Secrets vs. storytelling

I recently read the novel The Mermaid Chair by Sue Monk Kidd, and this quote jumped out at me:

They say you can bear anything if you can tell a story about it.

The concept here is that even the worst experience you’ve had — the deepest, darkest secret you hold — loses its weight if you are able to speak openly about it.

Kelly Winters also writes about this idea in her book Walking Home.  From her perspective:

Secrets carry power, but too often, if you keep a big part of your life secret, it gives people power over you.  The power of fear, the fear that they’ll take your secret away and expose you.  It’s better to expose yourself, and do it early on.

I think we’ve all had moments like these in our lives:  something “big and bad” has happened to us, but we are afraid to speak out about it — to share our story — for fear of being judged, or appearing “weak,” or alienating people, or whatever.  But the act of carrying that secret around on our own weighs us down, and the longer we do it, the larger our associated fears become.  Eventually, a part of us crumbles under the burden of it all.

Speaking out under such circumstances might seem impossible, absurd, like emotional suicide.  But do it, and everything changes.  All that accumulated pressure evaporates into the air.  Our secret, we find, wasn’t so big or bad after all.  We are still standing, people haven’t deserted us, and — most interesting — some folks have had similar experiences to our own, and they share those experiences with us, and we learn that we are not alone in our fear or shame or guilt or sadness or what have you.  We are left lighter, fresher, cleaner and more connected to the people around us, our anxieties unfounded.

To quote author and philosopher Howard Thurman:

You must go through some things crying all the way if you’re ever going to live with them without crying.

A catharsis worth risking.

Be well.

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