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In June, we can take a long deep breath and begin
think about welcoming summer. Schedules shift.
People become a bit more relaxed. With graduations,
proms, weddings and other end of spring/beginning of
summer events, we begin to unwind.
For many of us summer is time to spend with
friends, listening to each other’s stories, catching up
with one another’s lives. It is for this reason that
this issue focuses on Dealing with Secrets
and Fulfilling Friendships.
Please pass along this newsletter to
loved ones and colleagues by clicking Send to a
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Wishing you health, peace and
Dealing with Secrets
Everyone, at one time or another, has told someone
a secret. Everyone, at one time or another, has been
asked to keep a secret.
Secrets are NOT for Children
For our purposes, we will be talking about secrets
and adults. When children are told to keep secrets it
is often in the context of a problematic or
threatening situation. For their own protection they
should know that they can always tell a trustworthy
adult what is happening to them. A child who hears a
disturbing secret or who is threatened or shamed into
keeping a secret, needs to know that it is
appropriate to share their secret with a trusted adult
who can help or protect them. Often children who
hold secrets, such as family embarrassments, tend to
grow up with shame and confusion.
Telling Your Secret
When someone tells you a secret, they are valuing
you as their friend. They are saying to you that they
appreciate your loyalty and that they perceive you
to be trustworthy. They may be asking for your
advice or not. If you are not asked, don’t offer.
Revealing information to people in your life means you
feel safe enough with them to be vulnerable; it’s a
form of intimacy.
What Does Keeping a Secret Mean?
When you hold someone’s secret you have a
responsibility to honor that person and their right to
privacy. You know you are a really good friend when
you can hear your friend’s deepest secret and then,
without judgment or criticism, resist the urge (if you
have it) to tell someone else and, further, as far as
the world is concerned, forget about what they
shared with you.
Your Secret Comfort Level
First consider the position you are in. What does the
fact that you have been told privileged information
say about your relationship? Does being the recipient
of that information cause you discomfort? What do
you do if someone tells you something about his or
her life? Perhaps they have an illness they do not
want to make public or a co-worker shares that she
plans to leave her job. Someone may confide they
are cheating in their marriage, or engaged in
unethical business practices, abused as a child, or
has an unhealthy addiction. How do you handle it?
Here are Sanity SaversTM to help you between
- If You Don’t Want to Keep a Secret –
Inform the teller at the first sign that a secret is
going to be revealed that you’re not sure you can
hear it. Let them know the reason for your
discomfort so they don’t take your refusal as a
personal rebuff. “If I hear it I know you will not want
me to tell anyone and I am not sure I can do that,
particularly if you are doing something illegal or
hurting someone I love.”
- When You’re Pumped for Information
- If people suspect something is “up”, they might
try to persuade you to divulge the secret. First,
relax. You don’t need to reveal anything you don’t
want to or convince anyone that you know or don’t
know anything. Your mission is not to tell. When
asked a direct question, talk normally and give a
simple response. Resist becoming angry or defensive.
Shift your focus to something else without “red
flagging” the change of subject to raise suspicion.
For example, you might be at a party and someone
may ask you if your friend is ill. You don’t want to lie
but also don’t want to betray your friend’s
confidence in knowing her secret. Saying, “I’m not at
liberty to talk about anything,” might just be too
much information. Maybe it is better to politely and
gently say, “I make it a habit of not talking about
people’s private issues because I don’t like it when
people talk about mine.” Then casually go onto
- When the Secret’s Been Let Out - You
can go to the source and ask, “Have you ‘gone
public?" I've heard this information and just
wanted to let you know. If this is no longer a secret,
and you are okay with people talking, I would like to
know.” Or, just understand that people have their
own way of working things out and maybe you were
told something in confidence and then, later, they
decided to share it with someone else who was less
careful than you. It is never your prerogative to
share someone’s confidence with a third party.
Remember: It is the prerogative of person whose
secret it is.
- Difficulty Holding a Secret – If you just
cannot hold the information, or your find “it is making
you sick” you need to go to the person who told you
(or a therapist) and talk about how difficult it is for
you and why it is such a challenge for you.
- Harmful Information – This is one time
when you don’t have to keep a secret. If the person
shares with you something that is endangering
another person, illegal or perilous, or it is doing more
harm keeping it than telling it, you may need to
assume a more active role and/or reveal it to
someone else who can help or to the appropriate
authority. Strongly consider doing something. Even if
taking a stand means jeopardizing your friendship,
advocating your friend to do or not do something in
order to avoid a destructive path will be more
beneficial for both of you in the long run. True”
friendships will likely survive these difficult
No matter how juicy, how tempting,
how interesting, you must remember that the secret
information is NOT yours. It is the tellers' and you are
guarding it for him or her.
times of more upcoming segments to be posted on
Naomi's New Morning (Naomi Judd)Caregiving
The Hallmark Channel
Dates and times to be
announced on Dr. Dale's website.
YPO Spouses (Young President's Organization)
Friday, June 2nd, 10:00am
Caring for Yourself as You Care for Others
Long Beach, CA
Self Image: A Work in Progress
Thursday, June 8th, 1:30pm-3:30pm
92nd Street Y, Makor Center, NYC
Life is Enhanced with Friends
Everyone needs someone to be there for them; to
listen and NOT give advice or judge. Someone to
have fun with, who knows you, whom you can trust
to NOT say what you have told them to ANYONE
unless you specifically say it’s okay. These are
people from whom you can ask for what you need or
want. They are people who are there in times of
need and with whom you can share your desires,
thoughts, dreams, and mistakes. They accept you
unconditionally even though they can and feel okay
with disagreeing with your choices. In short, when
you are with them, you can be your authentic self.
Friendships Combat the “Lonelies”
Within families, people may be emotionally or
physically distanced (or both.) In these cases
particularly, it becomes essential to develop
friendships. There is nothing like being able to rely on
a friend to be there in the way you need; to be your
ally, or partner; someone with whom you can share
your innermost thoughts, feelings, hopes, or fears,
and who feels similarly toward you. If you don’t have
quality friendships, it is possible you could you be
shielding yourself with a protective covering to keep
you out of the realm of competition and judgment.
On the other hand, if you have great friends, is your
life so busy that you don’t find the time to give to
your friendships which prevents you from
experiencing that kind of nurturing, support,
opportunity to give to someone else, and fun in your
Ask for What You Need
Redesign your friendships so you can give as well as
reap the benefits. We all need to know that a good
friend has our best interests at heart and that this
feeling is reciprocal. For some of us, our friends are
the ones who help us tackle major challenges and
changes and are our support systems. Without them,
we know we could not make it. However sometimes
your “old” friends may not know how to relate to
what you are going through or may feel threatened
or scared by your situation and either back off or are
not available. Try not to take it personally as people
react to change differently. This may be a good time
to enlist a whole new group of people who also have
similar issues and with whom you can be “vulnerable”
sense of safety, understanding and nurturing.
Friendships Go Through Transitions
Remember, friendships can go through periods of
closeness and distance. Sometimes, it is important to
put limits or boundaries and other times there need
to be no restrictions. As we go through our own
transitions, so will our friendships ebb and flow.
Some friends stay in our lives throughout our own
personal journeys (and theirs) while others don’t. As
the saying goes, some people are in our life for a
reason, a season or a lifetime.
Here are ways for YOU to be a better
- Like Yourself - What do you like about
YOU? If you are feeling awful about yourself, other
people are likely not going to find you terribly
attractive. When you are content with who you are
and not solely self focused, you will have time,
energy and interest to cultivate meaningful
friendships and attract positive relationships into
- Be There - In
the ways you can for the people who mean
something to you. Select who is in that group. The
group may be one or two people with whom you
want to develop or maintain a close connection.
Work on being a good listener, loyal, trustworthy,
and a true supporter. Have your friends’ interest at
the forefront of your heart and mind.
- Take the Time and Put it on Your Calendar
When you are together, keep the distractions to a
minimum. ONLY answer your cell phone if it is REALLY
important. Time with friends goes by too fast. The
fun, the focus, the feeling is what you want and
having the flow interrupted really hurts the chances
of that happening. It also makes your friend feel he
or she is not so important if you are answering your
phone, text messaging someone else or focusing on
something other than your time together.
Demonstrate the value and esteem for this person by
your actions as well as your heart.
- Don’t Stand on Ceremony; Be Forgiving –
some point, every friendship will have some type of
disagreement or misunderstanding. A good friend,
especially one who has been in your life a long time,
who has helped you weather life’s storms, with whom
you have a shared history, is worth considering
holding onto. You need to be willing to let things go.
If your friend is usually a few minutes off schedule,
don’t expect perfect punctuality. Be realistic. Try
and work through the bigger clashes. Learn to agree
to disagree. Don’t ever keep score.
- If You Say You’re Going to Call, Do It! -
sure you are as kind and considerate to your friends
as you expect them to be to you. Listen to them and
keep in your head what is important in their lives. Is
their child working on a major school project? Has
someone close to them been in the hospital? What’s
new in the job market? Pay attention and follow up.
If you have too much in your mind or on your
schedule, write yourself a reminder note to check in
- If You Forget to Follow Up, Fess Up -
make a thousand excuses about what has been going
on in your life. Take responsibility for your inaction
and then ask, “How is your mother? I am so sorry I
did not call for the last few days. I know she is in the
hospital. How are you doing?”
Friendships and Your Health:
- Social ties reduce our risk of disease by
lowering blood pressure, heart rate, and cholesterol.
Friends help us live longer.
- People who had no friends increased their
risk of death over a 6-month period. In another
study, those who had the most friends over a 9-year
period cut their risk of death by more than 60%.
- Friends are also helping us live better. The
more quality friends you have, the less likely you are
to develop physical impairments as you age. In fact,
studies show that not having close friends or
confidants was as detrimental to your health as
smoking or carrying extra weight.
- Widows or widowers who had a close friend
and confidante were more likely to survive the
experience without any new physical impairments or
permanent loss of vitality.
A Good Daily Habit
Relax, have fun and play!!
Who says playing is just for kids? Adults who get
their daily dose of giggles and fun activity live
Enjoying life is all about enjoying each day!
One who knows how to show and to accept kindness
will be a friend better than any possession.
DALE V. ATKINS Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist,
lecturer and commentator in the media who appears
on the Today show.
She has more than twenty-
years of experience and focuses on living a balanced
life, parenting, aging well, managing stress, life &
work transitions, family connections and healthy
Dr. Atkins is the author
and/or co-editor of several books including:
SistersFrom the Heart:
Their Private Thoughts about their Private
Families and their Hearing-Impaired
OK, You're My Parents
Let Go of Anger and Create a Relationship that
Wedding Sanity Savers
Handle the Stickiest Dilemmas, Scrapes and
Questions that Arise on the Road to Your Perfect
Find out more....
As Seen on the TODAY SHOW!
Wedding Sanity Savers
How to Handle the Stickiest Dilemmas, Scrapes and Questions that Arise on the Road to Your Perfect Day
You're My Parents
How to Overcome Guilt, Let Go of Anger, and Create a Relationship That Works
Now in Paperback!