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Family secrets can do more harm than good, a psychologist explains

15 May 2017 12:35 PM

There's privacy, and then there are dark family secrets. Secrets can tear families apart or take their toll on your mental health.

For many families, secrets are no longer the heart of the home, says counselling psychologist Nikole Seele.

Seele says that, in some cases, family secrets have been the foundation of many close 'insider' relationships and connections.

However, keeping secrets has layered consequences - no matter how good the intention, she says.

Read: Caught in the web of lies? How to identify a compulsive liar

Seele explains that there is an important distinction between privacy and secrecy - the latter involves deception.

According to Seele, secrets exist because individuals fear judgment and shame.

People fear being judged, even if it's a perceived judgement or uncertainty around the potential to be judged, we have that fear.

Nikole Seele, counselling psychologist

She advises that secrets require a great deal of mental effort and can sometimes have a negative impact on our brain function or lead to anxiety and physical strain.

Keeping a secret is a mentally challenging task... It puts people into a state of stress response.

Nikole Seele, counselling psychologist

Seele explains why both transparency and privacy matter and how secrecy can do more harm than good.

She also responded to several questions and comments from callers who shared their personal experiences.

I'm now 42 years old, I was 24 when I found out from a third party that I am adopted. Everybody in the family kept it a secret. It almost threatened to break up my family and my marriage. It still affects me.

Daylan, caller

I think secrets should be banned in families. I grew up in a big family with a whole lot of secrets and every time they came out, they hurt people severely.

Lynette, caller

I have twins who are 12 and I'm married. My kids don't know that my husband is not their father.

Zanele, caller

Take a listen to her expert advice:


This article first appeared on CapeTalk : Family secrets can do more harm than good, a psychologist explains


15 May 2017 12:35 PM

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