It's normal for everyone to have secrets, whether it's happy, embarrassing or sad, and no matter what you're hiding, it's generally not easy.
Keeping a secret can have an impact on your mental health, especially if you're dealing with a "load" of secrets at once.
Contrary to what you might think, the negative effects of keeping a secret lie not in actually keeping it, making up lies, and being afraid of revealing it, but just knowing that you're holding something back. That's according to research by Michael Sleepian, associate professor of leadership and ethics at Columbia University.
Michael's new book, The Secret Life of Secrets, explores the secrets we keep, why we keep them, and how they can shape our lives.
"For decades, psychologists have believed that the harm of keeping secrets stems from the moments we hide our secrets in conversation. But it turns out that the hard part of having a secret is not that we have to hide it, but that we have to live with it," he told Metro. We are alone in our thoughts.
He added: "Just thinking about a secret can reinforce feelings of shame, isolation, uncertainty and discredit, and these experiences are associated with decreased health and well-being."
As you might expect, the "worse" the secret, the negatively it affects your mental state.
|Does revealing your secrets to others negatively or positively affect your life?|
He continued, "The harm of a secret does not appear to be having to hide it in a social interaction, but having to live with it alone in your thoughts. The more the secret circulates in a person's mind, the more difficult it is not to get emotional support or advice. And when we are alone with something important, especially thing that is harmful or annoying, we tend not to develop the healthiest way to think about it.”
Michael explains, "The more immoral a secret is, the more shame you feel. The more personal and individual the secret is, the more isolated it is (meaning that when it comes to other people, it's less isolated). And when we choose to be alone with a secret, especially when it's Disturbing, we tend not to find the best way to think about it."
Michael emphasized that through conversation with others we can find healthier ways to think about the secret.
He noted that to undo some of the mental harm caused by your secret, "you must divulge it." But the good news is that you don't have to reveal it to everyone.
So, if your secret is your partner's betrayal, for example, you don't need to be honest about it (what it will hurt them) to reduce the pain - just tell someone else close to you.
“Other people can offer you advice, new perspectives, guidance, and emotional support," says Michael. "Involving someone else in the conversation can reduce harmful rumination and help people better deal with their secrets."