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It’s pretty likely you’re keeping at least one secret right now.
It could be a happy secret – a plan to propose, a pregnancy, a new job – or, more likely it could be something that you find shameful, painful, or embarrassing.
Regardless, keeping shtum isn’t easy.
And it can have an impact on your mental wellbeing, especially if you’re juggling a load of spinning secrets at once.
But, is phenytoin on recall contrary to what you might think, the negative effects of keeping a secret don’t tend to lie in the actual keeping of it – the making up lies, the fear of tripping up – but just knowing that you’re holding something back.
That’s according to research by Michael Slepian, an 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 these can shape our lives.
He tells Metro.co.uk: ‘For decades, psychologists believed that the harm of secret keeping stem from the moments during which we conceal 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, alone in our thoughts.
‘The more people find themselves thinking about the secret outside of conversations, the more people report the secret hurts their wellbeing.
‘Simply thinking about a secret can foster feelings of shame, isolation, uncertainty, and inauthenticity, and these experiences are linked with lower health and wellbeing.’
As you might expect, the ‘worse’ a secret is, the more negative an effect it has on your mental state.
After all, keeping a proposal plan secret from your partner might be a bit stressful, with many little admin bits to think about – where should I hide the ring? How do I get them to the planned location without them twigging what’s going on? – but it’s not going to make you feel as rubbish about yourself as the shame of a secret addiction.
But also, if a secret has to be kept from everyone, this makes it so much heavier to bear.
You know when people say that a problem shared is a problem halved? A secret shared isn’t an issue solved, but it definitely slices off a portion of the damage.
‘The more a secret is perceived as immoral, the more shame you feel,’ Michael explains. ‘The more the secret feels personal and individual, the more isolating it is to have a secret (which means when other people are involved it is less isolating).
‘When we choose to be alone with something, especially something upsetting or bothersome, we tend not to find the healthiest way of thinking about it.
‘It is through conversation with others where we find more healthy ways of thinking about the secret.’
The tricky news: to undo some of the mental harm your secret is causing, you do have to spill it.
The good news: You don’t have to reveal it to everyone.
So if your secret is having cheated on your partner, for example, you don’t need to come clean to them (which would hurt them) to lessen the pain – you just need to tell someone.
Michael says: ‘We find a conversation can make the world of difference. Other people can offer you validation, new perspectives, guidance, advice, and emotional support.
‘Bringing someone else into the conversation can reduce harmful rumination, and help people better cope with their secrets.’
The Secret Life Of Secrets: How Our Inner Worlds Shape Well-being, Relationships, and Who We Are, is out now and available to buy from Waterstones.
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