For anyone who likes reading mysteries and thrillers, a common theme is how many of the main characters have secrets which tumble out as the pages turn. These cause the twists which make the stories so exciting. Our own lives have their share of secrets which we do not want others to know about. We also want our private spaces that we don’t want others to intrude. It is as true for teenagers as it is for adults. These secrets make each of us a bit mysterious and life that much more ‘thrilling’. A key question that many of us will face at some point is whether we should share these secrets with the ones we love or not. More often than not, the right decision is to be open and transparent because secrets in real life, as in fiction books, have the habit of unravelling when we least expect them.
During my IIT days, I enjoyed the occasional alcoholic drink with friends. It started with wanting to be part of the group and not be left out. As long as one limited it to just one glass or two, it was fine. (Only once did I go overboard when I mixed a few drinks in the interest of experimentation. The result was not pleasant.) I don’t think I ever told my parents or close family members during those growing up years about it. I didn’t know how they would react and decided it was best to keep it hidden. When I was engaged to Bhavana, I told her about the fact that I did drink once in a while. While she didn’t say anything, I realised it was not something she liked. And soon thereafter, I gave up drinking entirely. What I am glad about is that I shared it and did not try to hide it.
Chrstina Herson writes: “We should share more secrets, and there are many reasons why. One is that we use a lot of mental capacity keeping secrets. A study showed that we are actually thinking about a secret three times more often than actively hiding it from others. This results in a cognitive burden that is associated with poorer mental and physical health…So, just thinking about our secrets can burden us and thus decrease our motivation seen from this cognitive perspective… Sometimes, we face adversities and here, our social relations are a very important resilience factor that enable us to hold pressure and bounce back. When we share our inner thoughts, we create a social reciprocity that creates trust and an even stronger relationship.” Michael Slepian adds: “The hard part of having a secret is not that you have to hide it, but that you have to live with it, alone in your thoughts. When the only venue to work through it is your own mind, you are not likely to find the most productive way of thinking about it. Like a carousel that just never stops, each time you think back on it, you may go through the same motions, having the same negative thoughts, reiterating the same regrets, and finding yourself getting nowhere. It often takes a conversation with another person to escape the loop… When you open up to others, others will open up to you.”
The fewer the secrets we have, the happier we are. We don’t want something gnawing at the back of our minds that one day someone will bring out the secret in the open – deliberately or accidentally. So, in life and at work, it is better to be transparent. And yet, there will be times when for various reasons, we may not want to share. Over the years, I have found my diary to be a good outlet because once I write it out, I can move on – especially if I have made a mistake. I have also realised sharing with family (Bhavana and Abhishek, in my case) is the best way to move on from an incident or experience we don’t want eating away our mental energies.