” Can you keep a secret?”

Braedin tells her sister, Layna Rose a secret.

Photo by Deborah Kunnath.

What is it about the word Secret that gets the alert attention of almost everyone? It certainly gets people to read past the headlines and tune into TV programs that promise to reveal secrets of every kind from the private lives of the rich and famous to the secret lives of plants and animals. Many magazines entice readers to buy their latest publication with the promise of secrets unveiled inside, i.e. Readers Digest announces on many of its covers that doctors, nurses, pilots and other professionals will reveal as many as 50 secrets in one issue! Many self-help professionals promise to share their secrets of success, for a price of course. The stamp on a document TOP SECRET declares there are secrets within, making it a must read for the curious. If you see a person whispering in someone’s ears, do you wonder what secret is being told? Do you try to eaves drop?

Being well-informed is important, and there is a natural fascination we humans have in the mysteries of life and all life forms. However, I cannot help but wonder what makes the notion of unveiling a secret so intriguing? And if it’s a secret, why is it so?

I’ve used the word secret myself in advertising a lecture/workshop I’ve conducted called The Secrets of a Hypnotist… interestingly enough, it has been attended by a large number of hypnotists seeking to discover the secrets of my success, and lay people hoping for a peek into the private lives of my clients. I do use case histories in an anecdotal way to help people relate to information I’m sharing. But I would never use names or confidential information in a way that is recognizable to my client or anyone else. What goes on my therapy room between me and my clients is a well-kept secret. So other than the signed testimonials written by clients, no one other than family and friends are made privy to who my clients are or how they managed to make such wonderful changes, heal and improve their lives. Many do keep that they came to me a secret while others make many referrals to my practice.

When I was growing up I was told by my wise and wonderful mother, “If someone tells you a secret, it’s no longer a secret.” She also advised to inform the teller of that gfact. And if made privy to a secret my mother admonished me to guard it with absolute integrity. I also learned from experience that quite often the person who confided in me has told others as well, for often someone else would soon be telling me the same secret I had so carefully kept to myself!

I’ve never betrayed anyone’s trust, yet it seems that in today’s voyeur society doing so has become acceptable to all too many. Revealing the secrets lives of influential and popular people in the news has become a sort of trade in its self, often with seriously harmful effects for those whose secrets have been exposed to public scrutiny; their shame and embarrassment is considered just another value tag to the story. Friends and family members are now surprisingly likely to spill the beans on each other and we can only guess in most cases their motives for doing so. Columnists make a living with gossip. while the popular press, TV and tabloids traffic in secrets and the public seems to be addicted to the often sordid content. Like peeping Toms, many peer through the windows of other people’s private places and watch as their subjects lives fall apart under the public gaze. It’s also quite interesting to note how many of those in the public eye have little or no reserve when it comes to telling all the intimate details of their private trials and tribulations. The old saying, “Don’t wash your dirty linen in public seems to have gone out with the wash board.

I’ve never been as nosy as to want to know more than anyone chooses to tell me about themselves, of course other than what the therapeutic process demands me to know to help my client. I’m deeply interested in people; I enjoy biographies, autobiographies especially. Through my work I have peered into the inner minds and lives of countless people, and had the privilege of speaking directly with their subconscious, though with their consent and the most positive of all purposes. From nearly 40 years experience of having direct contact with the subconscious minds of thousands of people, I’ve learned more than the psychology books and courses ever taught me. I’ve studied all known and some lesser unknown schools of psychology and everything about the human mind and brain that I could get my hands on: I want to understand people. Yet I have an equally deep respect for the privacy of every person. I go on a need to know basis. Do you?

Honestly now, do you need to know other people’s secrets? What purpose does it serve you? Ask yourself that question. What are your reasons for wanting to know these things? Is it a way for you to compare yourself to others i.e. you are either better or worse than they are? Are you seeking to bring those who have reached higher status down to your level, proving that they are no better than any of us, or looking for a common denominator among humans? Or are you to trying to see them with compassion and empathy, vulnerable to all of life’s challenges? Are you as curious about what causes them to behave as they do as you are in what they do? Or are you so lacking in interest and excitement in your own life and affairs that you find stimulation attending to those of other people? Does gossip give you something to talk about with others whereas without it you may be lacking in subject matter or conversational skills? Does it give you a sense of power to be able to tell someone something that is someone else’s secret, or do you feel it makes you special to have this otherwise secret information? Does it distract you from the troubles in your own life? Answering those questions honestly will reveal the secrets of your own motivation for giving your time and mind space to other people’s private matters.

Many movie stars and other public figures are often like children who thrive on any kind of attention rather than no attention, revealing some of their most inappropriate and deplorable behaviors, so the media can and does exploit them. Also many well-known people tell on interview programs and write in their own books about how they succumbed to drug and other addictions, then found their way back to healthy lives. It can be inspiring; however, their books are often read because people are interested in their failures as much as their successes. And yes, we all know that once in the public eye you are under observation exposing yourself to the risk of your private life becoming public and your faults and foibles headlines. Their secrets are never kept for long, whether or not they wish them to be.

With the privacy act protecting your medical information, the confidentiality of legal and psychological information still sacrosanct, it’s a wonder to me how so much about people gets uncovered and published. It’s just another one of those contradictions in our society’s values

Can you keep a secret? Is it hard for you to hold something within that you know, whether about yourself or others? I understand that often people need to confide in others. It’s natural to want to unburden yourself, especially to someone who is caring and you feel you can trust and who will listen and not judge or criticize you. The impulse to share good or bad news often causes people to be less discreet than they ought to be, and they often live to regret it. That’s probably why some people will never reveal things about themselves; they feel vulnerable, exposed, fearing it will at some point be used against them, or they will be judged and thought less of. Perhaps it’s the reason I hear so often from clients, “I’ve never told anyone this before.” Sometimes when a person has shared deeply private thoughts feelings and life experiences with the right person, it helps, more so when the listener is able to offer different perspectives, or gives comfort and compassion instead of advise. Regarding the advice that often comes after a revelation, people seldom follow it and that’s probably just as well in many cases. Re advice I’ve heard it said that wise men don’t need it and fools don’t heed it. And if a person heeds advice and it doesn’t turn out well, they blame the advisor rather than taking responsibility for having used it.

However, I will offer some advice right now with the full knowledge that you will take it or leave it, either way, it’s your choice what you do with it. Never reveal a secret, for when you do it is no longer a secret, whether it’s yours or some one else’s. Keep yours and other people’s secrets within you where they can do no harm. It’s no one else’s business any way, is it? If you have a secret that is disturbing you, seek professional help. Respect other people’s privacy. Reading the newspapers and watching TV where the gossip is rampant and the people in the news are grist for the media mills, be careful…don’t trust what you read and hear. I’ve been a staff writer, a stringer and a freelancer and an editor for newspapers, so I know how and why things get into print. And I’ve been written about in newspapers, so I never assume what I read in the newspapers and see on the news is factual or accurate, or all sides of the story. I love what Bette Davis mother told her about a poor review she received after a performance. “Don’t worry about it Bette, today’s newspaper is tomorrow’s toilet paper.”

I won’t let people gossip about others to me, and if I hear something about someone who is of interest to me, I always ask the person telling me, “How do you know?” and “What’s the reason you are telling me this?” And, “Does that person know you telling me this? Was it told to you in confidence?” I also know that as word gets around, the story gets distorted. Remember, here-say is not admissible in court and ought not to be in society in general.

And what do you want or need to know other people’s business for? Does it enrich your life? What do you learn from it? Does it remind you what it means to be human? Do you know every side of it? Do you really care about those people? Would you appreciate your private life being exposed for all to comment on? Answering those questions honestly will reveal the secrets of your own motivation for giving your time and mind space to other people’s revealed secrets.

Perhaps some things ought not to be secret; it might be interesting to for you to think of some of those. One comes to my mind immediately, the way the medical profession, AMA, FDA and big pharma keep under wraps or disparage and keep from you some of the best natural ways of staying healthy and curing people of, for example, cancer without chemo radiation and surgery. It’s the reason I receive through emails and snail mail so many publications with headlines reading The Secrets of …revealing the here-to-fore hidden from view the many benefits of alternative medicine, and the value of supplements and herbals to improve and protect health, and otherwise unknown cures for just about everything. Those are the secrets you need to be seeking to unveil for your own benefit.

Seek to know only what will benefit you; what will make you better, more educated, more whole and healthy. If your curiosity drives you past the headlines into the finer print, or to open your ears to gossip, be careful not to be a gossip monger, for others will certainly not trust you. If you are made privy to someone else’s private information, keep in mind you now have the burden of responsibility of a trust that is sacred.

A secret is no longer a secret once it passes your lips or someone else’s.

TTFN and all the best, always , from Elaine Kissel