We all have them. Maybe your guilty pleasure is rocky road ice cream or trashy novels. Those are harmless and not what I’m referring to. Maybe it’s something bigger like you slept with your sister’s boyfriend and only the two of you know. Oops.
Whatever your secret may be, the point is, it’s yours. I don’t need to know and most of the time no one else does either. But, here’s the thing. Often, we have a secret and we beat ourselves up for it. We did something we decide is wrong (maybe it was, maybe it really wasn’t) and we can’t let it go. We’re punishing ourselves for something that is in the past.
The Past is the Past
Maybe you were a real jerk or even a bully as a kid. While that’s not behavior most of us would condone and we’re not proud of as an adult, it’s the past, the way past. You’re no longer that person. You’ve grown up. You’ve changed. It’s time to let go of your embarrassment, shame or whatever other feeling you may have and move on.
Particularly if your behavior in question stemmed from childhood or even early adulthood, it’s time to let it go. It was a long time ago. We can let ourselves off the hook for a certain amount of bad behavior as kids because some of it is normal growing up and figuring out life. When we become an adult is when we need to take responsibility for our actions. Start now by cleaning up your act if you haven’t already.
If we hang onto secrets too long and don’t deal with them, they can fester. They eat us up. That’s when we spill them out, sometimes to the harm of ourselves or others. Some things, in my opinion, don’t need to be told because they can do more harm than good. Use your best judgment on that. Leave them be, but don’t let them eat you up either.
What’s done is done. Now is the time to stop beating yourself up for your past transgressions. Make amends, do whatever you have to do to feel good about your actions. Then, move on. Take it to your grave with you. Certain things don’t need to be repeated.
Forgiveness is the Key
If you feel bad about your past secret behavior, now is the time to forgive yourself.
Forgiveness is for you, not the other person. Apologies are for the other person. If you feel an apology is in order, do it at the risk of exposing your secret. Apologize to yourself too if it makes you feel better. Then forgive yourself. Forgiveness heals the wound that’s been festering. It opens a space where there was heaviness. It’s impossible to move on when the same tape in our head has been playing over and over, beating ourselves up for what we did. Forgiveness signals our psyche to move on. It provides that permission we need to let it go.
We’ve all heard of death bed confessions. Maybe you even had some in your family. Generally, people do that to unburden themselves because it’s something they’ve been holding onto for many years and haven’t made peace with it. More than likely they haven’t made amends or forgiven themselves. Why hold onto that secret your entire life if it’s something that will do no good to be shared? Unburden yourself now with forgiveness.
My dad was verbally and emotionally abusive. Even though I had forgiven him many years ago, we never discussed his previous actions. It wasn’t his style to apologize so I didn’t expect it. He certainly became nicer the last few years of his life and that was all that mattered to me. Whether he forgave himself or not, I’ll never know.
In our last conversation when he was dying, I wanted to make sure my side of the street was clear so I apologized for any of my previous behaviors that happened long ago. Even though it was a phone call, I could see him waving his hand in my mind’s eye as if he was waving them off. His words said as much. It was behind us as I figured because actions in recent years proved that. However, it felt better to me to apologize because this was my last chance. While his behavior wasn’t a secret, I share this because I had forgiven him and, on some level, it seemed he’d forgiven himself. Most importantly, I had forgiven myself too. Our consciences were both clear.
Other Ways to Let it Go
Some people feel relief by sharing their secret with a therapist because they know it won’t get repeated. It feels good to get it off your chest as it provides a sense of relief. That’s ok too. It proves my point that hanging onto them eats us up. We have to do something with them or they become a drain. Forgiving ourselves releases that burden.
Journal about it then tear it up or delete if if you feel inclined for confidentiality. Getting our thoughts on paper is always a good way to release things and see them for what they are. Sometimes we’re embarrassed about things that aren’t worth our time. Journaling can prove that to yourself.
Talk to yourself about it. Talking it through is a way to process it. It serves the same purpose as going to a therapist except you don’t have to share your secret with anyone but you. By not sharing you don’t have to deal with feeling ashamed to tell the other person. If you feel shame for your actions, working it through on your own can alleviate that.
Use your imagination. Visualization is a very powerful tool that we often forget to use or discount. See yourself hugging your inner child and forgiving her or him. Talk it through with him or her. You may get more insight into why you did what you did. Sometimes we beat ourselves up for things that weren’t really our fault or we did in defense. Doing something in defense doesn’t fully let us off the hook, but it can help us to understand why we did what we did. It puts things in perspective so we can see it in a new light.
You can also go back to the past in your imagination and re-frame your actions. Instead of seeing what really happened – you took a swing at that kid who was bullying you – see yourself walking away. While it doesn’t erase the past, it changes the energy around it and removes the charge. When we remove the charge, we can fully let go. Then the secret is no longer a drain.
Since I just said the word drain, I’ll share one more visualization technique. Work through your feelings about yourself, then see your secret swirling down the drain. It’s gone. It can’t hurt or bother you anymore.
Replace the line from the classic movie, South Pacific, “I’m gonna wash that man right outta my hair” with “I’m gonna wash that secret right down the drain!” It’s done, it’s over, it’s down the drain. Gone.
All of those dirty little secrets have now been washed away and out of your energy field. You’ve let them go. They’re no longer dirty and they’re no longer secrets. And now you can move on.