I’ll Tell You Mine, If You Tell Me Yours

MarilynDavisatTIERSStarred Page By MarilynDavisatTIERS, 4th Dec 2013 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Guides>Personal Development>Self-awareness

“I think people would be happier if they admitted things more often. In a sense we are all prisoners of some memory, or fear, or disappointment - we are all defined by something we can’t change.” ― Simon Van Booy, The Illusion of Separateness

Risky Business this Confessing

We all need to have a cathartic experience periodically. Taken from the Greek word, κάθαρσις, it is the purification and purging of emotions, especially self-pity and fear.

Both of those emotions and attitudes can prevent us from becoming all that we can be.

Judge Not, Least It Be about Yourself

We are so often consumed with fear of judgment, rejection and reproach that we hide our shortcomings and terrible deeds beneath a veneer of nice, important or helpful, presenting images to the outside world that helps us manipulate their impressions of us.

We can get sanctimonious and comment on the misdeeds of others, attempting to put them in their place while elevating our own.

We can reprimand our children, families, spouses and co-workers in a tone that leaves no doubt as to our displeasure at their actions.

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall

Yet, in the quiet solitude, if you view yourself, what do you really see?

For years in the substance abuse treatment field, we "peeled the onion"; in effect forcing people to remove the layers of deceit, dishonesty, assumptions, resentments and manipulation so they could see their true selves.

I now believe it is more important that I disclose my failures, shortcomings and character defects first, so that someone may learn to accept theirs and recover.

Why this Change in Attitude?

Nearly every alcoholic and addict I have ever worked with felt shame and guilt over their actions and many times, it was about themselves, not solely their actions . In some cases, they used alcohol and drugs to cover up these feelings.

Therefore, ripping off the layers only makes them more vulnerable at a time when they are the most vulnerable to a relapse.

By acknowledging my actions and reinforcing that I did not die of embarrassment, did not have to relapse over the admission, found others who had done or said the same type of thing, and then changed, I find that people are willing to reveal their secrets to my understanding, compassionate ear.

“…That’s the worst, I think. When the secret stays locked within not for want of a teller but for want of an understanding ear.” ― Stephen King, Different Seasons

Confession: It Is Not New, Nor Only for the Soul

“The confession of evil works is the first beginning of good works.” ― Augustine of Hippo, a Romanized Berber Philosopher, November 13, 354 - August 28, 430 ACE who combined philosophy and religion during his life.

His most famous work is entitled: Confession.

That was eye opening to me that the idea of confessing has been part of the philosophical understanding for this long.

For Some It Is Not the Action, But the Reaction

Therefore, how do we allow people to acknowledge their secrets, help them make amends or atone for their misdeeds?

In 12 Step recovery work, published in 1939, there are two steps that more than adequately help an individual examine their lives and then a step specific to admission of wrongs.

People write about their lives, internal and external; fearlessly looking for their character defects, negative aspects, shortcomings and actions that have harmed others, as well as the qualities that most consider admirable. The reality is that we have both.

Yet, even this is not a even new concept.

An Unexamined Life

Socrates' statement that "The unexamined life is not worth living”, demonstrates early understanding of the benefits of examining our nature to change our actions thus preventing what another another philosopher, Santayana predicted, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

When I combine other theoretical concepts into my recovery work with others, I become willing to share in the hopes that my admissions will allow another to write about theirs and then ultimately share their flaws, find their strengths, and live a productive life.

Why Is Writing About Our Life So Important?

Our memories do not fade so much over time, but become facts, distorted and shaded by other experiences, wishes for how it could have been, or stories we tell to elicit responses and reactions from others.

We do not necessarily remember what happened, we remember what we present or wish happened sometimes to validate our feelings and thoughts today.

I was four and beginning to understand the concept of writing. I loved books from a young age. I knew that the black squiggly lines represented words that told me the story, or described the picture. I could not read all of them, but knew the word, “cat.” Each person begins learning somewhere.

“I don't know where to start," one will wail. Start with your childhood, I tell them. Plug your nose and jump in, and write down all your memories as truthfully as you can. Flannery O' Connor said that anyone who has survived childhood has enough material to write for the rest of his or her life. Maybe your childhood was grim and horrible, but grim and horrible is Okay if it is well done. Don't worry about doing it well yet, though. Just get it down.” ― Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

Images Remembered or Distorted?

My mother took me to visit Santa at L.S. Ayers in Indianapolis, Indiana. Before we went to see him, we ate in the tea room. This was the highlight of several trips to downtown. I ordered the chicken; served in a covered milk-glass casserole dish. The bottom of the dish, filled with mashed potatoes and chicken, with fresh peas neatly ringing the edge, reminiscent of grass and eggs.

For desert, I got the The Snow Princess— an ice cream scoop decorated with whipped cream and sugar flowers, then topped with a china half-doll figurine and a tiny paper parasol.

At forty-one, I vividly remembered this meal.

My Santa List

I had made squiggly lines on a piece of paper and put it in the pocket of my coat. I did not want to forget anything when I visited Santa. After lunch, I got my list for Santa out of my coat and went for our appointed visit.

When it was my turn, I showed Santa my list, by now all sweaty, and wrinkled, but my first attempt at writing something down.

Santa asked me what I wanted for Christmas and I told him all of the things, with the most important being a puppy. Santa asked me if I had been a good girl, and in that self-serving voice of all, regardless of age, I informed him, “I have been very good.”

He told me that since I had been very good, "I would get everything on my list.”

I got down and returned to my mother. For weeks after this visit, my parents asked me what I had told Santa I wanted for Christmas. A straightforward child, I informed them that I had already told Santa what I wanted.

Only when writing my Life History and this memory surfaced, did I wonder about a few of the situations from that day.

• Why was I so angry at Santa?
• Why did I distrust the whole Christmas experience?
• Why was I so resentful at my mother?
• Why did I stubbornly refuse to cooperate?

Disappointments That I Helped Set Up

On Christmas morning, I ran down the stairs; I could smell bacon cooking and knew that my mother would want us to eat before we opened presents. I remembered feeling angry at that imposition on my desire to open the presents and find my puppy.

My sister was in her high chair at the table, and without food, would not be content very long, yet another nuisance as far as I was concerned.

I went into the kitchen and asked to open my presents. My mother gave in and told me I could open one and then we would have breakfast and open the rest after our meal.

No Puppy

I ran to the living room and checked out the presents. In our family, only parents wrapped presents, Santa’s were without paper and bows, so it was apparent immediately that there was no puppy. I got mad at Santa.

That jolly, fat, cheerful favorite of children everywhere was a liar.

He told me I would get everything I wanted and I specifically told him a puppy, and there was not one.

Life Histories Grant Us Hindsight and Foresight

When I asked my parents about this memory, it was not for their interpretation of my feelings, but their own remembrance of the situation. Both of my parents were surprised that I could remember that event.

My mother told me that she and my father tried numerous times to get me to tell them what I wanted for Christmas and that they even had my aunts, uncles and older cousins try to find out what I wanted.

I apparently told everyone who asked that I had told Santa. It struck me at that moment, thirty-seven years later, that I had probably set in motion many situations in my life where I felt disappointed, hurt, resentful, and distrusting due to my assumptions, lack of awareness, and stubbornness.

If it could happen at four, the likelihood of this pattern continuing in my life seemed like a safe bet.

In that moment, I knew that I wanted to explore my life as the child writing, and the adult reflecting to help me live a better life, stop using drugs and alcohol to cover up the stuff, and to perhaps one day be able to tell a story that would allow another to tell theirs.

“We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect.” ― Anaïs Nin

Write it, After All, You are a Writer

Many people write on web sites and have blogs. If you are one of those, memoir writing or a journal may be yet another way for you to tell a story that inspires, enlightens, and helps another in their quest to get better.

"All that is left to bring you pain, are the memories. If you face those, you’ll be free. You can’t spend the rest of your life hiding from yourself; always afraid that your memories will incapacitate you, and they will if you continue to bury them.” ― J.D. Stroube, Caged in Darkness



For additional articles by Marilyn Davis

Each person has a unique voice and Wikinut is a place for you to share your wisdom, humor, insight and knowledge. Join, write and become connected to others who share a passion for writing, supporting one another, and learning on Wikinut.

All images: Morgue Files

Tags

5Th Step, Admissions, Confessions, Disclosure, Journal Writing, Life History, Life Lessons, Peeling The Onion, Secrets, Sharing

Meet the author

author avatar MarilynDavisatTIERS
A Certified Addiction Recovery Empowerment Specialist, with 25 years of abstinence-based recovery. I write about addictions, recovery, life lessons and general writing tips.

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Comments

author avatar Mariah
4th Dec 2013 (#)

They say confession is good for the soul Marilyn, and to unburden yourself of anxiety, worries, and suppressed emotion, makes life's journey lighter.
Very often, a good cry clears away a lot of black clouds.
A very in depth and soul bearing write, and a privilege to read.
Thank you

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author avatar MarilynDavisatTIERS
4th Dec 2013 (#)

Good evening, Mariah; thank you so much for the kind words. I agree completely in the healing power of tears. They can be cleansing on many levels. ~Marilyn

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author avatar Stella Mitchell
4th Dec 2013 (#)

What a read Marilyn !..
Recently I counselled a girl who needed to be free from some past concerns , and I shared some similar experiences with her that I had been through , and how I had come through them with prayer ... She trusted my word and felt confident to confide in me before I was able to help her through ... It is good to see others set free and no longer bound by past troubles , and then seeing them go forward , as I have done .
God bless you for your very helpful articles .
Stella ><

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author avatar MarilynDavisatTIERS
4th Dec 2013 (#)

Good evening, Stella; trust is critical and I am so glad you were able to share something that established it so that the young girl could confide in you. Thank you for being you, Stella. ~Marilyn

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author avatar MarilynDavisatTIERS
4th Dec 2013 (#)

Good afternoon, Steve; thank you for moderating and the star. I appreciate it. ~Marilyn

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author avatar Connie McKinney
4th Dec 2013 (#)

This is a well-deserved star page, Marilyn. Mariah said it well: confession is good for the soul. I like your advice about writing down. Writing can be cathartic and a way to get pain out of your soul and onto the page. Sharing now.

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author avatar MarilynDavisatTIERS
5th Dec 2013 (#)

Good evening, Connie; writing things down can be the first step in getting things out of our hearts and heads and onto paper. This simple act can then give us understanding, relief and in some cases, let us see exactly what needs to change within us. Thanks for the share, also. ~Marilyn

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author avatar LOVERME
5th Dec 2013 (#)

but they won't listen I too have just posted Rage..
see whether it matches up

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author avatar Phyl Campbell
5th Dec 2013 (#)

"A friend in need is a friend indeed." -- Jungle Book.
Sharing -- it's nice to be able to have a friend to share concerns with, and my husband always tells me that writing is cheaper than if he paid for my therapy. ;)

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author avatar MarilynDavisatTIERS
5th Dec 2013 (#)

Good evening, Phyl; very true, writing beats spending $350 an hour; too bad our "therapeutic writing" doesn't net that much :) ~Marilyn

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author avatar MarilynDavisatTIERS
5th Dec 2013 (#)

Good evening, Loverme; my writing is not so they listen, it is so I did not withhold something that might be helpful. With each piece I write, I free up space in my own head to learn, and in my own heart to heal. ~Marilyn

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author avatar Retired
5th Dec 2013 (#)

Interesting experience Marilyn.

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author avatar MarilynDavisatTIERS
5th Dec 2013 (#)

Good morning, Starrleena, it's all of our interesting experiences that make us who we are. I encourage each person to write and examine the life they have lived to see just how interesting it was, or what needs to change to make it more so. ~Marilyn

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author avatar joyalariwo
5th Dec 2013 (#)

Confessions are good all around but it takes two or more to tango.

If the one listening isn't cooperative then there will be problems. A very nice article Marilyn.

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author avatar MarilynDavisatTIERS
5th Dec 2013 (#)

Good morning, joyalariwo; you are correct, if someone is not listening, it does not matter what is said. My suggestion? Find someone who will listen. ~Marilyn

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author avatar M G Singh
5th Dec 2013 (#)

Nice post Marilyn. You have highlighted something really important

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author avatar MarilynDavisatTIERS
5th Dec 2013 (#)

Good afternoon, Madan; thank you for reading and commenting. We all need people to talk with about our lives, for solace and advice. ~Marilyn

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author avatar Sivaramakrishnan A
6th Dec 2013 (#)

As usual a post meant to educate and leave a mark for others to better their lives, thanks Marilyn. We all make mistakes and by sharing we tell others not to repeat them and we also lighten our load. We all disappear over time but should make the future a better place for others yet to come like our forefathers did and even sacrificed their lives. Let our footprints on the sands of time be worth our while - siva

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author avatar MarilynDavisatTIERS
6th Dec 2013 (#)

Good morning, Siva; I sincerely hope that these articles do help another. I was told by my mentor that if we have the ability to speak for those unable to voice, then we have a responsibility to advocate. Letting people know it is therapeutic to talk about things seems simple for those of us who write about personal topics, yet many people do not relalize the benefits. I believe that you also try to instill values and advice within your articles as well. We will both probably keep writing, and in the correct order of the universe, whoever needs to read these, ultimately will, whether we know it or not. Thank you for your comment. ~Marilyn

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author avatar Fern Mc Costigan
7th Dec 2013 (#)

your posts Marylin are very educating with deep messages for teh better of you, thank you for your posts and sharing them, God bless

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author avatar MarilynDavisatTIERS
7th Dec 2013 (#)

Good morning, Fern; and blessings back to you as well. We are fortunate to have forums where we can write and share what has worked for us, either to help someone avoid something or help make a situation better. I appreciate you being one of the people who supports my writing with your words. ~Marilyn

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