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The Hazard of a Secret

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Little secrets grow up to be big lies. ~ unknown

We had the best lunch discussion the other day ~ we were having a hoot to say the least! The topic? Secrets. Or, more specifically, what we have taken great care to make sure no one would ever find out…until of course we spill the beans at the lunch table! The general take away was, “It wasn’t what it looked like but how do you explain that if you’re not around to explain it? How would it look if it were found/discovered/learned about?” As is often the case with these conversations, that led me to thinking about secrets in general and the hazards of doing so.

In my professional life, I have heard variations on the same story over and over again, “they thought they had hidden it but…”, “how did anyone think they could hide that for too long?” Then the one that kicks you in the gut, “I had no idea and now I don’t know what to think.”

So let me get right to the point – keeping a secret, or something you think is a secret, isn’t worth it. It is not good for the brain. It is not good for family dynamics. It is a ticking time bomb in a relationship. It is not appropriate in many, many situations.

Science first. And, for the sake of just getting to the point, here’s the basic version of the brain science: keeping something to yourself causes stress in one part of your brain (the prefrontal cortex) which in turns causes another part of your brain (cingulate cortex) to produce more stress hormones. Stress hormones are, as we have discussed in the past, just plain old bad over any extended period of time for your entire body. Did you get that part? I only ask because it is super important…your ENTIRE body….that’s a lot of ground those stress hormones impact!

On a more of a ground level let’s think about how secrets impact relationships. Happy secrets aren’t the problem. Got engaged this past weekend but want to tell your grandmother face to face rather than telling her over the phone? That’s cool. That’s fun. And that’s not a problem for your brain. Are you in serious financial trouble and wish to keep that to yourself? Not so good. You’ve deprived yourself support and potential help if you either isolate yourself or try to put up a facade that all is well. Have a stash of material ~ old love letters from a previous significant other who wasn’t your kid’s father or something like that? ~ would be best handled on your own before someone finds it just when you don’t want them to.

As you begin to think about what’s next for you, where you want to be in another 5 or 10 years as you inch toward retirement or perhaps a move in with that great person, now would also be a good time to sort through and perhaps get rid of those secrets. Not sure you’re ready to do that? Well, how does it feel if you start to imagine letting go of that secret or that stash of old love letters or what have you? If you get a sense of relief after the initial shock of ‘oh, could I do that?’ you’re got your answer about how to move forward.

In the next couple of weeks we’re going to start to investigate a larger issue; who have you been and what do you want people to remember about you? Letting go of secrets is one place to start on that bigger quest.

Wishing you all the best for your week!

~ Lisa

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