You don’t work as a psychotherapist for 15 years, see thousands of patients in confidence, and not walk away without some basic truths. Though not a clinical research experiment, having seen the sheer numbers of people I have in confidential settings, I have extrapolated some reliable facts and have generalized them to a population with relative confidence . Not the least of my findings is this:
Everybody has a secret.
If you can gain a deep rapport and trust with someone, eventually they may honor you with its revelation. And if you have any integrity, you will say thank you and keep your mouth shut.
No, I’m not going to share any anonymous case conversations shrouded to protect the identity of the patient for the sake of a story. If you thought that was juicy bit to follow here, you misjudge me.
But everybody has a deeply held, highly concealed, eat-a-hole-in-your-soul “i-had-no-idea!” secret.
I’ve had a couple in my life.
The truth is, secrets are deadly.
More tragic is the prevailing uninformed belief that they should be kept at all costs.
Sarah dies a little more every day, especially today. Now at 36, tomorrow will be the 18th birthday of a child she never knew and there will be no party, just a celebration of death and regret like she’s done for the past 18 years on this day. The festivities will be attended by family, friends and co-workers, the nice guy at the coffee counter she visits each morning and the postman who will bring the mail at 3pm like everyday, without a single birthday card. None will send salutations or gifts and none will know that the party is private.
Keith has known since he was a little boy and has spent almost 20 years perfecting his own invention of deceit, denial and plausibility. It’s a fragile instrument he turns on and runs all day, every day. At this rate, it’s taking more and more time to maintain and costing way too much to repair the holes in its thin facades. His soul is going broke and though well educated, he’d rather live an impoverished life than allow his intricate invention to break down because it is what keeps him alive…or so he’s told.
And the bloodless rampage goes on, unreported, for the only victims are the killers themselves.
We are surrounded by the walking dead.
Everybody has a secret.
Perhaps the greatest tragedy of keeping personal secrets is the belief that in doing so, we remain alive.
At one point, I would have rather been caught dead than to reveal mine. And the irony of that thinking was that I already was.
I am gay. I am a drug addict.
I am also celibate and sober.
These facts are no big news to most. I’ve spent the most satisfying times of my life telling people I’m a mess and in turn, discovering I’m not alone. As such, the friends I have are much closer, the freedom to live is much richer and the vast amounts of energy once spent concealing these facts of my existence have been freed up for use on much greater things like writing this story and dozens like it on my website.
When I was a practicing therapist treating those held captive by their own secrets– the slow and painful deaths that sat in front of me every 50 minutes–they rarely escaped the way they came in. I was a good therapist, yes. But I was a much better friend.
People are dying to tell their secrets to those they know have had their own. Self-revelation begats self-revelation in others.
Can you keep a secret?
I suppose so.
Many still do.
And many have taken their secrets to the grave quite unnecessarily.
I believe at this point you get the moral to this story.
It’s no secret.
Share yours with someone and be free. Believe me, you aren’t really alive until you do.
And perhaps most importantly, once you are, avail yourself to those walking dead among you, the Sarahs and Keiths of this world.
They might serve you coffee or bring your mail today, but they’re dying to tell you something more.