Iyanla Fix My Life: How Family Secrets And Pathology Affect Us (and how to break free)

I love watching talk-style television shows where real people deal with real problems, and I get to witness them heal.  As a person recovering from years of undiagnosed Borderline Personality Disorder and who has been “doing her work” to heal, I am inspired by watching others doing their own, powerful, inner work.
One such show that showcases this beautifully is Iyanla Vanzant’s “Iyanla Fix My Life” on Oprah’s OWN network. Oprah describes Iyanla as a woman who is putting the “real” in “reality television.”
Last night, I caught up on the most recent episode of the show, featuring a twenty-nine year old man whose mother didn’t tell him  (until he was twenty-three) that the man who raised him was not his biological father.

The show is not set up Jerry Springer style. There is no backstage with surprise guests who come out to humiliate you. The show takes place at the family’s home, and Iyanla travels to meet them in their own sacred space.

In this case, the focus was on the mom’s choice to lie, why she did it, and her facing up to all of the repercussions of her decision to live a lie for 23 years and keep a secret from her son.  Additionally, the focus was on the son, who was devastated and hurt and who blamed, entirely, his mother for the situation. 

The son was livid with his mother for keeping this secret and lying to him for twenty years. The problem is, all of his anger was directed at his mother. He wasn’t mad at his biological father (who was 15 at the time his mother became pregnant with him at 17 and who abandoned him), or the man who raised him. This seemed unfair to Iyanla, and she called him on it.  She also encouraged the son to see his mother as she was at the time she made the decision, as opposed to the person he now knows.

Iyanla made him a scrapbook page with a few photos from the time of his birth. One was a photo of his mom at age 17: pregnant, alone, and scared. Iyanla reminded him that his mother was just a child. She felt shame for being pregnant at a young age, and she had no support.   Thinking about his mom in this way did help the son to tap into some compassion for his mother. He was able to get that her intention (though it badly backfired) was that he not be hurt. That’s why she allowed the man she met in her 20s to step in and father him.  He got it.  He was still angry though.

When Iyanla talked to the mom, the mom confirmed that she was pregnant, alone, scared, and just a child. She confirmed that she wanted to protect her child because the biological Dad showed no interest in him, and she married a man who loved him enough to step in and be his father. She thought she was acting in the best interest for her son.

What was revealed next was quite eye opening. The mother shared that she had been adopted and was not told this until she was about 23 or 24 years old. Iyanla pointed out the obvious: this was a family pathology. The mother only did what she had learned.   When this was shared with the son, he further understood.

Iyanla spoke about how secrets in a family lead to pathology that repeats itself until someone is brave enough to break the cycle and tell the truth.  This family clearly still needed a lot of continued healing at the end of this show. I can’t imagine that it’s realistic to expect a quarter of a century of pain to be wrapped up in one show’s time.  But, I believe that I (and millions of others who tuned in) witnessed the beginning of some major healing in this family.

Here’s what happened:
(Click here if video is not displaying.)

The Chavez Family Reunites
The day has come. After not speaking for five months following the revelation of a painful family secret, Dallas radio personality Jose Chavez is reuniting for the first time with his mother, sister and the man who raised him. Watch the emotional scene unfold and the healing begin.

It made me hopeful that further healing is possible in my family and in yours.  Stepping up and admitting  where we’ve fallen short, lied, or kept secrets is not an easy thing to do. It makes us very vulnerable, and we don’t really know how we will be received or if we will be rejected. I have learned from this and other similar shows that it’s a risk worth taking if I desire true healing.
This road to a Life Worth Living is filled with opportunities to break cycles and tell the truth. As Iyanla says, “Let’s call a thing ‘a thing,’ people!”

Thanks for reading.
More Soon.
2 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.