Sunday, October 23, 2011

Tell Me Everything by Marilyn Meberg

Marilyn Meberg has a master’s degree in counseling psychology.  As a counselor, teacher, mother and wife, she has spent decades helping women gain freedom from their fears, their secrets, and their pasts.

I had never heard Marilyn speak but on the first day of the Women of Faith conference in San Antonio I was looking at the book table and found myself attracted to Marilyn’s book, Tell Me Everything.  My decision to follow my spirit and purchase the book was confirmed after I heard her speak on Saturday afternoon.  I started reading the book on the trip home and couldn’t believe how she seemed to have been “reading my mail”.   I have included here some of the concepts that I found to be of particular interest.

Marilyn described how many people today are living with an unknown and undiagnosed infection that’s silently growing inside them, causing them pain and suffering. Some of these infections are emotional rather than physical and may be in the form of an addiction, or behavior.  It might be an incident that occurred sometime in the past that seems too horrific now to even think about let alone share.  Maybe it’s not even your original secret, but your life is infected by a loved one’s secret that you are desperate to keep secret too.  It’s poison can burple up through the layers of your emotions to cause you to respond in bizarre ways to ordinary events.  These secrets can make you sad and even sick.

Marilyn related the story of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s  book,The Scarlet Letter, where the character Hester Prynne came upon Arthur Dimmesdale walking through the woods seven years after her initial public censure.  The speak for the first time and Hester attempts to assure the minister that his good works and humility had gained him penance.  But Dimmesdale cried out, “Happy are you, Hester, that wear the scarlet letter openly upon your bosom! Mine burns in secret!”  Because Hester’s secret became known, she was not haunted by the fear of public exposure as was Dimmesdale.  But in both cases there was great pain: Hester’s public, Dimmesdale’s private.

The reason it is so hard for us to admit to the secrets hidden in our hearts is that we’re ashamed of them.  But …shame is not what we do, it’s who we perceive ourselves to be.  Shame is a core indictment of our very essence.   Perhaps most helpful to our understanding is that at the very core of shame lives the panicked fear of abandonment and rejection.  If you really knew me and the nature of the stuff that lives in that dark corner of my heart, you’d not only be shocked, but worse yet, you’d be appalled.  If you’re appalled, then I have every reason to assume you will reject me.  If you reject me, I will experience abandonment, which is the most devastating emotional state in which to live.  

One of the greatest driving forces of our nature is to feel connected to other human beings.  To truly experience connection is to experience oneness; without it, we can withdraw into a world of lonely isolation.  When our secrets become too powerful, shame becomes an identity, a state in which we feel different, despairing, and helpless.  The person who has trouble receiving love because she believes that somehow love has to be earned; she has to qualify. 

Simply hearing the words “I love you” sets off  myriad internal responses, such as: “You wouldn’t say that if you really knew me.” “Once you know me you won’t love me because I’m not as good or successful as I may appear.” “I guess I’ll marry you, but you’ll never get very close to me because I’ve got to work very hard so  you’ll continue to think you love me because love is based upon what I do and not who I am.”


Meberg discusses the power of abandonment memories to hide away in the secret recesses of our mind.  We may have completely forgotten a powerful memory, but nevertheless, it may have an unperceived influence on our lives – our behavior, our thoughts, our attitudes. We go about our lives carrying secret , troubling pictures we don’t even know we have – or if we do know we have them, we’d like to throw them away. But since memory doesn’t throw anything away, we try to forget the troublesome  photos. When that happens, the images – the secrets – get pushed down into the unconscious, where the album is protected and safe.

But the fact that those pictures are in the album and that we sometimes receive flashes of them tells us we need to look at them, exclaim over them, and perhaps cry over them.  When we acknowledge the hurt, pain, confusion, or embarrassment they may produce, our next step is to show them to the Father who, incidentally, already sees them, and then to ask His help in processing them. 

Abandonment memories can be harsh and hurtful.  An unperceived buried memory of abandonment may be a “secret” hidden within us that causes us to feel emotional pain we can’t understand – until that memory is brought into the light of God’ healing.  

God intends that His good and perfect creation will be appreciated by us; that it give us pleasure. For many people, the challenge is to keep pleasure in a state of balance. When a pleasure takes control of our lives, problems occur; dark secrets are created.  The portion of the human brain scientists refer to as the “pleasure center” is the part of the brain that reacts enthusiastically to chocolate, pizza, pasta, or any favorite food or activity that provides pleasure.  The pleasure center also loves the concept of “more”. “More” keeps us craving and not satisfied. The result can produce behavior that invokes shame – and causes us to create the dark secrets we hope no one else will discover about us.

The “more” pursuit can produce addictions. There are 2 key neurotransmitters in the brain: endorphins and dopamine, which have much the same molecular structure as morphine.  So when the addictive substance wears off, the newly created receptions need more.  If they don’t get more, the pleasure center is out of balance because more of the addictive substance is needed to produce the same high.  That “more”, if not satisfied, creates cravings. Addiction of any kind serves a crucial function – it distracts from pain.  All addiction is about distracting the user from feeling pain.  That pain may be current or buried deeply beyond conscious knowledge, but pain drives the addiction.  The victim thinks, Those feelings are so overwhelming, threatening, and persistent, I cannot cope with them. 

Counseling is a place to learn why there was a particular vulnerability.  Understanding the source, or the secrets, behind the predisposed condition can give clarity, but it cannot heal.  Only God can heal.



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