When I was a child, I was very well-behaved. I listened to my teachers and earned good grades. I got along well with other children and followed all the rules. I obeyed my parents and did helpful things around the house. I rarely got in trouble except for one thing: My parents complained about my bad attitude.
At ten years old, I had no idea what an attitude was or how I was supposed to change it. This complaint ruined my perfect behavior, so I was determined to correct it.
Eventually I figured out the unspoken family rule: Thou shalt be cheerful.
Looking back, I can see that the pain and secrets under the weight of my father’s sexual abuse were leaking out through my “bad attitude.” I had to endure the abuse and then conceal my feelings about it. The message was, “No matter what’s happening, smile about it because frowns make others uncomfortable.”