Clearing Out the Skeletons from Your Closet

SkeletonsMost people have at least a few skeletons hidden somewhere. The phrase “skeletons in the closet” is often used to describe things that are secrets that we tend to keep hidden. The information often evokes feelings of embarrassment and shame, so it is avoided and kept hidden. If others knew these things about me, how would that change their perception? Common fears include being exposed, having a reputation ruined, being judged, or losing important things such as family, friends, followers, or business.

Coming to therapy can be a very vulnerable experience but it is also a safe space where you can talk about whatever you want. This includes things that you are proud of and want to display to others as well as those things that you are not as comfortable sharing with others. Therapists see a lot of skeletons every time of the year and are comfortable working with them!

There are many common themes that we see in therapy regarding aspects of self that are kept hidden. When areas do not align with those of a majority group or are kept hidden from friends or family due to fears of the consequences it can feel lonely and isolating. The past is another big area. Perhaps you have made some choices in your past that you are not proud of and wish you could erase from your past. Some events you may feel like you have little control over. Circumstances led from one thing to another and here you are.  Maybe there are some things that you wish you could go back and do things differently. Maybe some areas of your life you have accepted and have moved and there are others in which you are feeling stuck.

If you can relate to any of the following and would like some support, consider scheduling an appointment to meet with the therapist:

  • Themes related to identity: sexual orientation, attractions, gender identity, gender expression, religious or spiritual beliefs and practices.
  • Themes related to past choices such as past relationships, sexual history, mental health history, medical history, substance use, and consequences such as child protection, probation, jail time, and being in treatment.

Notice if you are avoiding talking about any of the above to avoid painful emotions and embarrassment. This can be especially difficult when you want to share parts of yourself with someone who is supportive in your life currently, such as a partner.

There are effective strategies that can learned within therapy for dealing with skeletons in the closet.

  • Acknowledge the area in which you are struggling.
  • Accept the past and where you are currently at.
  • Identify goals for moving forward.
  • Name what you are experiencing.
  • Notice your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.
  • Explore and process events and themes with a therapist.
  • Gradually be able to confront fears and sit with discomfort (rather than avoidance).
  • Begin to integrate aspects of your narrative.
  • Learn to forgive yourself and others.
  • Create new support networks.
  • Embrace aspects of yourself and your identity.
  • Celebrate being able to do such difficult work!

Written By: Charlotte Johnson, MA, LPCC

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