I found during my stint at addictions counselling that the rehab business is filled with cute – sometimes trite, sometimes clichéd and boring, but periodidcally relatively wise – slogans, sayings and aphorisms.
“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 or something that’s eating you up, then you will not get well until you face your reality. Well, you might not even then, but the attempt will give you a better shot at a more fulfilling life. 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.
We all have secrets. Even the most saintly do. The Dalai Lama’s got some, I suspect, and that old Mother Teresa was just rife with them, including neglecting to mention her years as a liquid hash mule in Iran. I mean, who would’ve suspected. But, truly, 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 or actually told the truth (for a change. I was in the ink-stained trade for a long time. And, while my paper never overtly lied, there were sins of omission prevalent in what we wrote. Or indeed could write, due to libel laws. I could tell people stuff I know about some politicians locally and farther afield that could keep us all in courts for decades and make litigation lawyers even richer.
Mind you, there are also certain things about me and my past that people could spread around but, bless them, (mostly) they haven’t. Phew.
In that context, 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.
And, with electronic communications of today it will go viral on the social net. Stepping out on the missus? Check out YouTube, or Facebook at the very least.
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.
Human secrets generally 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. Especially prevalent in drunken 3 a.m. phone calls.
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. Thank God none of those apply to me or any of my readers. Right?
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.
As for me, my life is an open-book. At least those aspects of my life I choose to reveal.