Very often, we realize we don't know someone as well as we thought, as that person passes away and the facts of their life comes to light our perception of them may be changed. This may be true of even more people than we realize, particularly because all people hide certain aspects of their lives from loved ones. Either out of pride, shame, or need for privacy, we keep things from the people in our lives. While building walls like this may make things easier, it can also affect us in ways we don't realize.
Here are three reasons that sharing with others is important:
1. Secrets Can Lead to Substance Abuse
Hiding our feelings or keeping certain parts of our lives secret can open the door to addictions or obsessions. That type of secrecy creates a negative build-up in the mind, stirring feelings of guilt and shame, even when there's no need for it. As those feelings mount and cause stress to affect our thoughts, it can lead us to look for a release. Some turn to drugs and alcohol, while others may turn to shopping, gambling, or sex. Many of the illegal drugs, like meth for example, lead to terrible addiction and usually make the user feel worse after they become sober again. The rebound from meth comedown symptoms can be catastrophic to a person’s health, and a comedown can occur after only one use. Unfortunately, many people still keep their habit a secret, and they cover the pain from comedown and withdrawal by turning to their drug of choice again. this is one reason that drug abuse counseling emphasizes the need for honesty and openness. It's hard to feel weighed down by guilt, when you're not keeping secrets.
2. Our Relationships Suffer
What we generally don't realize, or perhaps we just tend to forget, is that everyone hides their emotions. Our closest loved ones may be hiding parts of their lives from us or just holding back emotions out of a fear of how we would handle the truth about them. Depending on how much we do this, it can lead to superficial relationships and prevent us from developing deeper, more meaningful bonds. This is because the feeling that we need to hide ourselves from others creates an air of mistrust that can be very difficult to overcome.
3. We Begin to Believe Our Own Bad Press
In the beginning, there can be any number of innocent reasons that we hide our feelings or aspects of our lives from those around us. Maybe it's more convenient to just keep quiet or you don't want to hurt someone else's feelings. Over time, we can forget those reasons and feel shame for hiding ourselves away for so long. This, in turn, can lead us to feeling guilty or unworthy, sowing the seeds for more negative feelings. Even though no one may have reinforced these feelings of shame and worthlessness, we begin to believe these things about ourselves. This can lead to depression, poor self-esteem, and greater anxiety in social situations. One way to relieve these feelings of depression is to find a way to vent your feelings anonymously. There are applications like “Whisper” where people can post secrets with no strings attached. Another outlet may be writing poetry or short stories to express anything you might be hiding inside. Community websites like Catapult are an open forum for anyone to post their writings.
Everyday, all of the people around us are going through their own private struggles. Either they're suffering from money problems, a career change isn't going as planned, or a relationship has gone awry. There can be any number of incidents affecting those closest to us, though we may not recognize it, unless they confide in us. If we can recognize that fact in others, it may be easier to help us open up about our own lives.
While sometimes it may be preferable to keep certain aspects of our lives private, we should also try to remember that sharing our feelings helps us build stronger relationships. Opening up to just a handful of people can help us stay mentally and emotionally healthy by promoting stronger feelings of trust and eliminating shame and insecurities. We all hide things from time to time, but living a life of secrecy leads to a dark, downward spiral. The good news is that it's within each of us to change things for the better and we can do that by simply opening up to a loved one or a counselor.