Friday, 16 November 2018

Keeping mum

Ramana and Chuck have both posted about secrets today, so I thought I'd join in. People have very different attitudes to secrets. Some think it's healthy to get everything out in the open and not bottle things up, others think it's more sensible to reveal the bare minimum and keep the rest to yourself.

Things have changed a lot since I was young. In those days there was no social media to broadcast your every personal quirk to. You might confide something to a family member or one or two friends and that was that. Now you can tell Facebook you're suffering from PTSD and hundreds of people know your secret instantly.

But is that a good or bad thing? The "let it all out" school of thought says that revealing everything, however perverse or trivial or hateful or idiotic, might upset a few people but there's nothing festering away inside to cause inhibitions and awkwardness.

Which is fine in theory, but in practice there are many very good reasons for keeping things secret.

Someone might have told you something in confidence. If you reveal it, others will stop confiding in you. Something might be so controversial or bizarre that you can't face all the possible negative reactions, so you prefer to keep it quiet. If you're a whistle-blower exposing some sort of malpractice, you might find yourself ostracised or even sacked.

Although personally I'd like to be entirely frank about every aspect of my life, it's for reasons like those that in reality I keep many things secret. It would simply be too damaging to lay everything on the line.

My family have always been intensely secretive, telling me what's strictly necessary and keeping everything else under wraps. I know very little about my mother and father because they told me next to nothing. My sister and brother-in-law and niece are equally reticent.

Well, total transparency sounds good but can easily turn sour.


Bijoux said...

I guess it depends on what you call a secret. To me, a secret implies something one is ashamed of. I wouldn't call a medical diagnosis or a personal problem a secret. Some things are just not everyone else's business.

nick said...

Bijoux: I would say a secret is just that, something you keep secret for whatever reason - maybe shame, but also embarrassment, fear, timidity, threats. A medical diagnosis or personal problem may be kept secret for good reasons. I never told my mum about my trace of prostate cancer because she would only worry about it unnecessarily. And something may or may not be everyone else's business. If a charity employee is embezzling their funds, for instance, the public needs to know. If that employee is taking too much sick leave, the public doesn't need to know, it's more an internal matter.

Wisewebwoman said...

I've often said my life is an open book.

As a recovered addict I practise "I'm only as sick as my secrets" as I used to have a truckload. Not anymore. But also hasten to say I am careful who I share with also. On an "as needed" basis so others don't feel so alone with their baggage and shame.


Joanne Noragon said...

My secrets bore others to a stupor. I'm always willing to share, but "as needed" is far better than broadcasting.

nick said...

www: This is it, sharing as needed is often the wisest policy. Some things are best kept to oneself if the reaction is likely to be counter-productive.

Joanne: Some of my secrets would probably be riveting, but revealing them wouldn't be helpful. I'm sure most people have a few closely-guarded secrets, however much they deny it.

tammy j said...

I don't know how I feel about secrets. haven't ever given them that much thought.
my Gram was New England through and through. I grew up on her little 'sayings.'
and one I learned early was "fool's names and fool's faces are always found in public places."
in other words you do not talk about you or your family in public. I think it was a very Victorian way. but I'm seeing today after the onslaught of EVERY single little thing being flaunted on social media... that it was a rather lovely way to live.
though I'm glad terrible things that happened are no longer being kept under wraps... especially teachers or coaches and others that could harm children.

CheerfulMonk said...

I've told this story before, but tammy's comment reminded me of it. One of Andy's mother's favorite sayings was (her version),

"Fools' names like their faces
Always are found in public places."

In other words, avoid publicity.

So one night at dinner when she was a teen she suddenly said, "Father, when I grow up I'm going to have a lot of money, and I'm going to donate some to a university for a new building."

That definitely got our attention. Where was this coming from?

She went on, "I'm going to name the building after you. And inside the front door there will be a picture of you with a plaque underneath that says, 'Fools' names like their faces....' "

Revenge is sweet. :D

nick said...

Tammy: That's how my family still behave - they don't talk about the family (or anything personal) in public. Which in a way is admirable when you see so many people blurting out every little happening on social media. Though it's all to the good that things like sexual harassment are now widely confessed and talked about.

nick said...

Jean: That's a nice act of revenge. People who relate juicy stories about other people in public are sometimes surprised when the person concerned hits back at them. But what do they expect?

Rummuser said...

Let me elaborate. There are two women in their seventies now for whom I was what one would call a childhood crush, when I was a young boy. After decades, fate brought them both into my life again when both are grand mothers. They are in touch with me now and I have even spoken on the phone with their husbands. I can't very well be an open book about those childhood memories with them, but I don't consider them as secrets. Had I had affairs with them as adults I would. Such fine distinctions have to be made to decide what a secret is what is not.

Marie said...

I think that I'm way less open with my family, and more choosy with whom I share things with. Too many times in the past people have judged me, so why give them the chance to do so? Also every time I told my sister something, she turned right around and told my other siblings and cousins. It drove me nuts and she then complained that we weren't as close anymore. I eventually told her why, and she said, "But they're family, they should know". I don't share that view. I only felt more judged.

Now I don't care about being judged, but I still keep things pretty close.

nick said...

Ramana: I think I see what you mean. There are things you could easily talk about if the occasion arose, but the occasion doesn't arise so you don't. So they're not really secrets, they're simply things you don't mention.

nick said...

Marie: That's one reason there are things I don't divulge - I know I'll be judged in one way or another and I want to avoid that. As for the idea that everything should be revealed to family members, that's nonsense. There are things they shouldn't know, things they don't need to know, things they wouldn't even understand. So I think you're quite right not to divulge very much.

nick said...

Marie, that's a shame your English blog is private, I would like to have read it. But anyway, thanks for commenting here, I always enjoy the comments.

Secret Agent Woman said...

I'm more open on my blog than on FB, and am reasonably open with family. Very open with my closest friends and kids. But there are certainly things I'd keep secret if I don't feel it's their business (and it might be damaging to me).

Joared said...

I’m one that thinks probably the idea a secret ceases to be one if told to another person. I can understand why some people might choose to not reveal a lot about themself on the internet in a blog, other sites. Unfortunately, undesirables can gather data for no good which might be especially concerning to individuals who live alone, so it’s a matter of security. So if their not disclosing lots is considered keeping secrets then I support it. Sometimes it seems there can be major differences between what people choose that needs to be kept secret, or even the business of others. I value selecting who I choose to share what with and my close friends not only respect confidences (secrets?) we share with each other, but they expect the same. They can be all sorts of matters and may have nothing to do with being negative or embarrassing.

nick said...

Agent: I'm very open with my family, but it's not reciprocated. They keep things very close to their chest. I don't understand what they're so wary of. It's not as if I'm an insatiable gossip.

nick said...

Joared: But if you've told a secret to one person, or half a dozen people, surely it's still a secret as far as everyone else is concerned? Yes, there can be all sorts of good reasons for keeping things secret, especially as you say what other people may choose to do with that information, which could be very damaging.

Marie said...

As soon as anyone says to me between you and me I can feel my shutters coming down. The unfortunate thing is once you tell someone something, you can never untell them.

There is a lot to be said for that old saying "The only way three people can keep a secret is if two of them are dead."

Nick, I shut my blog down because I got tired of the trolls. They really just sucked the enjoyment out of writing and sharing. It's why I rarely comment on blogs, even though I read them regularly. If one can't have that two way interaction, it seems a bit unfair.

nick said...

Marie: I agree, the phrase "between you and me" just makes me suspicious somehow. And yes, once a thing's passed on, it stays passed on. Before I confide something, I always think, will I still want them to know this in ten years' time?

I'm sorry about the trolls. They do spoil the enjoyment, as you say. Luckily I'm very seldom trolled, probably because I'm male. Females tend to be targeted a lot more.

kylie said...

The older I get the more careful I am about what I say and who I say it to. Sometimes my caution is for my benefit and sometimes for others. I have learned to be a good deal more self contained than I was as a young person so if I don't feel any huge need to talk about everything, I can share as a matter of choice rather than psychological necessity. I like having the option.

nick said...

Kylie: I think you're right. I'm more careful as well. I used to blurt everything out when I was young but now I'm more aware of the possible negative reactions to what I'm telling people, I'm much more circumspect.