Psychotherapy is  challenging and interesting. One of the most important ingrediants to therapy is trust .  Over time, as the trust increases,  people get more comfortable and more intimate in their disclosures.  As more and more of these dislosures happen, people share their secrets.  What is a secret? What’s the impact of holding onto secrets?  What happens after you share the secret?  All great questions. Hopefully they’ll be some great answers to these questions.

A secret according to the is “Something kept hidden from others or known only to oneself or to a few”.  This hidden piece is usually loaded with shame and guilt making it difficult to share with others.  People fear  being judged, criticized,  looking stupid etc.  The person projects their own feelings  for the thing that they are keeping  secret.(I can’t believe I did that, what a lowlife I must be, if anyone ever knew….)  Over time secrets are “forgotten”–that is I don’t think about it or if I do, I need to use “numbing agents”– either  addictive behaviors or great defense mechanisms to not think about it.  The amount of energy required to keep a secret is similar to trying to stand on a kickboard on the bottom of a swimming pool and keep it there for ever!!!  Secrets are weighty and require energy to keep it out of my conscious mind.  Over time people with secrets pay a price for keeping them.  They develop a mood disorder or anxiety disorder. Sometimes their addictive numbing agents develop into  addiction.  In some cases all 3 of these occur.  What a price to pay for keeping a secret.

As a result of the anxiety, depression or addictive disorder, the person comes to my office.  In time, something miraculous happens–the person develops trust, and decides that they can now share the secret.  How does that happen?    Here’s a person who doesn’t trust many people and now is going to trust me–  What an amazing, courageous act.  The person may say something like: “………I’m going to tell you something that I’ve never told anyone……..”  Wow–chills go up my spine, I usually stop breathing somewhere in this process(or so it appears to me) and the person  painfully shares the event that no one knows.  What a priviledge it is to sit in that spot–that this person trusts  enough to tell me the most private of things, the most painful of things, the most unforgivable of things.

Once someone knows this painful event, it is no longer, by definition, a secret.  It is the  painful shameful event that occurred that now needs to be healed.  How does that happen?  Talking about the secret is the first step, then comes the meaning and the impact of the secret on the person’s life–what’s happened as a result of this secret?  Now there’s a need for understanding, empathy, diaglogue, conversation and processing of all of these rich and raw feelings.  This is not a quick nor easy process.  The trust that was built earlier becomes the foundation of all of the conversations that are to come.  The person gets to hear themselves discuss things they thought they’d never say out loud let alone to another person.  They also get the opportunity to go beyond what they knew since some of the secret material was buried.  This discussion allows for the person to go deep and uncover this pain.

The best thing that happens over time is  that the person feels better.  They are no longer stuck with their secret.  The secret no longer determines who they are, how they feel about themselves or the world.  They are lighter, healthier, and healing.  With a new year and new decade about to commence, give some thoughts to your secrets.  Make a decision to not make them secrets anymore.

Leave a Reply