With Halloween around the corner, ghoulish decorations are beginning to pop up alongside gargantuan pumpkins, bumpy gourds, and colorful leaves.

A plastic skeleton swinging in the wind recently reminded me of the saying about keeping skeletons in the closet.

My closet is no stranger to skeletons. Some have represented things done to me, others symbolized things I’ve done. Shame and fear were the hinges on my closet doors. Strong and secure, they kept my secrets tucked in the dark.

Or so I thought.

What I eventually figured out over time is no skeleton really stays in the closet.

The more tightly we shut that closet door, the more our skeletons manage to follow us around. They’re sort of like ghosts, really. Even if we can see them, we do our best to cast our gaze to the far beyond, pretending they’re not real.

But they are very real, and they filter themselves into our daily lives in ways we don’t even realize.

They’re sneaky, those ghostly skeletons.

They are determined to escape the closet, and if we don’t let them out freely, they will find their own way. Purposefully letting them out can be a daunting idea, though.

One of the most difficult things in therapy is feeling the emotions those skeletons captured so long ago. Rejection, loneliness, shame, and confusion are just a few that come to mind. It’s counter-intuitive to talk about experiences that caused those feelings. Initially, processing those emotions and memories causes even greater pain. Who wants to sign up for that?

But the good news is the healing that comes from that pain is the most miraculous thing. It happened to me as I drug one skeleton after another out of my closet. Proportionately, as I shed light on them, my shame and fear began to recede. They didn’t need to haunt me anymore.

Regret and shame can kill our souls.

Keeping secrets, even from ourselves- maybe especially from ourselves, is impairing at best and destructive at worst.

Sometimes a lingering skeleton will show up unexpectedly -causing an ‘aha’ moment. It’s often when I’m figuring out I have a pattern of doing the very thing I don’t want to do. The light bulb slowly comes on and the skeleton reveals itself to me.

When I process what’s attached, the associated behavior begins to diminish and I am stunned to find another level of freedom.

Freedom from the ghosts, skeletons, and ghoulish trappings of my past.

How about you? What is your experience with exposing a skeleton in the closet?