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One of my most important parts of what I do is allowing someone to tell their story and to be heard.  Often, I find myself asking a question to clarify something, only for the person to pause.  This is then followed by “Well I haven’t told anyone this but….”.

During which the person often looks at the floor while they talk, their voice muted, and at some point, they steal a glimpse at me to check my response and whether it’s safe to carry on.  They have taken a risk, yet the sense of relief is palpable.  The difficult secret or “burden” which has kept them awake at night is out.

The secrets we keep

key in leaves

Did you know 97% of us are keeping at least one secret?  In actual fact, the average person has 13 secrets at any given moment.  There are many types of secrets, but these are some common themes/reasons for keeping a secret:

  • We have desires about relationships and sex which don’t fit the “norm”.
  • We were threatened by another to remain silent or worry we are violating another person’s trust by sharing.
  • We are struggling and using less socially acceptable methods to cope such as self-harm, alcohol, drugs, restricting/binging on food
  • We did something/something happened to us which makes us feel we are fundamentally a bad person and/or deeply ashamed.
  • We worry no one would believe us if we were to share the secret.

Keeping secrets are a reminder you are being inauthentic

Harbouring secrets can lead us to feel we are living a lie, not being genuine, being disloyal to our true self.  This can consume us and our thoughts, leading us to ruminate and spend excessive levels of time thinking about the secret which can be utterly destructive.

The more you think about a secret, the lower your wellbeing

The cost of keeping secrets can be great.  We can feel guilty, ashamed, and embarrassed.  We may also worry our secret will come out in a way which we are not prepared for which in turn can cause paranoia and concern about consequences.  With heightened levels of anxiety and depression, it is not surprising we experience lower wellbeing as a result.

Deciding whether to disclose

It can be hard to open up.  For some of us, we have spent a lifetime avoiding or concealing the things we need to share.  Here are some factors which can get in the way:

  • “We don’t tell anyone our business” – Messages from our family can cause us to believe secrets should be kept. Parents may say things such as “We don’t tell anyone about our business”.  This can become internalised and something we take on into our adult life without questioning whether that is a healthy or helpful belief.
  • Trust – A lack of trust plays a huge part in whether to share a secret. For some of us, a history of abuse where boundaries have been broken will make it very difficult to trust anyone.
  • Fear of judgement – Perhaps we grew up in an environment where we were exposed to judgement and criticism. Or we are people pleasers and the thought of exposing the less desirable parts of our character and the resulting judgement is just too much to bear.

Often secrets which are regarded as dark are not as alarming as we have come to believe.  We can experience terrible shame about things in our past which in reality are not a big deal.  Yet the fact that we have guarded the secret for some long can make us assume others will be shocked if we were to reveal it.

woman looking out to the sea

Healing can start to place once a secret has been exposed

Revealing a secret is hugely beneficial when it is done in the right place, and this is where counselling can help.  The counselling room provides the perfect place for someone to bring the secret they have been struggling with.  Yet as a counsellor I am only too aware it can take months for a client to trust me enough to disclose a secret.  These deep secrets and thoughts are often the real reason someone comes to therapy, whether they are consciously aware of it or not.

My work as a counsellor is to hold the possibility of issues for clients running deeper than the surface.  On a practical level I provide a place where people feel listened to, understood, not judged by me, and that I’m on their side.

The truth will set you free

Sharing a secret really can help, just so long as the person you share with is non-judgemental and does not use the information against you.  Done with right person, unburdening yourself can bring huge relief and it encourages a conversation.  Within this, you may find other perspectives, receive validation, and receive the emotional support you need.  It is therefore not a surprise that sharing reduces stress, enables you to think more clearly and in due course let difficult feelings go.

hot air balloons in the air

So, if you are fed up with carrying a secret and want to start feeling better, why not book in to see me?  I will work with you to create a space that feels safe enough for you to explore and share what feels difficult for you right now.  Head over to my website to get in contact.