After many years of listening to clients — sometimes to friends — bare their souls about some secret “part of who they are” or “what they’ve done” or “what happened to them” I’ve concluded there’s a broad continuum of behaviors regarding what people either share or don’t share.

    I have no research for your self-analysis but I offer a totally unscientific rating scale for your beginning exploration.

    On a Scale of 1 to 10
    1 ____ represents: I never tell anyone anything about my inner most thoughts, feelings, fears. It makes me shudder to even consider doing it.
    10 ____represents: I’m an open book.  I share everything I’m thinking, feeling, dreading. And sometimes I over share.
    5, 6 ____represents: I choose carefully when I share as well as WHAT I share. However, I do share when I need to.

    Think about the range of 1 to 10 and see if you can assess as honestly as possible, your actual behavior.  What makes digging into your secret keeping important? The more we keep inside, the more disconnected we become from those we live with, work with, hang out with. People do not see the real person you are. And you don’t FEEL seen.  And disconnection drives depression and anxiety. Further, negative, painful, anxious and depressing feelings have a tendency to “swell up” inside us — they become distorted and far bigger than they actually were at the beginning.

    We are driven to connect. Some people are in “high drive” and some in “low drive” ….regardless, most people want connection and can report the negative outcomes when the connections are lacking or damaged. What, then, causes people to keep secrets? Mostly it’s fear. What will ___think if I say what happened, or what I think and feel? Our thought distortions — things like “he/she will think I’m horrible” — “I’m truly a terrible person” –“I will ruin the relationship” — I will lose my job if they know this”…run through the minds of most people.

    Long term holding on sometimes moves from fear or discomfort to shame — a powerful, hot physical sensation that shuts authentic feelings down even more. And feelings need both fresh air and sunlight as healing “properties.”

    Consider making a list of the things you hold inside. You can burn or shred it later. But putting the feelings and thoughts on paper will release some pent up negativity. Next, check for how long you’ve held onto the secret. If it goes back years, into childhood, it likely has an accumulation of negativity that’s possibly no longer real. Ask: “What is the worst thing that could happen if I share ____?”

    Can you stir up problems by sharing? Absolutely. So it’s important to do sensible assessment. Try, as a first step, talking about the “concept” of sharing vs actually “doing” the sharing. Explore what others say/think about their decisions to share and connect.  Read about it. Talk to your closest friend or family member or a trusted professional.  And evaluate your thought distortions that are possibly holding you back. Sometimes the distortions move you too far away from the reality of the good connections that come from true sharing.  And if thought distortion doesn’t make much sense, try my book: WHAT’S WRONG WITH ME? MAYBE NOT THAT MUCH!

    And always talk to someone when you need to.