Do you ever feel like you’re hoarding a treasure chest of secrets? You’re not alone. On average, we’re juggling around 13 secrets at any given time, all tucked away in the vaults of our minds. While secrets often serve as protective barriers, they may also impact our health and well-being. In this fascinating dive into the human psyche, we will unravel the psychology behind keeping secrets and explore strategies for managing our inner worlds.
The Shadowy World of Secrets
Secrets are a part of the human experience. We all have them, hidden away like well-guarded treasures. We keep secrets to protect our image, to shelter the people we care about, or sometimes, to simply avoid an awkward conversation. But can these vaults of hidden information harm us? Let’s find out.
What’s Hiding in the Shadows?
Before we can understand the impact of our secrets, it’s essential to comprehend what secrets we’re keeping. An in-depth research survey of a couple thousand people identified 38 different categories of secrets, ranging from trivial to troubling. You might be surprised to learn that 92% of the time, our secrets fit into these categories. Some of the most common secrets revolve around lies we’ve told, romantic desires, financial issues, sexual behavior, and what’s termed ‘extra-relational thoughts’.
Other frequent secrets include family issues, hidden ambitions, secret beliefs, secret discontents about various aspects of life, and, yes, instances of cheating.
Secrets: The Unseen Burden
If you’re thinking, “I can keep a secret, no big deal,” you might want to reconsider. Even if we’re not actively hiding a secret in a given moment, its presence can weigh on us. This invisible burden can harm our well-being as we often feel ashamed, isolated, and inauthentic for keeping these secrets. When we grapple with our secrets in solitude, we can easily get stuck in a cycle of negative thinking, known as rumination.
The Loneliness of Secrecy
Choosing to keep a secret is, in essence, opting for loneliness. We are choosing to shoulder a burden alone, without sharing it with others. Social relationships are vital to our satisfaction with life and well-being. As psychologist John Cacioppo once observed, loneliness can be as detrimental to our health as smoking a pack of cigarettes a day!
The Healing Power of Disclosure
Does sharing a secret sound daunting to you? That’s okay. It takes courage to reveal a secret. However, sharing a secret with someone can be a profound act of intimacy, and it can strengthen your relationship. Mutual disclosure is one of the most powerful predictors of a strong relationship.
When you make yourself vulnerable and trust someone else with your secret, it can lead to an outpouring of sympathy, understanding, and support. The most common response to sharing a secret is a helpful one. Sometimes, a listening ear or a comforting word can be the healing balm that we need.
Sharing Secrets: A Pathway to Intimacy and Healing
Contrary to popular belief, the real benefit of revealing a secret isn’t the immediate relief of unburdening ourselves. It’s what happens afterward. It’s the empathy, the guidance, the emotional support we receive, and the bond we build with the person we confide in.
The power of sharing secrets is something even young children understand. They instinctively know that a secret is something you share with your best friend. This simple act of sharing helps us become closer to others, become known, and, importantly, get the help that we need.
Coping with Our Secrets
Understanding the psychology of secrets is the first step in learning how to navigate our inner labyrinth. By acknowledging the potential harm our secrets can cause, we can better manage their impact on our lives. Remember, you don’t need to share your secret with the person you’re hiding it from. Speaking to a trusted friend or a mental health professional can provide immense relief and support.
Keeping secrets is part of the human condition. However, by understanding our secrets and finding safe spaces to share them, we can prevent them from becoming burdens. Instead, we can transform them into bridges of intimacy, understanding, and mutual support.