Think of a secret that you're keeping from others. It shouldn't take long; behavioural scientist Michael Slepian finds that on average, we are keeping as many as thirteen secrets at any given time. His research involving more than 50,000 participants from around the globe shows that the most common secrets include: lies we've told, addiction or mental health challenges, a hidden relationship, financial struggles and more.
Our secrets can weigh heavily upon us. Yet the burden of secrecy, Slepian argues, rarely stems from the work it takes to keep a secret hidden. Rather, secrets are something we must "carry" because we do so alone, without the support of others. Whether we are motivated to protect our reputation, a relationship or a loved one's feelings, or are pursuing some personal or professional goal, one thing is clear: holding back some part of our inner world is often lonely and isolating. But it doesn't have to be.
Filled with fresh insight into one of the most universal-yet least understood-aspects of human behaviour, The Secret Life of Secrets sheds a fascinating new light on questions like: At what age do children develop the cognitive capacity for secrecy? Do all secrets come with the same mental load? How can we reconcile our secrets with the human desire to relate, connect and be known? When should we confess our secrets? Who makes for the ideal confidant? And can certain types of secrets actually enhance our wellbeing?
Drawing on over a decade of original research, Slepian reveals the surprising ways that secrets pervade our lives, and offers science-based strategies that make them easier to live with. The result is a rare window into the inner workings of our minds, our relationships and our sense of who we are.