THE SELF DIVIDED: PROBLEMS AND CONSEQUENCES Chapter 1. Who Are the Secret Keepers? Chapter 2. What Are Unhealthy Secrets? Chapter 3. How Secret Lives Seduce Us Chapter 4. Where Our Secrets Stay Hidden Chapter 5. Who Are You When Nobody Is Looking? Chapter 6. Maximizing Pleasure, Minimizing Pain Chapter 7. The Quest for Authenticity Chapter 8. When Secret-Keeping Goes Too Far
THE JOURNEY TOWARD WHOLENESS: SOLUTIONS AND REWARDS Chapter 9. Seeking the Help You Need Chapter 10. Finding Your Motivation Chapter 11. Preparing to Live Authentically Chapter 12. Committing to Coming Clean Chapter 13. Seeing the World through New Eyes Chapter 14. Authenticity in a Messy World Chapter 15. Transformation from Deep Within Chapter 16. Your Recovery from Today On
"John's book is well-constructed, well-written and carries many important messages. Secret Keeping is an important contribution to the recovery literature. I suspect this book will do well and reach a large appreciative audience."
- William L. White, MA , Author, Lecturer, Senior Research Consultant
Everyone keeps secrets.
Some people who keep secrets do not feel guilty, while others do.
It's the second kind of people who keep secrets, those who feel guilt or shame, that Secret Keeping: Overcoming Hidden Habits and Addictions is meant for. In my career as a therapist and counselor, I've come to call these kinds of people Secret Keepers®. A Secret Keeper can be anyone from a housewife hiding vodka bottles from her family to a compulsive gambler, a food addict, a cyber-sex fanatic, or anyone who is secretly leading a double life.
Sometimes people just daydream about a taboo world, not acting on their fantasies. This is secret keeping® in its mildest form. If this describes you, relax. This form is static, benign - hardly a problem. Although this book will help you, you're not in major trouble. Think of yourself as a human being like everybody else. We all dream of the forbidden, so be easy on yourself.
Other Secret Keepers go beyond musing about their fantasies to living them out. They willingly take risks and consciously push boundaries that move them toward something that is, or will become, a problem for them and for others. This is secret-keeping in its active form. It's dynamic, volatile - and highly problematic. Individuals who engage in this behavior stretch ethical, moral, and relational boundaries in search of something that is missing in their lives, often to escape some pain or hurt. If you find yourself in this category, this book will help you to climb out of the dark hole you've dug yourself into. It will urge you to rethink your reasons for secret-keeping and prompt you to examine your options, including seeking outside help. It will open the door to hope - the hope of living freely without deception, lies, alibis, guilt, or shame.
Still other kinds of people act outside accepted ethical, moral, and relational limits; they break the law. They willingly take illegal risks and commit crimes that endanger or damage themselves, others, and society. This is secret-keeping in its criminal or psychotic form. It's malignant, destructive - and highly injurious. Two types of individuals fit in this category: the decent, regular sort of person whose secrecy makes them cross the line into crime or psychosis, and the hardened, antisocial career criminal such as a serial rapist or murderer. This book will deal only marginally with the latter type.
What's essential to realize is that secret-keeping, in all of its forms, involves some degree of criminal thinking. And almost anybody who functions in society can think like a criminal at times. How about the millions of everyday citizens who drive over the speed limit and who - despite their awareness that they're breaking the law - hope they never get caught? The likelihood of slipping down the slippery slope for any Secret Keeper from static to dynamic to malignant always exists.
As you read this book, you will find that it describes people with good hearts and curious minds who are seeking, many times inappropriately, wholeness and fulfillment. It tells stories of everyday working adults with families, homes, jobs, and responsibilities who are trapped in the dynamic stages of "stealing hours" from their public lives. The risks, thrills, and taboo nature of their habits prove too strong to resist. By participating secretly in hidden activities that are shameful or stigmatizing, they risk their reputations. If anybody knew about their secret lives, their good standing in the community would be destroyed - and they are fully aware of that.
This book's aim is to prevent such disasters. Because chronic Secret Keepers' dual identities are conflicted, they are stressed-out people. Their parallel worlds never come together. Their forays into unhealthy habits develop into lifestyles that erode physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being. A key purpose of this book is to help readers understand the problem and see the merit of finding the solutions. It offers ways to transform from living a secretive, closed, risk-filled life to living an honest, open, transparent one instead.
In part 1, you will discover the Continuum of Secrets, a chart that details the degrees of keeping secrets from benign to malignant. It shows where Secret Keeping fits on that continuum, and you'll also explore the Eight Splintered Mind-sets of Secret Keepers. In part 2, you will have the chance to benefit from some tested ways to reverse those mind-sets and the distorted thinking and emotions that keep you, or someone dear to you, trapped. Help is offered by use of the Blueprint for Gaining Freedom, an easy-to-follow set of actions along with some 12-Step principles I've seen clients use to their benefit.
Also available to assist you is the Four Squares of Life diagram, showing various ways dysfunction and addiction can twist someone's youthful development physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Most important, the diagram also opens the door to healing. It shows the many possible ways that recovery can empower, restore, rejuvenate, and reconnect us to our core self, to the wholeness and serenity that secret-keeping destroys.
CONFESSIONS OF A LIBERATED SECRET KEEPER I speak from the perspective I've gained by having both personal and professional encounters with secret-keeping. Between the ages of eleven and fifty-one, I lived parallel lives. Outwardly I looked normal, made a good impression, and was a high- functioning teenager and adult. The drama of my hidden addictions, however, and the ways my secrets gained control over me, are another story altogether. In time I learned the simple truth: We are as sick as our secrets.
This inner story that I alone experienced - and how everybody else was fooled - is only a small part the picture. The bigger part is that my life mirrors the experience of thousands, no doubt millions, of other people, a few of whom you will meet in these pages. In my case, the forty years that I lived in two worlds, ricocheting between public respectability and private temptations, was a time I would never choose to repeat. Yet ultimately, these "stolen" years taught me invaluable lessons that led to the rewards of whole-mindedness. You will hear more about my story in the opening chapters and occasionally throughout the book.
In my current professional role as a counselor, I've heard numerous stories of secret keeping from clients who have told me about their double lives: hospitalizations for eating disorders, financial ruin from credit card debt, jail time for shoplifting, arrests for sexual crimes, and career crashes from compulsive gambling and extramarital affairs.
I've discovered numerous ways in which people keep secrets and become sick from their destructive habits. The clients I counsel often feel sabotaged by their self-defeating habits and end up hating their split reality - and these people walk among us every day. My counseling work has centered on developing effective therapies to help people struggling with the tension created by keeping a secret life.
Today I devote my waking efforts to assisting troubled individuals to free themselves from the detours, deceptions, and dead ends of secret keeping so they can have the highest-quality lives possible. With Secret Keeping I hope to make this motivating knowledge available to many more people than I could ever help personally.
The simple truth? We are as sick as our secrets - but there's hope!