Whenever summer is about to end, my urge to write always yells at me – perhaps it’s afraid that I will neglect it once school year comes. Okay dear, I promise to treat you well.
As you may know, I love asking questions. The best explanation I can give for that crave is that it is an innate seed in our nature to make sense of the world. Somehow I’ve been watering that seed, so it grows. The more questions I ask, the more sense I make (after struggling to answer, of course), the more I want to know about the world.
The questions of today are something that has been on my mind lately: secret, intimacy and empathy. My experiences and reading magically point towards this direction, so let’s give them some thoughts.
Can we ever share too many secrets?
I don’t know. We have to maintain healthy boundaries in order to “live our own lives” – we need to see ourselves as individual agents making choices about our lives. If someone else knows everything about me, I will not be living “my” life anymore!
Yet, it is possible to “know” someone completely? For something as fuzzy as our sense of self, the only hope to know it better is in looking inwards AND connecting with others. If we allow others to see ourselves for real, we understand ourselves more.
Have you ever told yourself after meeting or reading about people “That’s so me!”? I surely do. I see myself in others more and more, especially after listening to their stories, which led me to conlude that despite the countless variations, we humans share the same few central stories. (That’s what distinguishes great writers: they write powerful stories that everybody can relate to). The cheesy expression comes to mind: “Everybody is different in the same way”. I think it’s the most fascinating thing about people: everyone is so different yet still so relatable somehow. It’s wonderful to know ourselves better that way, through connecting to others, intimately.
That brings me to the next question: How do I build such connections? Since the post on friendship, I’ve thought about it a lot more.
It’s secret. Not a secret.
“Truly intimate relationships depend on really seeing another person, which means knowing the deep reaches that not everyone has access to. We can never completely merge with another, nor should we — being an adult requires maintaining healthy boundaries — but sharing these tender parts of ourselves allows others to love us, just as accepting others’ secrets allows us to love them.” – ideas.ted.com
I don’t keep a lot of secrets; the ones I keep are often planned to reveal at an opportune time. I find that sharing personal, difficult secret is often transformative, not only for the one who shares but also for the one who listens. The relationship changes and, dare I say, becomes more real.
One strange thing I just realized about secret is that we want to share it somehow. When we tell ourselves or others that “Something is better off being kept to myself”, we are consciously forcing ourselves against the default option to share it – otherwise we wouldn’t even have to think about that decision.
But why is it often so hard to share secrets? And why are some people less afraid of sharing secrets than others? Let’s listen to shame and hear Brene Brown saying it best.
“If you put shame in a Petri dish, it needs three things to grow exponentially: secrecy, silence and judgment. If you put the same amount of shame in a Petri dish and douse it with empathy, it can’t survive. The two most powerful words when we’re in struggle: me too.” – Brene Brown.
So with a bit more vulnerability, love and empathy, sharing secrets doesn’t have to go with shame anymore. It becomes more natural – and doing something in our nature is very rewarding. I’ve been fortunate to be able to share and to listen to stories of people, many of which are difficult secrets. I’m thankful for their trust, for giving me the opportunity to listen, to learn more and connect with them. It takes a lot of courage to be real, to be vulnerable enough to share deeper secrets, so I learnt to acknowledge it when people do. Perhaps it’s kind of gift that I’m getting better at giving.
Last question for today: Will I ever run out of secrets to share?
Nah, sharing is always generative, not exhaustive. The fact that I share with you a secret becomes a secret in itself, isn’t it? I share some secrets with one, some with a few others. In doing so, each of us becomes more – true for two. Or more.
A far-fetched analogy is about why nations now prefer trade rather than conquering other nations compared to in the past: exchanging and sharing create more resources for everyone! Any kind of relationship, between two nations or two people, can only sustain if it’s generative, not possessive.
I’m experimenting with this new method of writing: answer my own questions. It’s more fun to write, and I hope some of my readers share these questions too.
What do you think? What should I write for the next post? I’m waiting for some powerful questions to inspire me. You can certainly help, and please do so by asking in the comment, or in the “Ask me anything” link to the left. Thanks : )
Sometimes, I feel the need to keep secrets because they are too special to be shared with others. I’m afraid that once I share them, people won’t see how special it is like I do. Is that an unhealthy way of thinking?
In my opinion, I accept that people will never see my secrets as special as I see them, because people are not me. They don’t have all of my backgrounds and experiences. We are different; expecting people to be the same is unrealistic.