Secrets! We all have them. Many will go with us to our graves, perhaps because they are so trivial we forget them.

Ybonesy reminded me of a couple with her RedRavine post about a minor mishap she had as a newly licensed driver that she and her passengers attempted to cover up with a Secret. I wrote a comment about early driving secrets my sister blackmailed me with for ages.

This type of secret is bush league compared to the Secrets discussed by Polly Kahl in a blog interview with Howard Dully, co-author of the NYT best-selling memoir My Lobotomy. In Part 2 of the interview, Polly explains her early life, the subject of a memoir she recently finished and is shopping around.

For me, the meat in her material is her description of the interviews she had with people in her past as she researched and wrote her story. She interviewed family members, neighbors, all sorts of people, and got varying responses. Of one man who was twice her age of 14 when he had sex with her, she says, “...when I interviewed him, he offered to me that it was sexual abuse, and he offered to me an apology, so it wasn’t like I was confronting him, it was like he offered me the gift of apology, and because of that it was a very healing experience for me.”

In both her case and Dully’s, their parents “just don’t get it.” That’s okay, they claim. It’s enough that they had the discussion. Coerced apologies or psuedo confessions and understanding are meaningless. What matters, as I understand their accounts, is that they brought it up, gave people a chance to explain, and their consciences are clear with respect to writing about the memories. They did not wait until the people were dead and no longer had a chance to explain or defend themselves.

Whatever the outcome, disclosing these secrets and writing about them has been profoundly healing for both. Legions of other memoirists have had the same healing experience, and readers often experience vicarious healing through reading these accounts.

Still, most people are as unlikely to publicly bare their emotional scars and shame in print as they are to parade down Main Street in their birthday suits. That’s okay. The good news is that you can experience the same degree of healing if you write for an audience of one. You don’t need to write a polished memoir or even an organized story, so weak writing skills are not an impediment. Journals are a profound way of writing to heal emotional wounds and weaknesses.

I’ve begun exploring the wonderful world of journaling in depth. Stay tuned for more on this important aspect of life writing and the role it can play in lifestory writing.

Write now: find a secluded spot and make a list of secrets you keep closely hidden. You’ll be amazed at the power of seeing these words in print, on paper, in the light of day. When you have finished, burn or shred your list if you have any fears that it may be found.


Pat's Place said...

Nice discussion of a tough topic. This came up in one of my writing groups recently and I tell the women to think about it carefully before they publicly disclose information that might be hurtful to others.

Ritergal said...

Good advice Pat. I completely agree that disclosure should not be rash, nor should it be vengeful. This type of material is the hardest of wall to write well about.

The most helpful guidance I've come across for ridding toxic topics of venom is to write and write and write. Write the story seven ways until you get totally bored with it, then you can write it as story without the pain being so intense, and by seven times through, you'll surely have found the "story" in the experience. Then you'll find a way to write with compassion and understanding that speaks to the hearts of readers. Ah, yes! That advice was posted on the Absolute Write Water Cooler writing forum, perhaps by my memoir writing buddy Jerry Waxler.

Polly Kahl said...

Thanks for the mention, Sharon, I appreciate it. Yes, it's hard balancing one's own healing with the possibilty of hurting others. I personally would rather bring it out in the open while the person has the opportunity to add to the discussion, rather than waiting until they're gone. Unfortunately, the search for peace and mental health can be perceived as attacks on those who hurt us, even if we are only seeking to find our own answers and have no intention of causing anyone - even those who have hurt us - more pain. (Obviously, they have already been very hurt, to have then cause such hurt to others. The last thing I seek to do is continue the cycle.) Most abuse survivors want their abusers to join us in recovery, but it rarely happens. I personally don't think we should allow that to hold us back from continuing our own growth and recovery. Ultimately we have to take care of, and are only responsible, for ourselves.

I'll give you a shout out on my blog to alert my readers of yours, and thanks again for your kindness.

Pink Ink said...

Hi Sharon. I'm glad you came to my blog, I am really enjoying your posts. I love your philosophy; when I write my life stories, I understand myself better.

The post you commented on I think is one I struggled with, whether or not to share. The verdict isn't out yet. But I did it out of love, so I don't think I was out of line.

I plan to stop by again soon.

Have a great day!

Elizabeth said...

Is this secluded enough?
My secrets... so many to spill.
I worry constantly that I'm a bad mother. I'm a bad coper. A lover of wine. I love my husband above everything . I do have a favorite child.
I could go on...

Terri Tiffany said...

I have a stack of journals from years and years and find it a healthy great way to release some of the emotions like you mentioned.I like the exercises you suggest--I think I just might try one someday!!
This is just what I have needed to help me not take myself so seriously:))