Concealing and Revealing a Secret [Part-1]

Posted by on Apr 6, 2012 in Features | 0 comments

Part 1 [Part 2]


After years of research Dr. Evan Imber-Black, Director of Program Development and Senior Faculty member at the Ackerman Institute for the Family in New York, offers you a step-by-step guide to help you more fully understand the dilemma of secrets.

A major dilemma for both professionals in mental health and non-professionals involves the matter of whether to conceal or reveal a secret. While every secret is its own unique phenomenon, reflecting on several questions can aid in this complex decision-making process.

1. Who “owns” the secret?

When you are keeping a secret that primarily regards your life, then you are the owner of the secret. Decisions to keep it or own it belong to you.

  • If you feel you need someone else’s permission to open a secret, it either means:
    a) it doesn’t belong to you, or,
    b) you are caught in a web of relationships that needs work before opening the secret.
  • If your best friend tells you she’s leaving her husband, that secret doesn’t belong to you.
  • If you are leaving your husband, you don’t need your sister’s permission to tell your father.

2. Who has the right to know the secret?

Some secrets contain information that is at the center of other people’s lives. Such secrets include birth origins and medical diagnoses.

  • These secrets involve another person’s rights to information.
  • Keeping them involves an arrogant position, assuming that you know what is best for another person to know in arenas of life and death.

3. Does the secret violate shared assumptions in a relationship?

Intimate relationships involve shared assumptions about what will and will not occur. These may be spoken or implicit.

  • When a secret violates shared assumptions, the person kept out is operating from “rules” that no longer apply, buthave not been re-negotiated.
  • When you keep a secret that prevents your spouse, lover or best friend from making good decisions, likely you’ve violated shared assumptions.

4. Who is being protected?

Secrets are often born in protection.

  • Are you keeping a secret to protect another person, yourself or a relationship?
  • Has the protection outlived its usefulness?
  • You might question the myth that another person will collapse if you open a secret.
  • Ask yourself if the relationship is enhanced by the secret or infused with alienation and distance.

(Continue reading with Part II : When do you reveal a secret?)

Suggested Reading:

  • The Secret Life of Families: Truth Telling, Privacy and Reconciliation in a Tell-All Society. Bantam 1998.
  • Secrets in Families and Family Therapy. W.W. Norton, 1993.
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Anorexia / Bulimia and the Holidays

Posted by on Apr 6, 2012 in Features | 0 comments

When you dream of the holidays what comes to mind – turkey, latkas, pumpkin pie, sugar plums? Maybe its thoughts of travel, visiting relatives, or buying new clothes. Food and family tend to merge during the holidays.

Within Judeo-Christian beliefs the holiday season is organized and, to a certain extent, ritualized around food. For someone struggling with anorexia/bulimia, the merger of food and family gatherings is a complete nightmare.

Think about it. The problem of anorexia/bulimia works to isolate a person from all of their loved ones (see Understanding the Problem of Anorexia ). In addition, anorexia/bulimia ritualizes the intake of food. The result is often a painful tension that gets created when holiday rituals clash with the rules of anorexia/bulimia. Within this clash, family tensions often reach a climax and more often than not anorexia/bulimia wins out.

Through listening to hundreds of client stories, planet-therapy.com has learned that a good way for everyone to get through and possibly enjoy this festive season is to devise a safe holiday plan.

Creating a Safe Holiday Plan

Almost all people struggling with anorexia/bulimia report feeling like they are being constantly watched, judged and negatively assessed. Family members report feeling a sense of dread that they will say the wrong thing and make a bad situation worse.

During family gatherings a sense of self-surveillance can become acute for all participants. By creating a safe holiday plan everyone can get to know the rules of the new rituals devised within the plan. A well designed plan acts to take the pressure off. The key to any anti-anorexic/bulimic holiday plan is to understand how anorexia/bulimia works and what makes it grow bigger (See our Do’s and Don’ts (Solutions). Above all realize that creating a safe holiday plan puts everyone on the same side, working together.

The Plan

  • Begin by talking about your holiday plan in advance.
  • Organize the seating arrangements with care where the person struggling with anorexia/bulimia can sit beside her/his closest allies and feels safe.
  • Agree that the dinner conversation will not be food-focused (“Is that all your having?” “How much cream did use in the mash potatoes?”).
  • Do go for a walk around the block. Read a novel together. Set aside ten minutes each day to talk. Ride a bike. Be creative.
  • Agree that the dinner conversation will not be body-focused (“If I have anymore food I will have to loosen my belt a notch.” “Gee, Uncle Lou, have you lost weight?”).
  • Figure out who will be cooking and what ingredients will be used – this way there is less worry and everyone knows what the “safe” food is.
  • Figure out how the food will be served (e.g., table self serve, buffet style, etc.).
  • Plan the exact time you will begin and end the meal.
  • At the end of the meal clear the table immediately or have everyone sit somewhere else other than the table.
  • Once the meal is over quietly congratulate yourself by focusing on what worked.
  • Plan how much family time the person struggling can take – honor these limitations.
  • Most importantly listen to one another’s needs and wants – by creating the plan you are already acting to undermine the problem of anorexia/bulimia and family worry.
  • Under no circumstance try and make a perfect plan – plan a few slip ups and know that some things will work and others will not.

Holiday Tips

  • Talk openly and honestly about the dilemma of holiday gatherings and anorexia/bulimia.
  • Treat the holiday dilemma with compassion and understanding.
  • Take the time to devise a safe holiday plan that is mutually acceptable to your family and the person struggling.
  • Inform and include guests in this plan.
  • Devise a safety plan if someone breaks with the agreed upon plan.
  • Plan events to take place before and after the family dinner (e.g., a family walk, board game, music, etc.).
  • Focus only on the parts of the plan that are working.
  • If there is a problem that arises make a plan to discuss it the following day.

Remember to treat yourself with compassion, too!

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Features – Fresh Perspectives and Longterm Solutions

Posted by on Apr 6, 2012 in Features | 0 comments

World renowned therapists and best selling authors take the reader on a guided tour through pathways that unravel and resolve everyday issues and concerns.

Feature writers offer a wide variety of new and exciting ideas proven to help the reader re-think their understanding of problems and designed to move them toward possible futures.

Film directors, popular novelists, and social critics offer personal reflections on their work and how this work relates to mental health issues around the world.

Features include audio interviews and opinions on topics such as relationship enhancement, family secrets, the up’s and down’s of medication, drug and alcohol misuse, and the politics of therapy, as well as commentaries on late-breaking mental health news items.

Choose a Topic:

Arts and Culture

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