Secrets: When A Place To Call Home Is No Longer Safe

Set in 1953, A Place Called Home is the insightful portrayal of a wealthy, pastoral Australian family and the impact that the changing times have upon family relationships. The drama examines the costliness of keeping family secrets: Elizabeth Bligh, the family matriarch is the
keeper of a family secret that Sarah Adams, a nurse sharing passage on board ship traveling from England to Australia, unwittingly discovers. The drama unfolds as over a series of events, the secret threatens to unravel in spite of Elizabeth's best efforts to keep Sarah Adams away. As more secrets are exposed, like a stone cast into a pool of water that sends out ripples far beyond the stones original size, family relationships are tested and fragmented.
A Place To Call Home  provides an insight into human behaviour and the extraordinary lengths we will go to in order to hide things that, if exposed, will threaten our safety and security. We witness the negative impact that a family secret in one generation can have upon the generations to come when perpetuated. the On the other hand, courage to expose a family secret carries with it the risk of hurting the people you love, family conflict and rejection.
If you are in a position of colluding with a family secret, I invite you to consider the impact that that secret has had upon family members (including yourself) and family relationships, past and present. Secrets are perpetuated as long as we collude with the secret-keeper to remain silent. The decision to separate oneself and speak the ‘truth' into the situation is likely to be a formidable task and will be met with powerful resistance however the long term impact will far outweigh the initial cost.
If the place you call home is no longer safe by virtue of the fact that you are no longer prepared to keep a family secret, and as a consequence you have angered or offended another family member, the risk of family fragmentation is high. Speaking your truth respectfully, without becoming belligerent or condescending is no easy task in the face of strong resistance.
Here are 4 steps that will guide you through the process:

1. Seek a professional counsellor to do your own inner work

Blaming others and ruminating over hurts, past and present, feels justified but have you noticed that your anxiety, anger and pain demand 24/7 attention from you? These feelings are harsh task masters, requiring 100% commitment from you; you can't eat, sleep or think clearly, your mind so absorbed by the family crisis at hand. The overwhelming nature of these feelings spills out on to others as you ‘recruit' other people to be ‘allies' whose role is to listen to the retelling of your story of anger and hurt and share their shock and sympathy – offering you a moment of comfort and self-justification. More importantly, the retelling of your story reinforces and escalates the distress you feel as your mind continues to look for further evidence to justify your feelings. Remaining in that state creates  ‘stuckness', ongoing conflict and health problems.
Being separate from your family context, a professional counsellor is able to  respond to your story with empathy and compassion without reinforcing the distress you feel. A professional counsellor's role is to help you to clarify your feelings and understand how your particular family dynamics have informed your own perspective. Your ‘different' position in the family can be ‘reframed' from a developmental perspective that views  movement away from ‘sameness to difference' as differentiation and therefore a healthy movement, but at the same time a movement that inevitably upsets the family equilibrium and therefore initially invites a negative response.

 2. State your ‘position' respectfully and without blame

Your counsellor can coach you in how to communicate in a manner that is respectful and maintains your own identity and dignity.

3. Remain connected with the other wherever possible

Remaining connected wherever possible is a statement about the value you give, not only to this relationship but also family connectedness. To achieve this you speak and act towards the other with kindness and care. This behaviour goes against your basic biological fight/flight response already triggered by the perceived threat to your safety. Remaining connected is a counter-intuitive response that will have the effect of breaking the negative cycle of interaction that your now changed behaviour has initiated. By refusing to counter-attack with something equally hurtful, the energy that fuels the negative interaction dissipates and the other party is forced to choose how they respond. Responding kindly and calmly allows you to ‘let go and move on'. It is an incredibly mature position requiring courage and humility. Are you up to the challenge?

4. Remain connected with the extended family

Where two family members are in conflict, extended family members are ‘invited'  to align with a particular party. By implication, an alliance with one person is also a choice to be ‘cut off' from the other. When you choose to remain ‘separate but connected' with the family member who has made the choice to be offended, you also prevent the extended family from fragmenting. Make a point to communicate with the other significant people in your family from a position of compassion and humility, recognising the inevitable distress that they will be experiencing, in order to prevent further misunderstanding or untruths.
By being brave enough to speak your own truth, you give other family members permission to do the same as they feel ready.
If you are experiencing difficulties in your family relationships and need direction and support to repair and heal your family relationships  then here’s what you need to do contact me on 0434 337 245  for a FREE 10-minute phone consultation on how I can best help you or press book now to book on my online diary.

What Your Secret Eats For Lunch

Close-up of Eastern Water Dragon, Brisbane, Queensland, AustraliaThroughout time, Wisdom Teachers have used the vehicle of story-telling to teach important truths. Stories capture our imagination and convey messages that we identify with and therefore remain in our consciousness long after the story has been told.

This story is set in an isolated place in a forest where a young couple, desiring to ‘escape’ from the frenetic pace of city life, settled down to live a quieter, largely self-sustaining lifestyle. At the onset of each winter, the woman would take a trip to the city to visit her sister and purchase vital supplies.

It was upon her very first sojourn to the city that the man had an unexpected visitor. A faint knock at the door drew his attention and answering it he found a tiny lizard-like creature shivering on the doorstep. “Please Mister, can I come in just for a few moments to warm myself by your fire” said the Lizard. The man hesitated as he heard his ‘house proud’ wife’s voice telling him that she disliked animals in the house, that animals ‘smelt’ and made a mess. He knew that his wife would not approve however his compassion for this vulnerable creature rose up and he invited the Lizard in. It was agreed that this would be a secret between the man and the Lizard and that the Lizard would never come to the house when the woman was home. A small voice in the man’s head speculated the repercussions of his actions if his wife found out: anger, embarrassment, apologies, possible threats and enormous stress. Fear had taken a foothold in his mind and would remain a constant companion as the stress of holding the secret increased over time.

The Lizards brief winter visit became a regular event over the following years. As time passed, the man noticed the Lizard growing; he was staying for longer periods, eating more and moving round the house. When his wife returned from her trips, he was forced to tell lies to avoid revealing his secret. Questions like, “What is that smell?” “How is it that you have eaten all that meat that I left in the freezer?” “How did those large dirty marks get on the carpet?”

His anxiety and stress increased over time and his health began to decline. Just small things at first: frequent headaches, sleeplessness, joint pain, constant colds, a nagging cough, loss of appetite. His wife was concerned for him, and wondered if he had a serious health condition, having no idea of the stress he was under by keeping his secret.

Eventually the Lizard grew into a huge Dragon and now the man could not refuse the creatures increasing demands out of fear that the Dragon would attack him and his wife, if the demands were not met. Each winter, the Dragon stayed longer, until this final winter when the Dragon refused to leave. No amount of pleading could move the Dragon who now regarded the house as his own home. So upon the return of his wife and their 2 children, she was confronted by the secret that her husband had kept for 20 years. Her horror was replaced by rage when her husband told her the story that he had kept secret for so long. She was overwhelmed by the knowledge that her husband could betray her and started to question their entire marriage relationship. She felt she could no longer trust this man who had become a stranger to her.

That day he lost his wife and their 2 children as he watched them pack their belongings to leave. He was a broken and sick man, overwhelmed by shame and regret – the secret that was once a compulsive act contained in a few moments, had become a tyrant that destroyed all that he loved and valued.

What does a secret eat for lunch?

1. Fear

  • Fear of being found out and the repercussions

2. Lies

  • In order to keep the secret you have to fabricate more lies

3. Your Health

Recent research by Dr. David Eagleman, a neuroscientist from Houston Texas, has established that secrets long-kept raise the level of stress hormones in the brain and body. The reason for this is that one part of your brain doesn’t want the stress that holding the secret produces and argues to disclose it while at the same time another part realizes how messy and complicated and even more stressful disclosing the secret might be and votes for keeping everything under wraps.

This conflict of interest within your brain produces tension, confusion of thought and stress – the high levels of stress hormones being produced compromises your immune system and literally makes you sick.

4. Your Relationships

  • Keeping secrets are a betrayal of trust
  • Secrets call in to question the entire history of your relationship “If he was lying to me about that, what else was she lying to me about?”
  • Trust once broken is difficult and sometimes impossible to repair
  • The longer you keep the secret, the less possibility of repair



 If you are experiencing difficulties in your couple relationship and need direction and support to repair your relationship and reach toward your full relational potential then here’s what you need to do contact me on 0434 337 245  for a FREE 10-minute phone consultation on how I can best help you or press book now to book on my online diary.