Recently I was searching writer’s websites for a topic to bring to my Writer’s Network. An article, The Power of Secrets, caught my attention. It talked about secrets piquing the reader’s curiosity, adding drama, suspense and tension to a work of fiction. I continued reading, gathering exercises and examples of how to add secrets to fiction. I was excited thinking the topic would generate a good discussion with my fellow writers.
It wasn’t until I was driving to the meeting that the irony struck me. Me—the author of Say it Out Loud—the woman who professes that healing requires us to unleash our demons by telling our secret. I write about, speak about and live the belief that keeping secrets will keep us from being whole. And there I was driving to a meeting to talk about the positive power of secrets!
Secrets are powerful and in the world of fiction a good secret unraveled in a crafty way will keep a reader turning pages. In the real world the power of a secret is really in the person who says, “This is our secret, you cannot tell anyone or else…”
In my community of sexual abuse survivors the damage of keeping a secret is invasive. It evokes fear. If I tell the secret the threat that followed the “or else” may come true. For children it is often that they will be taken away from their family. For adults it can be that another family member will be harmed.
As years pass and the abuse remains a secret, relationships suffer. A survivor cannot fully engage in a healthy relationship when the other person is not aware of this life changing experience and the affects it has on the survivor.
One woman I am supporting had an estranged relationship with her daughters for years. She did not want to tell them that she had been sexually abused by her father as a child. As her daughters were growing up she suffered from depression, hospitalizations and divorce due to the trauma she had experienced as a child. Her daughters viewed their mother in a very negative light and had little to do with her as adults. All because she kept her secret.
After many discussions on the power of saying it out loud vs. the power of secrets, this woman told her daughters the truth. One of the daughters was able to put the past aside and rebuild her relationship with her mother. The other is still struggling with the damage done by the secret of abuse.
My message remains loud and clear.
Say it Out Loud!
Secrets are only enticing in fiction. There are no benefits to holding the secret of abuse there is only damage, and the damage extends to others we love.
Healing comes with revealing. It is hard, I know, but it is the difference between merely surviving and thriving. Roberta