Three things cannot long stay hidden:
The sun, the moon and the truth. – Buddha
In this post I will attempt to talk about two things that have deeply effected my childhood, adolescence and in fact, are still causing me pain today.
Lies and Secrets.
I struggled writing this post. Lies and secrets are interchangeable to me, so closely linked and at some times the same thing. Others of you reading this will have a more defined understanding of these two terms but my mind is still unravelling the threads so I apologise.
Lies and Secrets
Lies and secrets make up the major part of my life. The effects of which are continuing to unfold in my life now. Secrets do not go away. It may take decades but most resurface causing pain and trauma. Many of you may have read my story of finding out about my biological father on Ancestry DNA. You can read about it here. When your Father is Not Your Father.
“Family secrets are like vampires. They never really die, and can always come back to bite you.”Alberta J. McMorris, Mercy: a love story
Even decades on when I thought I was free of the cult and free from my upbringing, secrets keep coming back to bite me.
Imagine walking through kilometres of marshland and boggy soil. One minute your foot is on hard ground, the next it is sinking in mud. It all looks the same and it is impossible to tell the firm ground from the quicksand. Inevitably you end up with both feet in the mire and you are sinking. You reach out for help, shouting “ I’m sinking, this ground is unstable”. Only to be told that the ground is solid and you are making it up.
“Don’t be silly, you’re not stuck, you are standing on rock solid surface”.
This is what it is like to be raised by a pathological liar. You don’t know if you are safe or sinking. Up is down and east is west. You don’t trust your own perceptions and you are constantly told that what you discern is wrong.
They have you believe that you are: ‘making it all up’. You are the one to blame. You have a dirty mind, you are a liar, you exaggerate, how can you think such evil things?
It is a life of smoke and mirrors. The abuser does this to regulate your behaviour and to control you. They are skilled at hiding their infidelities, addictions, illicit behaviours and the best way to get away with it and cover the shame is to make you believe that it never happened.
Another term for the behaviour of a pathological liar or narcissist is Gaslighting. “Gaslighting” is a term that originated with the 1938 stage play, Gaslight, by British writer Patrick Hamilton. However, most people are familiar with the story through the 1944 film of the same name, starring Charles Boyer and Ingrid Bergman. In the film, Boyer convinces his wife (Bergman) that she’s imagining things, most notably the occasional dimming of the house’s gas lights, as part of his plot to steal her deceased Aunt’s money and jewels. (The lights dim whenever he’s in the attic, searching for the treasure.) Over time, Bergman comes to believe her husband’s lies and, in turn, to question her sanity (Source).
Gaslighting is where the abuser convinces you that the lies are truth and that your truth is the lie. Whereby you doubt yourself and your perception of reality, your memory and your sanity. You lose your confidence and become immune to trauma and abuse. In most situations you simply give up because you can never ever get to the truth.
“The thing about families, Arlo thought, was that there was always some question nobody wanted to answer for you, and it was like a stray thread pulling loose in a sweater. You could tug at it all you wanted, but in the end, all you’d have was a pile of twisted yarn.”Sarah Sullivan, All That’s Missing
To be honest, when I have found out about some of the appaling secrets, the overwhelming feeling is relief. “I’m not going crazy”. The trauma of the secret is secondary to the revelation of the truth. Abused children value the truth just about more than anything else. “Just tell me the truth, tell me I am not going mad”.
“Nearly every person has a million secrets they’re carrying around,” says Barry Lubetkin, the founder and director of the Institute for Behavior Therapy. “They can be the silliest things, or they can be very significant, like I cheat constantly on my taxes”.
We all tell lies at some point even small lies. However, narcissists and psychopathic liars simply don’t care about the truth. They prefer to tell lies and gain control over people than be honest. They will never, ever, reveal their secrets.
Their lies are the gatekeepers of their secrets and they are the best liars in the world. Why: because they fully believe their own lies. They could take a lie detector test and pass. It’s called cognitive disonnence.
For narcissists and psychopaths, secrets and lies are currency.
Lies and secrets are two of the tools that they use to manipulate and control you. Secrets are their super power and lies are their shield of confidence.
It is your word against theirs. As they are usually in a more powerful position they know that if they hold their ground, you will eventually back down. Without proof there is no truth. Even with proof, they will still lie.
If someone has a secret on you, they can use it against you to control you.
“Whether man or beast, the secrets you kept in the fathoms of your heart always held you to ransom.”Dianna Hardy, Reign Of The Wolf
I grew up in a large family full of secrets. I was also raised in a cult who were adept at controlling people with secrets and lies. Discretions and sins, told in the confidence of the confessional, became the currency of control. If you stepped out of line suddenly one of those secrets would be released to errode and undermine your authenticity. To keep you small. To keep you pliable.
“Did you know that she once had an affair? She can never be trusted”.
“I wouldn’t believe what he says, he has been known to have a problem with pornography”.
Secrets are Currency of Control
Within this ,community my mother had an affair with one of the leaders. The cult leaders used her affair to control me.
I was told that I carried a familiar spirit of adultery which meant that I had to be monitored. My natural sanguine effervescent personality had to curbed and contained so that I didn’t fall into sin. Being born me, meant that I could sin more, attract sin and be a sin. An outgoing, talented, creative soul was a recipe for evil. On top of all that, I had to be careful that I didn’t lead others into sin and make them fall. I was assigned monitors and was reported on weekly. This monitoring or reporting to the elders went on for about 6 years on a weekly basis and then for the next decade but through the covering of my husband. Of course the more information they got about me the more they could control me. I am aware now as an adult that I was also being groomed by a sexual predator and that this was a way he could keep me close. He was the leader of the cult at the time (a story for another day).
I recall one time when I was at home on the weekend. It was a hot summers day. We were lucky to have a backyard pool. I loved to swim so was of course in the pool enjoying the summer day. I had also just been given my first and only bikini by an aunt outside the cult. I figured that I was home alone so I ‘should’ be safe to try it out. Wrong.
Unexpectedly the music director/elder, his wife and young family arrived to enjoy the pool and escape the heat. They were close family friends. At the time I was 14. The wife and children came into the backyard and I excitedly waved that little girls over to come and hop in the pool. I looked up at their mother and noticed the look of disapproval on her face. Where is ? I asked (her husband).
“Lisa, he is sitting in the car in the heat. He could not come into the backyard with you looking like that. You will need to go and change if you want him to join us in the pool”.
I thought I was safe in my own backyard. Nope. I was too naive to feel ashamed. I was however very confused and felt blame. I was horrified that my actions had caused someone to not be able to enter our home. I raced to get changed, apologising profusely. Needless to say I never wore a bikini again. I had been the cause of much offence. This I knew would be used against me in the future. I could be easily punished because of this.
When I reflect on this story now I laugh at the power of a bikini that would cause a grown adult male to avoid our backyard. Also – how dare they. I should be able to feel safe in my own backyard. I was a minor enjoying the privacy of my own home. Isn’t he the one with the problem? Unfortunately logic is something that I had to learn after I left the cult.
“The truth will set you free, but you have to endure the labor pains of birthing it.”Iyanla Vanzant
A truly free person, according to Don Miguel Ruiz, is immune to both the neurotic and normal attempts of others to regulate his or her behaviour. The advice he gives us for accomplishing this is to make the following agreement with ourselves: “Don’t take anything personally.” When we agree not to take anything personally, we regard all attempts by others to control us as statements about them, not about us. By refusing to take threats, criticism, evasion, complaints, praise, or disapproval personally, we act upon our own reality, not upon theirs (source).
The great teacher of truth Jesus, tells us that: “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”
How does the truth set us free and what is truth?
Truth is rare. In my experience anyway. Some people don’t even know what the truth is or they fear the truth.
Truth is fact, it is reality. When you are dealing with people who constantly invent their own reality truth is hard to find.
In the end the way to find the truth is to be true to yourself. To come to a place where other people cannot define your reality. We can live and act upon our own reality. Be true to ourselves and to what defines us.
Secrets and lies are always born and flourish in the darkness. Truth lives in the light. When we turn a spotlight on the darkness we find freedom. We may find pain initially but we will eventually find freedom.
“The truth will set you free, but you have to endure the labor pains of birthing it.” (Iyanla Vanzan). Sometimes the truth is painful which is why it was hidden in the first place. We are worried about what others will think.
“What will people think of our family, of our marriage, if they find this out?”
You know what. I don’t even care anymore. I am so tired of secrets and lies that I truly don’t care. The pain of the lie/secret is so much worse than the truth. I have always told my children, I don’t care what has happened, what trouble you have got yourself into, but don’t lie to me.
Just recently some horrific secrets have come into the light within my extended family. Too awful for me to write about. When I found out the reality of what had happened I picked up the phone and told every single family member: Aunt, cousin, sister, brother, uncle, son and daughter. I heralded the news and wore the pain, shock and horror.
The buck stops here. I pulled back the blanket, told the facts as I knew them to be and let the truth take its course. It was crippling, it was painful but it allowed light and healing to commence. Some family members were not happy and would have preferred that the truth remain a secret. Most were beautiful, supportive and appropriately appalled. Additionally, I was aware that we had a whole generation watching how we handled this. When I was a teenager trauma was minimised and hidden. I wanted to be an example to the next generation, that the truth is worth fighting for. It is worth the pain. It is worth the disclosure.
We cannot heal or be whole if we are spending all our energy protecting lies and secrets. Together we can face any problem but I refuse to entertain lies and secrets anymore.
Maybe this is what freedom looks like?
Freedom is the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants.
NOTE: When it comes to secrets I am aware that I live in a privileged time in history. In the past secrets saved lives. You did not have a child out of wedlock, it was not possible. There was no contraception, therefore – a lot of babies. There was social shame attached to divorce and unwed mothers. Sexual abuse was less understood and swept under the family carpet and mental illness and suicide not understood at all. Therefore I am aware we are dealing with a generation of older relatives who are conditioned to ‘not air the dirty laundry”.
This is a fascinating story about fear and lying by Dr. Habib Sadeghi. As I finish this post I thought that this was a great analogy of the deadly power of lies and fear.
“My wife and I were touring the Amazon jungle when our guide suddenly stopped. Carefully, he reached down and picked up a spider from a tree branch. He easily manipulated the hairy tarantula by its bulbous abdomen. We were amazed. It didn’t move. It was completely frozen, like a statue. Our guide said the spider wasn’t dead, just temporarily anesthetized.
He pointed to a tiny, pearl-like object on the back of its abdomen and explained it was an egg, planted there by a parasitic wasp. The spider had been stung and temporarily immobilized so the wasp could transplant its egg. Soon, the spider would shake off the trauma and go about its life as usual; completely unaware of the danger it carried.
Days later and without warning, the tarantula would stop cold in its tracks. Within seconds, a new wasp, that had eaten the spider from the inside out, would emerge from its abdomen and fly away, leaving behind the empty carcass of its host.
Like the wasp larva, feelings buried alive never die, especially fear. Lying comes from fear. It’s born from our traumas, disappointments and betrayals and is always the result of something that’s happened to us. You may be late meeting someone and blame it on the traffic or cover up being fired to avoid embarrassment. The scenarios surrounding why we lie are endless. The fact is that our lies are born from our traumas, both big and small.
“Lying comes from fear.”
When we are stung by life’s traumas, especially the big ones like losing a job, relationship, financial security, or our health, we become frozen in place like the tarantula. We rarely give ourselves enough time to process the hard lessons (truth) of the situation. We may grieve briefly, but then we anesthetize ourselves and it’s on with life”.