A Secret To Tell

Within every human there are thoughts, there are stories, and there are insights. Every individual possesses them in the far reaches of his or her heart. When they are not shared with anyone, they are known as secrets. Imagine, there are people walking this earth at this very moment in time, keeping some of those secrets so bottled up inside, that it clogs the very flow of their emotions preventing them from forming genuine intimate bonds with others. Then there are those who travel through life with a burning secret, but feel they have no one to share it with who will not judge them.

Secret from PostSecret book. SOURCE: PostSecret.com

Frank Warren had an experiment, and it involved secrets. He passed out self-addressed postcards in Washington DC with the following instructions posted on one side that read: “You are invited to anonymously contribute a secret to a group art project. Your secret can be a regret, fear, betrayal, desire, confession, or childhood humiliation. Reveal anything — as long as it is true and you have never shared it with anyone before. Be brief. Be legible. Be creative.”  Over a short period of time, he received hundreds of postcards; then he was flooded with hundreds of thousands of these cards containing anonymous secrets. He published an ample amount on his blog PostSecret.com and eventually released five PostSecret books as well.

Secret from PostSecret book. SOURCE: PostSecret.com

The secrets published in both the PostSecret blog and books are found to be funny, candid and oftentimes touching. There is something quite unique about the secrets sent to Frank Warren; they are as raw as human emotion can get — most likely due to their anonymity. There may also be another reason as to why Americans have become so enamored with PostSecret in this digital age: social media may be isolating people, which may prompt them to keep their secrets rather than free them. This statement is in part influenced by the results of a recent study from Western Illinois University who published findings about Facebook users. This study showed these users to be developing narcissistic behaviors and shallow friendships through their social media practices. Since more friendships are being forged faster on social media rather than in person, it would be safe to surmise that fewer intimate friendships are being developed because time is easily consumed by updating and checking one’s status on their social media profiles. In other words, with this digital age and social media venues, people have become less connected on an intimate level. Perhaps this is why PostSecret is so popular, because it relies on aggregating thoughts via traditional mail in the form of a postcard.

Secret from PostSecret book. Source: PostSecret.com

PostSecret is not meant to replace a therapist but it is, rather, a project that simply holds space for people to share their deepest secrets — like the schoolteacher who admits to disliking children, or the gentlemen who admits to not always washing his hands after using the restroom, and even the women admitting to sexual abuse or eating disorders. PostSecret simply holds a space for all these people to free themselves from the burden of their secrets, and perhaps may help them on the road to healing some of the more serious issues. Whatever the reason for their participation in PostSecret, one thing is completely clear: we all have secrets to tell and we would all like to have the opportunity to share them in safe environments without fear of judgment. Perhaps people across the entire United States would benefit from learning how to hold space for individuals to express themselves. In this manner, most of the secrets burdening individuals could eventually dissolve into post-secrets themselves; creating opportunities to develop more intimate friendships in this digital age and social media world. However, until such a time exists, one may be comforted to know that if there is no one else to share a secret with, there is always the option to send a postcard directly to Frank Warren without the risk of being judged.

 -M-

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Comments

  1. Wonderful article!!! And so very true about holding the space for someone to speak whatever is on their mind. Grateful I have people in my life to do that for me!! Still fascinated by the book and the blog though!!

  2. I couldn’t agree with you more about holding the space for people…whether it’s secret-telling or just allowing them to speak whatever is on their mind – grief, love, anger, frustration, happiness…..it’s all about holding the space and letting them be with no judgement. Amen, sista!!

    • Michelle Quevedo says

      Thank you Debbie for adding your wisdom to this dialogue. Yes, it would be a very good practice for many to learn how to listen without judging the situation. I read a quote that said that the word “listen” has the same letters to make the word “Silent.” Interesting observation wouldn’t you say?

  3. Maryanne says

    I actually have this book and I love it. When I first found it I remember thinking to myself, “What a brilliant idea!” People, with all their faults and weaknesses, were allowed to share with complete anonymity. Some of the secrets make me smile, some make me laugh out loud and others just make me sad. It’s too bad that not everyone has a Susan, a Michelle or a Billee in their lives. I know how lucky I am to have such good friends. No judgements. It doesn’t get much more freeing than that!

    • Michelle Quevedo says

      Thank You so much for your candid thoughts on this issue Maryanne! I think my appeal to PostSecret is the rawness of the sharing. Almost all of these secrets would only be shared in the anonymous format you are spoke about. I’m with you, I feel it’s very freeing to have friends who listen without passing judgment.

  4. This is a great project! I feel though that it’s only the tip of an iceberg regarding people and secrets! We not only keep secrets to keep from getting judged but we tell little white lies throughout the day in order to keep up our facade! “Sure, we can go to that restaurant!” or “yeah let’s do it your way” Are all things we say to keep the peace and avoid judgement. I have herpes. I tell everyone who asks why I had to have a c-section. I fear being judged but what I fear more is not being known. People want people to know them, to understand them, and to love them anyway. I love the idea of writing secrets down but to me it’s still hiding behind them. Be fearless. Be known. And more importantly, be proud of your secrets because they make us who we are! If only it were that easy….

    • Michelle Quevedo says

      Stacy, your friends are very lucky to have you in their lives. By your comment it is clear that you are someone who is not only capable of holding space for someone, but you would be very supportive for them to be stronger and proud of who they are. Thank you for adding this empowering message to the dialogue of this article!

  5. JT Hakansson says

    What an interesting project, not only artistically but socially. I find it particularly interesting seeing as we live in the age of social media, were every one tweets and facebooks their every move.
    But it does seam that everyone has a secret they keep, it could be big or small, one or a dozen. However as I become older (and I would like to think wiser) and more comfortable in my own skin I find I have fewer “new” secrets. This may also be because I have surround myself with genuinely wonderful people, who I can be my authentic self in front of.
    Great article yet again Michelle!

    • Michelle Quevedo says

      Thank You JT! Just by reading your comment, I can see you have indeed become wiser over the years. One can only hope that individuals who feel they do not have safe people to share their secrets, will find such ones eventually so that they too can be their ‘authentic selves’ as you have described so well. Thank You so much for adding your insight to this dialogue!

  6. Mimi Shoop says

    Some of the PostSecrets break your heart – like the girl who wanted to share her music with her father – and I hope they provide some healing in the telling of them. I would guess we all have at least one that is too painful to share. What does it say about our society that we would tell strangers rather than our loved ones? Social media like Facebook has its place but I definitely believe it is not helping us to be more truly connected with the people in our lives. Perhaps the superficiality will eventually pass and we will begin to communicate more honestly with one another on a deeper level, inviting others in.

    • Michelle Quevedo says

      Hi Mimi, thank you for adding your voice to this dialogue! I completely agree, social media has its place and it must not replace physical contact with people. However I do believe it can enhance it if one doesn’t become too consumed by profile status. It is interesting how the you mentioned that some secrets are too painful to share. Perhaps this is why PostSecret is so successful, because it may not seem as painful for people to use. Let’s hope that they’ll eventually find friends that they can trust with their secrets and stories…

  7. Cathy Fitzgerald says

    Michelle,
    Another great article! You have such a vast array of interesting topics. The statement about the isolating impact of social media and Facebook reminds me of a recent restaurant visit in Reno where all the surrounding couples were texting and checking their iphones instead of talking to one another.

    • Michelle Quevedo says

      Thank You so much Cathy! That is a fascinating story you shared about your visit to the restaurant. It’s an easy hole to fall into. I found myself doing the same thing with my family, then I looked up and said “OMG we are a bunch of Geeks sitting here on our devices across from each other!” Everyone looked up, laughed realizing what we were all doing, and put everything away to visit with each other. Wouldn’t have believed we’d be doing the same thing. It’s a pitfall that we all need to be made aware of and hopefully act accordingly.

  8. MIchelle, I agree that people should have space for others and not be judgemental. However, in this day and age of GOD and “Good Christians” people have become very mean, judgemental and “holier than thou!!” I love people unconditionally. I actually try to get people to open up to me to tell their dirty little secrets. Not so I can judge them or ridicule, but to help them free themselves from the anger, the stress, the sadness of the secrets. Because as you know, I have that ‘I want to fix the world’ mentallity. I have had many a stranger tell me their life stories and then look at me and say, “I have never told anyone that, Thank you.” I don’t judge, because as I say, “People who live in glass houses should not throw stones!”

    • Michelle Quevedo says

      Wow! Fawna, Thank You so much for adding to this dialogue!!!
      It is amazing how people slap a label on themselves and do not feel the need to connect on honest levels with the people in their lives- adding judgment here and there thinking that their labels excuse them from being part of the human race. If we all judged a little less of our fellow humans, there may be no need for venues like PostSecret. 🙂

  9. I love that book and blog! Thanks for writing about it. It was one of my inspirations when I started! Such a clever way of looking at human nature. I am also fascinated by the fact that scientists say we have an average of 3,000 thoughts a day! I wonder how many of them go to love, sex, and money! hahaa

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