On secrets

23 Jun 2024

Keeping secrets is a virtue.

Secrets are a kind of currency that you can barter. They’re part of the gift economy. You can barter with others and with yourself.

There are many kinds of secrets. Here are some examples:

So what is gained or lost by keeping a secret?

Some things are unhealthy to secretize too much! you want to be able to talk about your fears, for instance, with people you trust. it helps dispel them and makes you feel less alone. Keeping secrets is not about isolating yourself. it’s about nurturing a garden inside you

A secret is an incubation chamber for a feeling. Hiding a shame might make you more shameful, but secretly keeping a garden in your backyard might help the sensations of gardening and caretaking develop into something more precious and beautiful with time. Think of it as a fermentation process. The flavors get more nuanced if you don’t drink that kefir immediately.

Take note when you tell someone a secret. This is a gift to them. Note to yourself that you are being vulnerable. Try to do this deliberately, not impulsively/compulsively. If you are trying to develop that relationship, let them know that it is a secret.

Take secrets entrusted to you very seriously. It’s one of the most important forms of respect and trust: You’re sacralizing the bond between you and the other person by doing so.

An aside: this is advice for people who have maybe found themselves being overly cavalier with information about themselves. people who start a new hobby, immediately infodump to all their friends about it, then get bored. advice for people who don’t feel ownership over their own desires. If you feel you are already too closed off, this is an exercise in trust. Choose secrets you are already keeping and experiment with telling one other person. Something small and lightweight that they can be trusted with.

Do not undervalue your most valuable currency: information about yourself.

Trade it intentionally. Trade it carefully. And when it is highly requested but much less valued, as it is on most social media, be cautious with how you share it.

One thing about secrets is that there are no ways to undo the trade, to get a refund, or anything else. Be discerning.

Okay Cameron, you might think, then all is lost for me! I’ve already infodumped everything about myself to everyone online and/or IRL. There’s no part of me but my deepest shames that I have considered sacred. How do I recover from this?

You start by keeping small secrets for yourself. Go to the grocery store and explicitly don’t tell anyone. Even better if you leave any internet-connective devices at home. Leave the grid for a moment.

Make a meal you find beautiful and share its existence with exactly zero other people.

By generating a cache of positive secrets, we reduce the degree to which we associate our secrets with our shames. People do not have a right to know everything about us. even the most beautiful things that we treasure most dearly. Especially those, in fact.

So mete out your secrets carefully. Treat them as divine gifts to the people you most love and trust, and receive secrets with an equal humility and care. Protect the parts of you that are still growing by not exposing them too wantonly to the cynical, undervaluing gaze of others. Let them grow in loving conditions, let them flourish like seedlings who would be obliterated by an open breeze, but are instead nestled safely against the belly of the earth, and may one day stand tall and unshakeable.

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