The Secret Life of Families: Truth-telling, Privacy, and Reconciliation in a Tell-All Society

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9780553100945: The Secret Life of Families: Truth-telling, Privacy, and Reconciliation in a Tell-All Society

When do I have the right to keep a secret?  Who has a responsibility to open a secret?  How do I know the time is right to maintain a secret or to open it?  How do I make it safe for myself and others?  What are my obligations to the people I love where secrets are concerned?

An HIV-positive man fears losing his job if his health status becomes known. . . . A wife keeps a secret bank account. . . . A husband has an affair. . . . A teen refuses to say where she goes at night. . . .

Secrets come in all shapes and sizes.  And for families as well as individuals, they are built on a complex web of shifting motives and emotions.  But today, when personal revelations are posted on the Internet or sensationalized on afternoon talk shows, we risk losing touch with how important secrets are--how they are used and abused, their power to harm and to heal.

In fact, what we choose to share or to keep silent about can affect, for better or worse, our health, our work, our relationships, our future.  Evan Imber-Black eloquently and compassionately describes how to maintain a balance between candor and caution to ensure that secrets remain a creative rather than a destructive force in our lives.  She helps us understand:

The distinction between healthy privacy and toxic secrecy
What to tell--and not to tell--young children
How to safely confront a family "zone of silence"
Why adolescents need to have some secrets--and where to draw the line
The role of gender, race, religion, and class in shaping our secrets
The effect of "official" secrets, like sealed adoption records and medical testing
What to consider before revealing an important secret
And much more

Filled with moving first-person stories, The Secret Life of Families provides perspective on some of today's most sensitive personal and social issues.  It is a book that gives voice to our deepest fears and to our power to overcome them--a book that will be talked about for years to come.

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Review:

All families keep secrets, from the world and from one another. Was a child born out of wedlock? Is a brother using drugs? According to Evan Imber-Black, a psychiatry professor and the director of program development at New York City's Ackerman Institute for the Family, there's an important difference between healthy privacy that promotes necessary boundaries and toxic secrets that poison relationships between family members and keep people from getting help. In fact, Imber-Black says, every secret is different, and the decision whether or not to reveal a secret can be painfully difficult. In this comprehensive, very intelligent book, she covers all the kinds of secrets readers are likely to be keeping (or have been kept from knowing), and gives thoughtful advice on what to do about each of them.

From the Publisher:

"Involving...practical, informative."
--Publishers Weekly

"What a pleasure! Evan Imber-Black brings a most wise and discerning eye to a subject of consummate importance to us all."
--Donald A. Bloch, M.D., President, American Family Therapy Academy

"Evan Imber-Black unravels the complexities of silence and secrecy in family life with her usual brilliance and balance. She gives us a must-read book--daring, compassionate, timely, and eminently useful."
--Harriet Lerner, Ph.D., author of The Dance of Anger and The Dance of Deception

"With this powerful, groundbreaking book, a longtime pioneer in family therapy has opened up not only the inner workings of families, but forceful dynamics affecting the shape of all our lives. A brave, compelling, and important work."
--Terrence Real, author of I Don't Want to Talk About It: Overcoming the Secret Legacy of Male Depression

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