Although I have never personally sent in a secret, I love reading and looking at those that other people choose to share. Some are heart-breaking, confessing abuse or a life of regret. Others are light and funny, detailing little pet-peeves or pranks. Regardless of the secret, I am able to connect, in one way or another, with many of the postcards Frank posts. I think this connection stems from the fact that, big or small, there are many things in our lives that we keep more-or-less private and to ourselves. So, although our secrets may be different, having secrets makes us similar.
But, after weeks upon weeks of anticipating secrets, I couldn't help but think, What is it like for someone who sends in a secret? What does it do to your mind and soul to keep a secret bottled up inside? What happens to your identity when you shield an aspect of yourself from those around you?
Keeping a Secret
In my own personal experience, keeping a secret to yourself can create quite the identity crisis. If there is a big part of yourself you are hiding, it can consume you. It can be exhausting living in secrecy. Depending on the size of the secret it can then impact other aspects of one's identity. Furthermore, it is difficult to be genuine with those around you if you are keeping a secret from them.
For example, if a man is trying to hide the fact that he had an affair he may potentially begin acting differently towards his partner, therefore shaping his identity as a spouse.
Sharing a Secret
The simple act of telling your secret, or perhaps sending in a postcard, can be liberating. Although potentially very frightening, the opportunity to share a secret allows one to be honest and genuine. By acknowledging whatever the secret may be the severity of it can be diminished and a weight lifted off one's shoulders.
For example, if the same cheater comes clean then he and his partner may have the opportunity to reconcile the situation or at least deal with the secret.*
Impact of a Secret
After sharing a secret there is opportunity for self growth. Once a secret is out in the open people then have the chance to incorporate whatever element of themselves or their past they were hiding into their daily being.
For example, regardless of how the cheating situation turns out, by acknowledging what happened the cheater may then move on with the secret as only one aspect of his overall personality rather than a large blunder he had attempted to veil.
Fortunately, I have chosen to share my secret(s) with people I trust and it has made being myself that much easier.
What happens next?
Ideally, people accept you. I think the main concern keeping people from sharing their secrets is a fear of being judged or perceived differently. People generally work very hard to uphold an image, and if a secret is significant enough it can tear that image apart. However, if the response to your secret is positive, it helps you construct a more complete identity. One's self cannot be whole if something is being hidden.
*This article discusses how secrets impact the family dynamic once they are brought to the surface.
The man who keeps a secret may be wise, but he is not half as wise as the man with no secrets to keep.
Edgar Watson Howe