hispanic girl whispering secret in ear of friend

The Pain of Holding in a Secret

One thing about being human is that we are pretty good at hiding things from other humans. The interesting question is why? We can already point out some reasons. We’re afraid to be vulnerable with someone, we’re afraid of how someone would react to our shadow, or we’re afraid of the hurt the secret may cause. The underlying reason is fear. We might be thinking that keeping this secret is to the benefit of all involved, but what if it’s hurting more than helping?

We can first look into what it feels like to keep a secret. I guess it depends on the magnitude. I’m sure keeping a secret from your significant other that you’ve cheated is hard, but maybe not as hard as telling your daughter that she was adopted. I would have to say keeping a secret is tough, especially when you can’t tell the people closest to you the truth. Imagine having to change the subject of a conversation because you’re one reply away from letting it slip out.

The person carrying the secret also has the moral conflict of wondering if keeping the secret is for the betterment of the loved one, or if it’s better to be honest. The longer a secret is behind withheld, the longer the person is asking if they are doing the right thing by not telling the truth. This constant rumination can put a person in a place of isolation because who are they going to talk to about it? It’s a secret they have internalized.

The Secrets Within Relationships

The interesting thing about secrets is that it may not be possible to maintain a relationship without them. I’m sure all of us have a secret that even the closest to us don’t know. Revealing that secret would cause a rupture in the relationship. It’s a little paradoxical to know this while also being sure that honesty is the foundation of any real relationship. Is that true? What is it to say about our relationships when we can’t tell someone the full truth for fear that the relationship will dissipate? Is it possible to have a relationship without harboring secrets? If the answer is no, are relationships worth having if honesty is impossible?

The act of holding a secret doesn’t really mean anything. As always, it’s the intention that matters. The reason why you keep a secret is just as important as the reason to reveal one. Sometimes we tell a secret with no benefit to the other, but because we are tired of carrying the weight of a secret. If revealing the secret only makes the secret holder feel better, it’s probably not the best idea.

Breaking the Mental Loop

As previously mentioned, a person who holds a secret isolates themselves. As they have no one to talk to, there will always be that internal chatter. An internal chatter that produces shame. Shame is the biggest reason why we keep secrets. We are afraid of what others would think of us when someone finds out. The more we replay this shame in our heads, the more we believe that we are unworthy of the love from the other person. Remember that shame is the belief that we are bad. Guilt is the belief that we’ve done something bad. We might feel both in the case of holding a secret.

The best thing we can do is share our secrets with people we trust. The idea isn’t for the other person to also keep your secret, but the opportunity to share in hopes of receiving a broader perspective. It’s much better than going through the same thoughts in one’s head. You can have a secret. That doesn’t mean you have to suffer in secret as well.