I don’t like secrets. I have a hard time keeping secrets. That’s because I have a hard time lying. When someone asks me straight up what happened or what was said, I might not actually TELL him, but he will know that I know. (And I might just tell him anyway.) The only exception is with my clients. Those secrets I keep. So rest assured, everyone who asks me about you gets the same answer — “I can neither confirm nor deny that person is my client” — unless you’ve specifically TOLD me I can talk to him about you. (And I’d prefer to have that in writing!)
So that’s why I have a hard time with clients who keep secrets. Usually because those secrets inflict a lot of psychological damage. I’m not talking about the “what you got someone for Christmas” or “what you really think about that outfit” type of secrets. I’m talking about the “mother is abusing pain pills” or “father is molesting you” type of secrets. But these are the ones people hold onto the tightest.
I always get to the point where I ask, “Why didn’t you tell anyone?” The answer is always some combination of fear and shame mixed with the ever-present longing to just pretend it never really happened. But that genie is not going back in the bottle. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Like billiard balls striking one another, each trauma sends you off on a trajectory very different from the one you had planned.
So basically, we keep secrets because we are AFRAID of the truth. We have what might be called a Truth Phobia. It is well accepted in the psych world that the only way to cure a phobia is through increased exposure to the feared object or situation. (There are, however, many, many techniques for accomplishing that exposure.) This is not a new idea. Ever hear anyone say that you have to face your fears in order to conquer them?
Now I’m not going to decide for someone else when, or if, they need to tell their secrets. But I am going to help them to see the damage that comes from holding onto those secrets. And that can be significant. Keeping a secret can also be perversely gratifying. Some people enjoy playing the martyr. Holding onto the pain makes them feel good about themselves. “I’m no snitch!” they may boast. They might also feel powerful by holding onto information that might ruin another person’s reputation. They see it as some crazy expression of love.
Nonsense! I’m not saying you need to air the dirty laundry at the family reunion, but you have to take a good, long, HARD look at that secret so that you can finally let it go. (Just the way I had to keep and care for spiders in order to stop being terrified of them.) You are not the secret. You are not even the fear. You are something else entirely. Something holy and precious. The secret is just what happened to you. Separate yourself from it, and be free!