Magazine article Psychology Today

On Silence That Is Deafening

Magazine article Psychology Today

On Silence That Is Deafening

Article excerpt

THE DECISION to withhold information seems small at first. Silence, when you could have revealed who you'd seen for lunch that day. But such decisions can snowball over time to become shameful or compromising secrets, catapulting one into a state of psychological emergency. It's akin to the butterfly effect: A tiny act or calculation eventually and invisibly sculpts a person's relationships, even his or her identity.

So just get it off your chest already, you say! Ah, but that is complicated, as any keeper of deep secrets knows. The decision to conceal or to reveal is always a trade-off, and our cover story, "Unlocking the Vault," will help clarify what is at stake for all involved.

A secret can be polished into a private narrative that is useful-a sort of misshapen pearl that is worn internally. This works because psychological states that feel crushing can be reframed as empowering. Secrets can be a catalyst for action and insight and still remain concealed. Many people work tirelessly on behalf of a cause or condition that has great personal resonance without disclosing just how they themselves came to be guests at the table. …

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