Secrecy, by its very definition, remains a difficult topic to study. The presence of
secrecy in all social organizations is universal and families happen to be one of the
earliest forms of social organization that individuals encounter. Family relationships
are shaped, in part, by what is shared and what is held secret by family members.
Family secrets may accordingly serve as a stimulus for family functioning and the
experience of an individual within the family. Secret is kept as a result of intimidation
or shame. Secrecy compounds the trauma by ensuring isolation. Often, the victim
comes to doubt his or her own experience of reality, which is at odds with the family's
version of the truth.
The present study focuses on the disclosure of familial secrets and the impact
thereof on adult children who are part of and the secret itself, and the dissertation will
be teasing out pastoral care of such adult children. This research interrogates the
haunting effects of family secrets on those who happen to be subject of the secret in
question. The idea that an individual’s behaviour might be traced to a secret kept by
a family member in another generation is impressed upon in this study. From a
methodological perspective it implies a shift in the analytic process, which does not
aim to link co-researchers’ indicators with his or her unconscious but to trace these
indicators to a muted episode in the family’s history.
Co-researchers found themselves haunted by someone else’s secret, by the silence
erected around a deed that took place decades ago. Thus they are held, individually
and respectively, within a group dynamic constituted by a specific familial topology
that prevents the individual from living life as her or his own. The unspeakable
secret suspended within the adult is transmitted upon disclosure, to the child (now
young adult) in “undigested” form and lodges within his or her mental landscape as
an unmarked tomb of in accessible knowledge. Concealing the true paternal and/or
maternal identity from a child is a monumental setback in the history of childhood.
There are a couple of issues that emerge in light of disclosure of such a secret and,
therefore, a paroxysm of emotions that are experienced. Thus pastoral care seeks toThe study also looks at how the concealment of a family secret generates an
obstacle to an individual who happens to be the secret and how this obstacle
prevents him/her from becoming a holistic individual. The contention, especially
among Africans, is that an unspoken family secret causes the affected individual’s
puzzling behaviour. Co-researchers relate their own stories that may have been
made enigmatic by secrets that have been muted over decades.
Following disclosure of such secrets, co-researchers are also dominated by an
emotion which is inexpressible, because it is in excess of the facts as they appear.
Hence the haunting influence that exists on the co-researchers of element(s)
missing. In their engagements following the pastoral and therapeutic alliance
established, co-researchers and the researcher endeavour to reconstruct a hidden
story. And, by reinterpreting the co-researcher’s story and together with the
research, they journey pastorally and therapeutically to find a way to get beyond the
enigma-laden silence that had dominated until disclosure.
The main focus of this research would be to pastorally empower the young adults to
deal with the issues that come to the fore in light disclosing a secret that had been
muted for decades. The key question that the thesis deals with is: What would it take
to remove the obstacle to a co-researcher’s being and to reinstate the possibility of
bring about healing for the affected