Updated: May 20, 2020
The craziest idea in the world that changed my life.
"Tell a stranger your deepest, darkest secret." my coach said to me in the city center at about 11 pm.
"No," I said.
It is one of the weirdest moments of my life.
Also a scary one.
"Man, did it help you to keep it for yourself until now?"
"So go. Now. Just GO!"
I walk up to a complete stranger at about 11 pm.
Now I am scared to death.
"Hey. I know you don’t know me, but I have an assignment to do, so.. Can I just share something with you?"
I did everything I could to erase my secret from my reality for years!
And here I am, sharing it with a stranger now.
"Hey man! Of course. What’s going on?"
The more layers you put over it, the more it grows in size
Secrets are costly.
Keeping something hidden from the world requires an effort, driven by the fear of expected judgment.
You need to avoid topics. You drift away from uncomfortable conversations. You try to “act normal”, to avoid looking suspicious. Sometimes you might even lie. Once you lie, though, you have to stay consistent, so you start creating a chain of lies.
Hiding the truth from yourself and others becomes increasingly more difficult.
A harmless white lie can turn into a monster in 10 years. The more layers you put over it, the more it grows in size. The big, heavy secrets can expand through all our life and take control over it.
The results are loss of self-esteem, limited authenticity, compromised self-expression, and never-ending fear.
How to create a secret: The Beginner’s Guide for Children
The root of all secrets lies in childhood development.
All children follow their instincts. It is the only thing they know. Without concern for rules or for what’s right and wrong, they freely explore the world through curiosity, play, and love. It’s how they learn to crawl, stand, walk, learn, and dream.
But that does not last forever.
At some point, children learn that some of these behaviors will lead to trouble. Once children are punished for behavior, they start to learn about rules and limitations. Doing the right thing will lead to a reward and doing the wrong thing will lead to judgment and punishment.
Children learn to disconnect from their natural desire to follow their instincts and curiosity as they learn that it can be dangerous for them. They start to obey the rules instead — even if it does not make any sense to them.
Because the consequence of disobeying is punishment (physical or emotional), obey others and avoiding punishment becomes a matter of survival.
This mechanism creates an internal conflict: What should I do when I feel like doing A (instinct, intuition, gut feeling, emotion), but I know I should do B (obey, avoiding punishment, safety)?
If their feeling/natural instinct seems to be leading them to pain, they will suppress it. They decide to go the safe way (B) and internalize it as “ the right thing”. Their personalities and behaviors are shaped by their naive perception of right and wrong.
However, at that young age, children do not know that right and wrong are subjective. What is right for someone is wrong for someone else. They have to learn that later in life. So early on, they accept these judgments and adopt them as their own rules for reality.