I teach eight values needed to build trust: honesty, straightforwardness, respect, receptivity, recognition, keeping commitments, seeking excellence and disclosure. Disclosure, the topic of this article, is a state of openness in which we freely reveal our vulnerabilities.
Recently, I came upon two independent, internationally recognized experts in the field of personal growth, each providing examples of disclosure. The first was Debbie Ford, author of Dark Side of the Light Chasers and The Shadow Effect (her latest book and documentary). She promotes the importance of recognizing, owning and forgiving aspects we judge harshly and hide from others and ourselves. Ford asserts we are all noble and guilty, strong and weak, generous and selfish, dark and light and problems arise because we’ve been taught to repress and project our darker aspects, which then contributes greatly to our suffering. Ford’s bottom line: Accept your shadow and your light (they both contain gifts) so you can express ALL of YOU!
Oprah interviewed Ford after airing her movie and was surprised to hear her humble disclosure; she’d secretly had cancer for 11 years. When invited to the interview, she recognized shameful childhood feelings about weakness and sickness, traits she had disowned until almost dying. She allowed millions of viewers to witness her discomfort as she shared this significant blind spot, despite her role as the “shadow expert.” She expressed feelings of fear and aversion about her vulnerability and how this had created lifelong resistance to receiving support and love.
Another example came from Harville Hendrix and Helen LaKelly Hunt, a famous husband and wife team whose insightful books and workshops have helped thousands of couples worldwide. I was surprised to read in their most recent book, Receiving Love, what they describe as a humbling and humiliating development. After helping couples learn effective communication, love and support methods, their own marriage of 20 years began disintegrating. They first had the courage to disclose their marital condition to their team of therapists and ask for help and later to their readers. The result: they expanded their work (and relationship) to include important insights, healing and tools that dissolve blocks to receiving love. Both of these examples show that we are never finished, that when we make progress, new levels of growth and healing often surface. When we let our light shine, our shadow also rises.
I myself, while not world-acclaimed (yet) have recently been learning about the importance, challenges and gifts of disclosure. Within the past four months, among other things, two of my children got married, another turned 30, another had a baby and I moved from a home I’d lived in for 25 years. While all of these were “positive” changes, I found myself bewildered, overwhelmed and experiencing panic attacks. My friends, family and clients had thought me a strong, stable person, and I am. I’m also very human with fears, challenges, judgments and shadows I was unaware I’d been repressing. The gift in all of this is I’m learning first-hand more about receiving love and support, vulnerability, shadows, self-acceptance and disclosure at new levels, which in turn is helping me to better support and help friends and clients.
As life often happens, I recently acquired a new client with significant panic and anxiety. Her normal coping mechanisms were starting to fail. That’s actually good news even though it sure doesn’t seem like it while we’re in it. At first, she wanted me to only see her beauty, intelligence, accomplishments and where she is strong and enlightened. In other words, she really reminded me of me! The problem is she hasn’t felt whole, nor were many patterns in her life reflecting wholeness. She was suffering. I knew my disclosure would help build trust, relieve her and model it’s OK to be all of who she is. I shared that I coach by allowing connection and that sometimes I become triggered inside when others have emotions I’ve not explored fully within myself or when I get attached to results. As I chose to disclose both my light and darkness to her, I saw her guard come down. The very things I thought of as my shadows, proved to contain gifts too.
Therefore, disclosing all of YOU may help others and will certainly help you. I’m getting relief dropping perfectionism. I’m freer as I further release the need for love, acceptance and approval from others. My faith in love and forgiveness is growing, as is my commitment to self-acceptance. I’m learning to celebrate my complexity, all bringing me peace. So…are you ready to be and show who YOU are? I’m here to help!
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As published nationally in the Women’s Journal, April 2012