You have a penis, which decreases the likelihood and frequency of you having your sexual boundaries violated.  

Don’t get defensive. 

Bet that last tip sent you into an immediate frenzy of feeling attacked for being born with a Y chromosome. There is no assumption here that you are a jerk or insensitive because you are a man. I am not ignoring sexual harassment or assault on males. It is very real, indefensibly ignored, and unfairly treated. I am also making no assumption that every man crosses sexual boundaries or is dangerous to women. It is very true that the majority of men are not perpetrators. So, when she expresses feeling unsafe around men or thinking she will never trust them again... tell her not every man is like that, she can trust you, and there a plenty of men who are respectful and safe.... Ooops.. STOP.. go back... that is about you again. We just put her in the position of being careful about hurting your feelings and reassuring you she knows you’re safe. Let’s try again. This time, go with empathizing with her about how much fear the rape instilled in her and the level of safety it has taken from her. Ask what you can do for her in that moment. How can you help her feel safe? Keep it about her. 

Nope, not broken. 

Shaky and battered, but not broken. Ask her what she needs before you start doing for her. Don’t take away the things she is still capable of doing herself. Don’t ignore what happened because you don’t want to upset her. You both know what happened and ignoring it doesn’t make it go away. Tiptoeing around the rape, around normal everyday conversation, anything to do with sex, or discussing other problems will make her feel broken. Offer normalcy because she is still her and you still love her as normal. 

You don’t need the details. 

What will this knowledge accomplish? Once you know, it is in your head with no toilet bowl handle to flush it out. Do you really want to ask her to relive it? She didn’t want to live it the first time around. The only reason to provide details is if she feels that this is what she needs. 

When she does share, listen... and listen without questioning or commenting. 

No “that bastard”, or disgusted faces, or shocked responses. Just listen. You have two ears and one mouth. The twin holes should be open the whole time, and the singular hole should open only to remind her you love her and it wasn’t her fault. Remind her, don’t insist. Sounds like this: (you)“It is not your fault”, (her) “yes it is”, (you) “I love you”. She doesn’t need an argument over fault and blame. Most likely she is already having it in her head without you.

Get your own support. 

Okay, after all this talk of not making it about you.... IT IS REALLY IMPORTANT TO MAKE IT ABOUT YOU NOW! You have just found out that your loved one has been raped, witnessed her be in pain, held back your anger, and kept it all about her. This is physically exhausting, traumatic, and emotionally overwhelming. Get a counselor or some other form of professional support. It’s a good bet people don’t want their rape shared with others who are part of their social circle or of the general public. A counselor keeps it confidential and allows some place for you to let go of all your internal turmoil. Tell them all of the creative ways you have dreamed up for torturing the person who did this to her (just don’t follow through with any of them). Unload all the awful things you think about the perpetrator freely and openly. Say out loud all the things you wanted to say when she told you her story. Express all the pain you are experiencing along with her. Build skills to get through this and help her the best you can. Think this is the hardest one?... Consider yourself challenged

Posted on August 3, 2018 .

The unintended rewards of the "staycation"

Staycation has become a household term and is a growing trend. However, there are many more benefits than just saving money!  I'd like to share what I Iearned personally on my recent Stay. 

Allowing time to do whatever your soul desires.  This concept is much like "as soon as I accept myself just the way I am, then I can change"... Instead of scheduling in too many activities, or outlining too many tasks to accomplish on your "cation", I recommend checking in with yourself, mind and body, each day to see what feels right to you.  Rest, have fun, be productive, a little of all- but only if you feel like it!  I know! Sounds perfect, and ideal, and a little foreign.  I promise you that if you allow yourself proper rest, you will be productive!  And that changes the intent from "if I don't accomplish this, I'm bad" to "I really feel like doing this!".  And you will.  I know very few people that don't desire productivity once they've received enough rest.  So similarly, if we accept ourselves as is (rest, no judgement, no "shoulds"), then we make positive change (productivity). (Note: I am currently writing a blog, updating our website, and completing our next newsletter on my Staycation because I've rested and played, and am now productive!)

Gratitude. Staying put allows us the opportunity to love our surroundings. You can enjoy your home, your backyard, or be a tourist in your own town!  We don't have to travel to be tourists- its fun, try it! We think we know our areas, but being a local is different than treating it as though you are traveling.  Heart, soul, home, gratitude. 

Cultivating relationships. How many friends have you been meaning to see? Live super close by, but yet still can't seem to put together that happy hour, coffee, or hike?  Staying put allows for time off to be social locally.  Sometimes I see relatives out of state more often than in-state because I have to plan the travel to see them, or vice versa.  So take this non-travel time to see your neighbors, friends, and local family.  

Bonuses: No packing! No exhausting travel! No house or dog sitting necessary!

What have you learned from your staycation?

Posted on May 15, 2018 and filed under conifercolorado, baileycolorado, aspenparkcolorado.