Understanding The Art of Secret-Keeping

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The art of secret-keeping is something that humans learn from a very young age. They may start out to be innocent, small little secrets, like your friend telling you they had two chocolates instead of one, or your mom telling you to not tell your dad about the surprise birthday party everyone is planning for him. The point is, that the initiation of secret-keeping is always pure and harmless; but as you grow older, lives change, and sometimes, secrets become more serious too.

The first question to ask is, why do we keep secrets? I believe that having secrets or keeping secrets is human nature. It is risky to keep a secret, but sometimes we believe that it is riskier to disclose the truth, and hence to avoid the painful experience of disclosing, we decide to keep a secret. Whether that works in our favor or not, is not in our control sometimes. 

There are two sides to secret-keeping. There’s one person whose secret it is, and the other who hs to keep it a secret. This process is essentially a transfer of anxiety; the person with the secret needs someone to share it with, because they can’t keep it to themselves and perhaps it is eating away at them. Now, the person who has to keep this secret is under a lot of pressure, considering they have a certain piece of information that they cannot tell anybody. To a certain extent, having someone safe enough that you can trust with new or buried secrets is a privilege that not everyone is exposed to. Studies have shown that people are more likely to reveal secrets to people who are more caring, empathic and assertive in social situations. Not everybody can find a person like that in their life, and hence, living with secrets becomes tougher, the longer you have to keep them buried. 

Coming back to the point of transferring anxiety, this may not be something everyone experiences. Some people may not have any issue with keeping a secret, perhaps they forget about it after a while, or the pressure of keeping it a secret just doesn’t bother them. If people can do that, then they’re probably masters of secret-keeping. On the other hand, some people really struggle with the pressure. Where does this pressure come from? One reason is quite obvious, “Promise me you won’t tell anyone!” Anyone? What if it slips out in a conversation? Are best friends excluded from this condition? How long does it have to be a secret? Another possible reason for the pressure may be over the fact that someone has trusted you enough to tell you something they can’t tell anybody else. You don’t want to let them down, and you want them to know that their trust in you will not be broken. 

After all this you may wonder, is secret-keeping really an art? I believe it is. Not every secret is the same, not everyone keeping the secret is the same, and art is subjective. It is an art to know and to understand when a secret is worth keeping and if it harms anyone in any way. If it does, then there’s an ethical that you have to put in front of yourself. How far can someone go, just to keep a secret? Is it the right thing to do even if it is affecting someone else’s life because the secret is buried? The most important question is, when is the right time to reveal the secret? This question sounds like a paradox. Secrets aren’t meant to be revealed, that’s why they are called secrets. But what would you do if your friend told you they were having an affair with someone while they were already in a relationship? What would you do if your friend told you they were not in a good mental space and may do something extreme? 

Secret-keeping is an art because you have to know when it can’t be a secret anymore. If you decide to keep it to yourself and something goes wrong because of it, the pressure would be too much to control. So, the next time someone tells you a secret, think about why it needs to be a secret in the first place.


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