Now, you have to promise me you won't tell a soul!
“You’re only as sick as your secrets,” is a prominent one of those. And, in that, there is a certain wisdom. The wisdom involves denial, and if you are denying to yourself and others a behaviour, then you will not get well until you face your reality. Are you knocking off two quarts a day? Have you sold the family farm to finance a crack addiction? Are you screwing whoever has a pulse even though you are married or in a relationship? Well then, pal, you have some pretty heavy-duty secrets to address.
But, hey, we all have secrets. Life revolves around secrets. Gossip mags would do no business if they weren’t revealing so-called secrets; politicians would be in unemployment lines if they revealed all that they know; newspaper people know stuff about prominent individuals that, for fear of libel suits, they could never reveal (believe me in this. I know of cases like, for example, the British Columbia politician from years past who was known to the hookers he frequented as ‘Golden Shower Bob’); and far more marriages would head to the divorce courts if all husbands and wives revealed to their spouses all of their thoughts and monkey-business.
Of course then there is the matter of keeping secrets. Somebody reveals an item to you “in confidence.” Well, of course, it is not going to stay in confidence. It is going to be passed on at the earliest possible instant. In fact, if you’re a normal human being, you probably can’t wait to reveal it to “somebody you trust won’t tell a soul,” which they will do as soon as they get the chance. Why not? I mean, the first person to break the code of secrecy was the one who told you in the first place.
We like knowing ‘secrets’. To know a secret is to be empowered. You know something somebody else doesn’t and it’s at your discretion to reveal it – or not. But, you will in all likelihood.
Indeed even our legal codes revolve around secrets. Somebody might confess to their doctor, lawyer, therapist or priest a particular thing that might not bode well for them in a court of law. As we know from L&O reruns, it’s pretty difficult for prosecutors to get their hands on such information. They can if the confession involves a crime, but access is still very difficult. Meanwhile, doctors and shrinks are bound by professional codes of confidentiality. Mighty good thing. Can you imagine the stuff these people know? If they weren’t so bound, nobody would ever tell them anything.
Our secrets fall into various categories in terms of seriousness. They include:
Harmless secrets: Nothing spectacular here. Sort of guilty pleasures. Maybe you take some kind of kinky pleasure in the lingerie ads of the Sears catalogue, or maybe you secretly listen to hip-hop when the kids are at school.
Secrets that you will only share with the privileged: Your spouse knows many things about you that you would not like revealed to the general public unless you’re some sort of a sleaze. This is where doctors and therapists can come into the picture, too. In such cases, you may hold certain items back from you spouse that you might tell a shrink. TMI situations come into this, too. People will glibly reveal some bit of esoterica about themselves (especially if they have been tippling a little too extensively), and then utterly regret what they told another.
Secrets you don’t want revealed: These include such items as childhood sexual abuse, infidelity, breaches of the law, substance abuse, spousal abuse, incidents of driving while intoxicated, inappropriate sexual overtures to others. The ‘elephant in the room’ sort of secret falls into this category.
Secrets you have difficulty admitting to yourself and would be mortified if somebody else were to ever find out: Surprisingly enough, or maybe not surprisingly, we all have these. These are found in our innermost thoughts (and agonies). Such secrets are highly guilt-inducing and will sometimes prompt expressions of disgust or even behaviors in which others are assailed for beliefs that the assailant actually holds. Here you get gay-bashing by the closet gay-in-denial, anti-pornography crusades by the porno-addicted; and racist or sexist jokes (“Hey, it was only meant to be funny; I don’t really believe that”) by people who ‘really do believe that.’ Such secrets can also involve sexual feelings or attitudes that might be anathema to others, so those who hold on to such secrets are often in a deep moral struggle.
And, you know what? I have lots of personal secrets that I am not prepared to share. Bet you do, too. But, I’m not about to ask, even though I’m dying to know.