SECRETS DON’T DESTROY THINGS, SUSPICION DOES
“There are two kinds of secrets: one is not worth keeping and the other is too good to keep”
Why is it so hard for some of us to keep things confidential? Psychologists believe it is hard for some of us to keep things quiet, suggesting it has to do with our personality and what we’ve learned from our parents. The world is full of secrets. They range from the fascinating, to the dangerous to the quirky but sometimes when secrets emerge into reality, they can have a damaging domino effect.
So just what makes a person privy to telling or not telling? Some people spill classified information just as easy as a glass of water, while others remain so tight-lipped even torturers would be hard-pressed to pry open their mouths.
Having looked into this, psychologists have suggested three main reasons why individuals forgo the hush-hush; Firstly, some people are naturally more open than others and tend to share their thoughts and feelings, so it’s got less to do with the secret itself than the person’s personality, and so long as the content doesn’t cross professional or personal boundaries, there’s not much harm.
Secondly, and in contrast, others can’t deal with the pressure confidential information affords them, so are eager to offload it – especially if it’s to do with guilt. An example would be if they’ve done something wrong and think telling the other person will help get it off their chest. In reality, this can backfire; if you’ve done something hurtful, it doesn’t necessarily serve the person involved to know.
Lastly, some people get off on a power trip by sharing other people’s business when often these people don’t like other people talking about them, so it’s almost a way for them to detract attention from their own business, which is kept tightly under wraps. People may even use secrets as a form of social validation; knowing something others don’t helps boost self-esteem, not to mention the attention this person selfishly receives upon sharing someone else’s dirty laundry. Essentially this approach is about insecurity.
Interestingly, our secret-keeping or sharing habits can be traced back to our parents and their own tendencies; be it whispering behind an open palm or maintaining a staunch silence. It is very learned behaviour, especially if you have parents who don’t talk about their feelings or worry people knowing certain things will bring shame upon the family. When you’re younger you pick up cues about being allowed to share information; it’s implicit learning.
Unlike sharing information which has been passed onto us, revealing personal secrets is exactly that – much more personal for fear of feeling ashamed or self-conscious. The risk of being judged keeps people quiet but sharing secrets can be incredibly freeing. It allows people to support you and for shame and concern to be replaced by help and healing.
The cathartic effect of revealing personal demons is the driving force behind sites like PostSecret.com and www.aSecretShared.com – the sheer number of secrets revealed worldwide is staggering.
Being more open is generally a good thing but if you’re not going down the anonymous online route and are leaning towards a big unveil; think about it first and be certain you understand the long term implications, not just the immediate short term relief it might bring. My preferred communication style is always to be direct, never deliberately unkind and above all… honest.
“The truth may hurt for a while but a lie will hurt forever”