Family Secrets and the Shame that Protects Them

“What are these secrets that families are hiding?

What are they based on? How did they occur in the first place? Why do they cause people so much pain? What is the result of keeping them hidden?

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These family secrets people are protecting can be something that happened to them or something they did.

If it’s something that happened to you then you may feel compelled to cover it up for the rest of your life. The shame of what happened causes you to keep it to yourself. It not only eats away at you because it happened to you making you a victim, but you think that if somebody found out you would be judged or maybe even blamed for it. A common example would be sexual abuse.

A person who experiences abuse, especially sexual abuse, may even feel it’s their fault. They feel ashamed and maybe even guilty about putting up with it, or not getting out of that situation. This secret affects everything they do for the rest of their life. Family loyalty prevents them from ever telling anyone about what happened.  

They hide it from everyone they meet. Why do they do this? Mainly because nobody wants to have to answer to why this happened in the first place. They may not even understand why it happened, as it continues to victimize them as they project it onto others.

Sometimes a family secret can be something that didn’t happen to you but was an accident that happened. Suppose you were a party to someone accidentally getting killed? Something happened where somebody else was in the wrong place at the wrong time and they died from it? A person or an entire family can justify this accident, so it becomes a family secret that lives on, sometimes for generations. It becomes something that everyone will always remember but you just can’t ever talk about it. It’s like it never happened.

There is both shame and guilt associated with family secrets. Keeping these secrets affects everyone these people come in contact with. Keeping any secret puts you in a position where you may not even want to know about it. A friend comes to you and asks you, “Can you keep a secret?” Well, now you are intrigued, what is it, how does it affect me, do I even want to know? Most people’s curiosity takes over and they say, “sure I can.”

Once you become a party to a secret it puts you into a compromised position. This can cause inner torment you didn’t expect with thoughts like, should I keep it a secret or should I tell the authorities what happened? Should I tell other friends in order to spread the burden of ownership around?

Knowing the secrets and being a target of the secrets are different:

  • When people have family secrets everyone who comes along, later on, like newborn family members, becomes unsuspecting recipients of those secrets.
  • You may have been abused as a child because the abusing parent was abused.
  • They are playing out their frustration, shame, and guilt on you all because they can’t hide the secret any longer.
  • They are not about to tell you or admit what happened to them. Unfortunately, it’s impossible not to react under the pressure and stress of carrying it.

Nobody wants to face the secrets but when they do come out many times the secret keeper becomes liberated. They feel that the truth has finally been told and the burden of hiding it for decades is lifted. Many times a person doesn’t find out about these family secrets until long after that person is gone. One day all the mystery about why people did what they did and acted how they acted is made clear. When this happens much of the shame and guilt they have carried around in their lives clears up and they have a different understanding of how they were treated.”


  • Family secrets are the shameful things that the family is hiding.
  • Although the person hiding the secret feels like the victim they spread their pain around by hurting others. 
  • Many times the secrets are not revealed until after the last person of those family secrets died.

How It Works: In my experience, uncovering the family secrets was liberating. There were far more secrets than I ever imagined. There’s a saying, “You’re only as sick as your secrets.” If this is the case with you then start a journal. This is the place where you can safely uncovering the family secrets so you can begin to see them. Write down what you felt happened “back there” when it all began. Do this from an objective point of view, so what you are remembering is what actually happened. This is easy to do when you go back to the beginning before you had time to think about it and unwittingly assumed the burden of the family secrets along with the shame. ~ Linda Deir

A mix of Spirituality and Unexpected Psychology … Linda Deir Transition Coach … guidance from “those” who know you best!