Keeping childhood trauma a secret is lonely and can lead to psychological symptoms.
You’ve kept your childhood trauma a secret out of shame and fear. There was no one safe to tell. Now, you don’t know who you can trust. If you open up, you’re afraid of being judged or punished. It’s a lonely way to live and bad for your mental health.
Childhood trauma is devastating, no matter what form it takes. It affects your self-esteem, trust, future relationships, and sense of safety in the world. And, no matter what you do to forget, the secrets haunt you every day.
You know some of the reasons you’ve kept secrets, but is there more? Plus, you wonder, are some of the things you’re struggling with caused by your secrets?
Yes, keeping secrets can cause psychological symptoms and problems.
So, let’s talk about 6 reasons why you might be keeping your childhood trauma a secret, how secrets lead to psychological problems, and what you can do about it now.
You have your own reasons for keeping your trauma a secret. Everyone is different and trauma affects each child in a unique way. Yet, there are some common things.
They have to do with what you felt, what you believed about people and yourself, and the only way you knew to manage your trauma.
Maybe you can relate to some of these 6 reasons for keeping trauma a secret.
1. You wondered if it was your fault
If your trauma was a form of abuse or even a loss, you might feel it’s your fault.
Children often blame themselves when they have no other way to interpret what happened. Or, when you got yelled at and felt bad. Even if you lost a parent, you might think you made it happen because you needed too much or got angry.
It’s not true. None of it was your fault. But, you’re vulnerable as a child to what you’re told. And to your fantasies and misinterpretations of your trauma and early life.
Now you have a taunting self-critical voice in your head that tells you all kinds of negative things about yourself. That voice makes you feel bad.
If you were yelled at, called names, or criticized as a child, it’s the voice of the parent who picked on you. That voice lives inside you and makes you feel to blame for everything.
This is a terrible thing to live with. It makes you close off to people. You can’t openly be yourself because you truly feel you have things to hide. Or that no one will like who you are.
When you live with such bad feelings, it’s hard not to feel shame. If you can’t be openly who you are, you can’t open up about your trauma.
All you want to do is forget what happened. You don’t see any other choice.
2. You don’t want to remember
“Forgetting” or, at least detaching from the feelings you had in (and about) your trauma, is a typical reaction. It’s called dissociation. And it’s a way of protecting yourself during the traumatic experiences – to feel as if you weren’t really there.
This kind of self-protection continues on if you don’t get psychological help. You might live a fairly detached emotional life. Maybe you even have OCD to control your feelings. Of course, you don’t want to remember.
Childhood trauma is too scary and the feelings are overwhelming. Especially when there is no one there to help you or understand the feelings you have. You were alone with it.
You try your best to push aside memories if they start to come back. What else can you do? When you convince yourself not to talk about it, then you are alone now too.
3. Remembering makes you relive it
One of the reasons you don’t want to think about it and try so hard not to, is that remembering makes you relive the trauma. Sometimes it comes back in flashbacks. You feel like you are there. Little and scared and helpless. It’s all real.
So, not only does the idea of telling your secret make you feel ashamed and afraid of humiliation. But, opening up your childhood trauma in any way makes you feel that it’s happening all over again. All the feelings flood back it. It’s just too much.
You tell yourself, you can do it. Just push it away, don’t think about it, keep yourself busy. You’re convinced it should work. There isn’t any other way to deal with it. You keep telling yourself over and over, “it’s in the past. Isn’t it? Just move on.”