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Hiding in Plain Sight

Have you ever noticed how some people just seem to have it all?  They seem happy, rich, sophisticated and overall just really balanced? They project an image of a carefree lifestyle where they are loved, secure, successful and everything is at their fingertips. It seems that that nothing could possibly go wrong for them.  Or so it seems…

Consider the news story where an upstanding member of the community is suddenly charged with a heinous crime against his wife or family or the business executive, once admired for his vision is suddenly convicted of embezzlement.  This secret behavior shocks us all and often rocks our faith in human kindness to its very core.

But what about at home?  Consider the wife who has invested 20 years of her marriage trying to be the modern day trophy wife only to realize that she is more comfortable at home in her sweat pants and slippers than lunching at the country club after a spirited game of tennis.  Or the man who loves his family but finds himself involved in an emotional affair with another woman?

What about the stigma of a “mental illness?” What about those who have been diagnosed as Borderline, Bi-polar, Major Depressive Disorder or even the misunderstood Schizophrenia?  Worse yet, consider those who think they may have a condition but are too fearful to reach out to a professional for help.  These people especially, suffer in silence.

All of these types of people are around us at any given time. They may even be us. The irony is that many of us, including the one who may be suffering, may have no idea that a completely different reality is brimming just below the surface.  They are in effect, hiding in plain sight. Human consciousness can be so sophisticated, that we may be unwitting participants in life’s biggest scam.  Our ego defense mechanisms as Freud would say are highly evolved strategies that make life more bearable in an attempt to reconcile the unending conflicts that arise within us.

So why talk about this now?  The holidays are coming and for many of us, this brings an unusual paradox to our doorstep.  Many of us idealize the holidays and the feelings of love and acceptance for which we all yearn.  The reality, however, may be that the pressure of entertaining may shine a big bright light on parts of our lives we’d rather keep in the dark.  It may for example, be harder to conceal ones’ depression or another’s addiction problem when relatives descend upon us for their yearly visit.  Inquiries from well meaning parents’ may give rise to financial instability or problems in the marriage. We can all be venerable at heart and may find our defenses compromised under the stress of the holidays.

So, why is this so?  For many of us, we were taught a set of rules about the universe that in our child state, we accepted.  These may or may not have been effective rules, but they were embraced all the same.  However, as life has evolved and become more complex, many of us are so focused on keeping our head above water, we fail to realize a need has emerged within us.  We often resist acknowledging that life has not turned out the way we expected or worse yet, they way others expected for us.  We are caught essentially in a time warp, trying to solve the challenging issues of today with yesterday’s coping strategies and expectations.  The result all too often is guilt, shame and/or blame, most of which will exist in a painful state of secrecy. Our hearts become darkened with this burden and its self sustaining shame often keeps us from reaching out for help.

Ironically, seeking out a therapist for support may make us feel weak. Many feel we should solve our own issues and downplay any discrepancies in an effort to project a charmed life.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  A licensed counselor can not only provide the safety and support one needs to bring their issues into the light but also the clinical experience necessary to encourage exploration in areas rather left unexplored. It takes courage to strive for something better. It takes courage to step outside of what we know and reach for better balance.  It takes courage to show our tears.

I encourage you to embrace the challenges of your life, to have the courage to seek help and to come out of hiding.

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