What’s your Secret?


Happiness lies in your own hand

It took me much too long to understand

How it could be

Until you shared your secret with me

–From "Secret" by Madonna

Secret: kept from, or acting without, the knowledge of others; beyond general understanding, mysterious; concealed from sight, hidden. 

There's a popular saying in 12-step programs: "You're only as sick as your secrets," which refers to the secrecy and deception (lying, cheating, covering up) that is usually a hallmark of addictive behavior. And then there's the shame (and the thrill) that often accompanies secrecy. One of the common tenets of recovery usually involves revealing secrets that breed unexpressed shame, guilt, anger or hurt. Letting go of long-held secrets can be incredibly liberating, albeit sometimes terrifying. 

The second part of the definition refers to that which is mysterious or concealed in a less sneaky, more magical way. This is a welcome reminder that not all secrets are bad; in fact, some secrets are pretty fabulous, like a beautifully wrapped gift, a surprise party or an unexpected visit from a beloved old friend. 

Trust and confidentiality also involves an element of secrecy that is about safety and respect. Lawyers, therapists, doctors and clergy are examples of professions that are legally obligated to protect client confidentiality. There are also trusted friends who hold our secrets for us. 

Remember a few years ago there was the best-selling book, The Secret, about the metaphysical "law of attraction?" This book promotes the philosophy that every person has the capacity to create the life they want for themselves. 

Indulge me for a moment: Secret Service; Secret Santa; secret-ary; secret weapon, secret lover, secret recipe, the secret of your success; the secret gift at the bottom of the cereal box or the secret inside the fortune cookie. 

What secret are you holding right now? Is it a sweet secret or a shameful one? Can you free yourself by sharing the secret with another trustworthy person?