Tuesday, November 06, 2007


I have recently come across the blog of a lady who I have grown to admire enormously. She is Karoline, and her blog is called Karoline in the morning.

Her writing is so powerful, insightful, often dealing with hard issues in a totally loving and uplifting way, so that the words leave one with an aftertaste of peace and beauty, even when the subject is a difficult or painful one. I found myself drawn right back to the beginning of her archive, and have started following the posts through, like chapters in a brilliant autobiography.

She is a survivor. She had the kind of childhood that no child should have to have. But she has not used it as an excuse to perpetuate the dysfunction, as we so often see these days.….
“Well my daddy beat me so I beat my wife, can’t help it you know?”
Or letting the experiences turn her into a person with a victim mentality, you know the kind of mind-set ..…
“I had a bad childhood so now I am a basket case, and the world owes me”.

This lady has CHOSEN (yup, I believe how we react to the hard things in life is all about choice) to use these things to make her strong and centred. She has faced them honestly, taken the lessons from them, and moved on in a new and positive direction, and I really applaud her.

One of her posts really rang true for me ….. it is about keeping secrets.

I am fiercely opposed to family secrets. I know the intention is often to protect, but what and who are they protecting? (And what does it say about us as a society, that we are so bigoted and intolerant that people feel the need to keep secrets, because they KNOW how they will be judged, shunned and hurt if the truth is revealed?)

In many cases, the secret is being kept to protect abusers, at the expense of their victims.
It cuts right across society.
* The wife beater makes his wife and kids keep quiet about how he is treating them.
* The child molester threatens the child if he or she speaks up, so that the abuse can continue.
* The oppressive government institutes press censorship, so that the oppression can continue without the citizens really knowing what is going on behind the scenes, or the world getting wind of it and intervening. (As happened here in South Africa during Apartheid, and is happening right now in Zimbabwe, where atrocities are being perpetrated every day, but e-mails, mobile phones and land lines are all monitored, and if someone says anything negative about Robert Mugabe or Zanu PF, it is regarded as treason!!)

And as long as the family, the legal system or whoever else is involved, buys into keeping the secret, the power remains in the hands of the abuser.

If you read and remember nothing else in this post, please remember this……
As long as the secret is kept, power resides with the abuser, and those who keep it are colluding in that empowerment. Reveal it, and the power of the abuser is weakened.

I don’t know if I have mentioned this before on my blog, but many years ago we fostered 2 sisters (aged 7&9) for a year. The youngest had suffered ongoing sexual abuse from her father. And I also trained and worked as a family and marriage counsellor for a while.

Over the years I have seen many people, some well into adulthood, reveal for the first time that they have suffered abuse, and in every case, the weight lifted from them, as the secret was revealed, was so enormous that you could almost physically see it leave. And with the truth came release from the bondage and power of the secret, and the strength to work towards freedom from the oppressor.

So to quote from Karoline's post that triggered this train of thought….
“My secrets aren't huge, by any means, some I’m even posting here, to be read. That's saying somethin', perhaps out with the old and in with the new. Perhaps just organizing them for later perusal. When you live within a secret, sometimes, i suppose, that becomes the essence of your being. Separate, they are but tiny jewels, together, they become an ungodly mess, a tangled web of nastiness and embarrassing moments. Each part of me becomes defined by the entire mess. So, i take them out slowly, one at a time and study them, feel their worth in my being, adjust their values, put them away and move on the best i can. Some would argue that the past should remain in the past, i argue that without my past, I’m a mess.”

The part of this that hit me forcibly enough to prompt this post was the bit about “adjust their values”. When you are a victim of someone else’s misuse of power, they seem supernaturally big and powerful, and you seem pathetically small and powerless.

The same applies to the secret. Whatever threats have been made to force the secret to be kept, or whatever social, political or other repercussions are feared if the truth came out, they are always disproportionately huge in the mind of the victim. When they are finally revealed, the reaction is often an anti-climax. Because, to the person hearing the secret, (if they are removed from the situation and not carrying their own similar baggage) the secret is in proportion to its actual size, and not such a huge monster.

And when it is back to its proper size, it is more manageable, and the strength and courage can be found to deal with it. As Karoline so beautifully puts it, it is then possible to “put them away and move on the best i can.”

Hiding the past, refusing to reveal the secrets, carrying them around like bloated monsters on your back may seem safe, but it is not the best way to deal with them.

Before posting this, I sent a copy to Karoline and asked her permission to use her name and link to her blog. She replied and said that if anything she has lived or written or come to understand could help someone else, she would be delighted. I’ll let her have the last word on this….

“your appraisal that secrets are what keep people oppressed is precisely what empowers the wicked ..tell the secrets..write them out...share them, draw them, spread them, then let them lie until they evaporate and don't ever be ashamed of what was done to you, because you are not the one at fault and you cannot move on until you understand that..”


Sheila said...

What a powerful post..!
I have to agree that family secrets cause much heartache. We always told our children, and they have told their children, NO SECRETS. If it is good it should be shared, if it is not, it MUST be shared. Thank you for this..I will go to Karoline's blog.
Again thank you both, you may have triggered a thought and helped someone to be open about what is hurting them.

Max-e said...

A very thought provoking post Suzi-k, a lot of good insights, here

Oswegan said...

She has a nice page doesn't she. I go there a lot.

I like your new little profile photo. Soothing.


Shirley Goodwin said...

I fully agree - keeping things hidden just makes them fester like a boil under the skin. I have done a personal development course on releasing the things that hold us back in life, and while people mock this sort of thing ("getting closure" and so on), I think it's very healthy , even years later, to say sorry to people we've hurt, tell others that we love them if we haven't done it; and recognise the events that have caused us to restrict what we do through fear of some kind - being laughed at, for example. It's all part of our growth as a person, and I for one am happier to have done it.

Suzi-k said...

Funny, I often use the boil analogy too, gross but apt! My mom carried secrets her whole life, which came out just after she died, I was going to write about it with this post, but it was already too long.... someday that story will appear.