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Musings From a Psychotherapist About the Effects of Secrecy and Shame in Our Lives

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Last night, I had the privilege of leading a talk-back following a production of Neil LaBute's "In a Dark, Dark House." I read the script for the play last month and thought the playwright brilliant for his ability to comprehend what actually goes on as a result of childhood sexual abuse. Himself a survivor of child sexual abuse, LaBute crafted a play that asks the audience to bear some pain, experience some confusion and appreciate some of the complexities involved when a person grows up living with being sexualized way before they're even old enough to know about sex.

I woke up today thinking about the play. I thought about how stories get constructed, used and believed over and over again to the point where we get confused and have a hard time distinguishing between what's a story and what's real. I thought about how abuse of any sort -- physical, emotional, as well as sexual forces children to shut down, turn off, distract away from what they feel because to do otherwise would be too painful.

As my day progressed, I was struck by how often my mind was thinking about the play. It took me to reflecting on my Talk-Back and the way conversation flowed about how rich the discussion was, deepening my understanding of the play and spurring on a multitude of questions for me to ponder. Questions that had me wondering what it takes to cope when the prevailing need is to avoid bad things from coming your way? And wondering about secrets in families and in other aspects of life and what it takes to hold and hide a secret. Also, I was wondering about shame and humiliation and how vital it is to cultivate compassion as the antidote to shame and the healer of the heart and soul.

I think it's a safe bet that I will continue to be lost in thought this evening and probably through the weekend. That, to me, is the sign of a genius at work. Simpatico Theatre Project in Philadelphia, under the directorship of Harriet Power, gave an amazing performance, launching the American premiere of LaBute's re-worked script, originally produced with director Michael Attenborough at the Almeida Theatre in London. Bravo.

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