A question I often ask clients in therapy is if they can tell me the difference between privacy and a secret. Why do I do this? Because I’ve noticed that people are losing the ability to create and maintain healthy boundaries in regards to their personal information, especially as they interact in social media.
Unfortunately, we live in an age where anything goes. By this I mean either we reveal things about ourselves to the world without considering the consequences or others reveal information about us with the intent to harm or humiliate. This does not even take into consideration “fake news” or libelous actions.
Case in point – remember Tyler Clementi, the 18-year old gay student who killed himself after being publicly outed on the internet by a fellow student? This young man was in his own process of coming out and was not emotionally ready for this news to be broadcasted to the world. I admit, this is an extreme example of the harm that can be done – but many of us really do take for granted how important our privacy is.
Simply put, privacy is the “condition of being free of being observed or disturbed by others”, whereas secrecy is the “practice of hiding information”. Psychologically speaking, I believe everyone needs a sense of privacy in their lives in order to be healthy. People who are able to maintain their privacy tend to have stronger boundaries and understand when and how disclosure is needed.
Secrecy on the other hand is much more complex. People keep secrets for a variety of reasons, both good and bad. Generally speaking, keeping some secrets are counterproductive and destructive in nature especially in therapeutic settings. Secrets that are negative often impact our physical and mental health. There is an old adage in the treatment community that says “you are only as sick as your secrets”.
We all need the safe and confidential means to disclose personal information that causes us pain and upset while protecting our rights to privacy. That’s what good therapy is all about. Please see the attached link to an article entitled 10 Reasons Why Privacy Matters.
This is part 19 of the series Meditations on Wellbeing. In this series Psychotherapist and Life Coach Richard Killion shares experiences from his corner of the world. Enjoy his succinct, insightful bits about human behavior and mental wellbeing.
About the Author
Richard Killion is a Licensed Psychotherapist and Life Coach with over 18 years of experience consulting individuals, groups and organizations. From a coaching perspective, Richard helps people succeed with life transitions. As a therapist he works with clients needing assistance with anxiety, depression, grief and loss, relationship issues and communications.