As a spooky decoration it is very popular. As a saying very common. And as a picture in our imagination, even horror. But what is really behind it?

When we talk about skeletons in the closet, we usually mean a secret. Something that is unacceptable, that is not done. Maybe something that haunts and burdens us. It must be kept hidden from others. We are ashamed. We feel guilty. We are scared. Just the idea that someone could find out! Expose it! That it will come back to haunt us!

Skeletons in the closet just aren't talked about!

The longer we carry the imaginary closet within us, the harder it is to return to it or even get rid of it. Maybe subconsciously, maybe consciously, we store in it what we are not yet able to face. If it disappeared on its own, we would be relieved! But unfortunately this is not usually the case. It's only a matter of time before our closet opens in front of us. And maybe we will find out that there is not just one skeleton in it, but that we have bravely filled it for such a long time that it can no longer be closed. Not everyone can plan to keep the closet closed until our time runs out and there is no one to unlock it.

A skeleton named Guilt.

The skeleton in the closet doesn't just make us feel scared and ashamed. The weight of another emotion is much more fundamental, and that is guilt. Guilt is one of the most pressing emotions of all. You could say it's a self-destructive feeling. Its insidiousness is mainly in its length, it's creeping and fundamental influence on our mental and physical health. We condemn and punish ourselves with guilt. The disadvantage of this emotion is that it can hide very well and refuse to disappear. It is able to influence our thinking and behaviour. It has many causes, a wide range of manifestations and is almost endless. It can destroy us not only in spirit but also in the body. Many psychosomatic illnesses can be caused by guilt.

Open or not open?

A solution is offered. Deal with the skeleton named guilt quickly, fundamentally and forever. But opening the closet wide is difficult. In admitting our failures, we can no longer pretend we don't have them. The jig is up, perhaps publicly. And we risk the consequences. If one of our skeletons is a lie, or infidelity, deception, failure, then we risk having to deal with the reaction of those around us. Although we get rid of our own guilt, this does not mean that feelings of joy and happiness come immediately. We may be relieved, but then we will have to look at the emotions of our loved ones who have been harmed by our skeleton. We will have to face their reactions and questions. And the questions force the answers. So, we prefer to accept this fear and usually close the closet again. And that's perhaps the worst solution we could have chosen.

Mirror test.

In 1984, German director Wolfgang Petersen made the film The Neverending Story. The main character Atrey finds himself in front of a gate in one scene, where he faces a life or death challenge. The guardians at the gate will burn alive anyone not worthy of passing through. One test is for Atrey to look in a mirror in order to reveal his true self. Most people have fled in horror or died on the spot. Many people can't stand looking inside. Some people find out how cruel or brave they can be, they learn that despite appearing weak and peaceful they are in fact insidious. Atrey struggles with his own fear and, thanks to his courage and acceptance of his reflection in the mirror, passes the test. He is one of the first to pass through the gate.

Reward for courage.

This means that it is difficult to look yourself in the face. That view removes forever the idea of our ideal Self. Opening a closet and looking at your skeleton takes courage and support, but it can be done. We will not change what happened or what we did. We'll probably pay a price. This can perhaps bring a loss of trust, a relationship or a position at work. Some roads will be closed. But even so, we can try to correct our next steps so that the skeletons do not appear in new areas and relationships in our lives. Correction is far more useful than the punishment called guilt.

Guilt breeds despair and desperate people do desperate things.

Desperate people do not benefit or help anyone. They just destroy others around them and are doomed to their own inner solitude. From an early age, we learn that things should be put where they belong. And skeletons definitely don't belong in closets. When we learn how to get rid of them, we become more supportive of ourselves and others. And this inner strength is the best reward we can give ourselves.

No need to hurry.

Maybe we can start opening the closet gradually. Step by step, remove the individual parts and start cleaning it out. It may take time, but we don't have to be alone. If we face our transgressions, a similar skeleton will never appear in our closet again.

By sharing our guilt, we can better understand what to focus on, what to fix, and what to put up with.

And this process will certainly bring us a sense of relief, forgiveness and hope. And these are emotions that are much better to live with.

Author: Veronika for Amy
Photo: Shutterstock