Uh-oh, it looks like your Internet Explorer is out of date.
For a better shopping experience, please upgrade now.
What do author James Frey and former president Bill Clinton have in common? They were both secret keepers, and their secrets had disastrous effects on their careers. Millions of people hide addictions from their closest friends and family, often destroying their lives and the lives of others. This book explores how to break the secret-keeping habit and get the help and support needed to overcome addiction, rebuild self-esteem, and live honestly. The first half of the book explores the human tendency to keep secrets and profiles a variety of secret keepers from all walks of life and with a wide range of addictions. The second half helps readers examine and understand their own addictions and secret keeping and offers a clear, step-by-step approach to healing and recovery. Based on the twelve-step program, this book offers a way to change your life for the better, one day at a time. Practical solutions for countering secretive and destructive behaviors ranging from smoking to gambling to alcoholism Addictions — to drugs, alcohol, smoking, gambling, eating, pornography, and sex — are considered to be at epidemic levels in the United States
|Publisher:||New World Library|
|Sold by:||Barnes & Noble|
|File size:||936 KB|
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Overcoming Hidden Habits and Addictions
By John Howard Prin
New World LibraryCopyright © 2006 John Howard Prin
All rights reserved.
WHO ARE THE SECRET KEEPERS?
Man is not truly one, but truly two.
— ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON, THE STRANGE CASE OF DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE
Secret Keepers are troubled people. They steal hours away from their public lives to act out destructive behaviors or passions in private. They are "not truly one, but truly two," as Robert Louis Stevenson observed in his classic tale of split personality. By picking up Secret Keeping, you are showing curiosity about your own habits or the habits of those living close to you. If you are reading this book to help yourself, perhaps you want to regain control of the inner chaos and stress that weigh on you so heavily. If you are reading this because you suspect someone close to you is indulging in a secret life, you may want answers and guidance on how to deal with that person and how to regain equilibrium in your own life.
That's exactly what this book is intended to help you do.
Let's start by identifying who qualifies as a card-carrying Secret Keeper. Think of everyday citizens, hardworking professionals, and family men and women who are high functioning on one level but in bondage to a deeply held secret on another. Occasionally we read about individuals like these in the news:
A university professor of religious studies concealed on his work computer 4,200 Internet photos of children having sex. His secret became so burdensome that when he was arrested, he stated, "What a relief to be caught."
A college coed induced vomiting several times a week and continued doing so for years to "purge the fat cow inside" her. No one discovered her secret until she collapsed and had to be taken to the emergency room.
A county commissioner filed for bankruptcy incurred by gambling debts when the public learned that he was visiting casinos several times a week during business hours. He had concealed his identity by wearing wigs and other clever disguises.
A suburban mother of three children hid bottles of vodka for years in the laundry room and binged while the kids were at school ... until they arrived home one day and found her passed out on the floor.
A school board chairperson arrived habitually late to meetings because she couldn't leave the house until checking dozens of times to make sure the stove was turned off and the water taps were turned extra tight.
A churchgoing father of four secluded himself in hotel rooms to dress up in women's clothes, then stepped out in public whenever he felt the need to express his "inborn nature."
A priest molested a child in a secluded cabin, then threatened her life by saying she would die if anyone ever discovered their little secret.
A homeowner allowed four hundred cats to overrun her house until the stench from years of accumulated urine and feces prompted neighbors to report her residence to public health authorities.
Around the globe, everyday people like these comprise the one out of every fifteen people who actively live double lives. They are your next-door neighbor, the shopper ahead of you in the supermarket line, the driver behind you on the freeway — and they may be you. They are among the more than twenty million Americans who become trapped in hidden double lives yet still function in their jobs, homes, and families.
Secret Keepers steal hours away from their "normal" lives to act out private behaviors, rituals, and fantasies whenever their secrets overpower them. They cleverly elude getting caught, seldom appearing in tomorrow's headlines or ending up in police custody. The people closest to them may suspect their excuses at times, thinking to themselves "how odd or eccentric Joe is" or "Jane seems lost in a private world of her own." But hard evidence almost never surfaces. Telltale clues, if any, go unnoticed.
Secret Keepers, even when they seem to be high functioning, carry with them concealed knowledge about themselves that nobody knows — not the boss, not friends, not siblings, not parents, not spouses. Ben Franklin once quipped, "Three can keep a secret if two are dead." That leaves just one person who knows, the key point of this disorder. Secret keeping means that no one else knows. Sadly, keeping secrets takes a toll on the physical, emotional, and spiritual health of the one who knows.
Secret Keepers may skirt the law, but they hardly ever get arrested. They may push ethical and moral boundaries, but they seldom overstep legal boundaries (with rare exceptions). Whether they secretly drink or do drugs alone, whether they are pathological gamblers, pornography lovers, compulsive shoplifters, obsessive shoppers, or video game freaks, nothing they do is obvious to the casual observer. Projecting a wholesome self for all to see and approve of, they carefully conceal two opposing selves struggling to coexist in one being. Over time, the competing selves within them wage war and wear them down until a crisis threatens either their sanity or their health, or both. As their emotions battle their reason, the pressure to disclose intimate knowledge to somebody builds up inside them, wreaking daily suffering on themselves and, inevitably, on everyone around them.
Here's an inside look at the experiences of two people, each of whom could be living down the street or working in the cubicle next to you at your job. They are both pleasant human beings whom you could easily grow to like, respect, and trust.
Caroline: Dying Inside but Hiding It Well
Growing up on the prairies of Kansas, Caroline loved animals. She spent afternoons and weekends petting rabbits, lambs, dogs, and cats on her parents' ranch. In junior high school, she became "rather lonely," she says. "I'd spend what seemed like hours checking and rechecking details about the animals' feeding and care before leaving home to go to school." Being late for the bus meant that her dad had to give her rides to school, where her classmates would tease her. "I'd shrug and act like so-what," Caroline says. After a while she felt that "something wasn't right" with her. But she managed to keep her behavior under control until she graduated from high school.
Her first major move at eighteen involved attending a large university in a city two hundred miles away, where she also worked part-time. Caroline worked hard and studied long hours, graduating four years later with honors. She dated in her senior year and moved in with a boyfriend, who kept two pet cats and a dog. Her love of animals reawakened. She landed a prestigious starting position as an accountant. Yet, as the months passed, she "fell into despair over spending up to two hours every morning trying to leave the apartment!"
Caroline performed the ritual of going through the apartment time and time again to make sure everything was turned off and the place was safe. She even turned the water taps super-tight so "the pets wouldn't go crazy listening to the drip-drip sound." Caroline chided herself for never getting to her high-profile new job on time, no matter how early she set her alarm. "I couldn't tell my boss why I was late. I just couldn't. I was dying inside — a prisoner in my home until the clock said, 'You really are late, now get out!'"
Caroline knew her secret wouldn't keep indefinitely, and she agonized, fearful of the day when somebody would find out. The dread of being discovered, of facing the uncertain consequences, ate at her every day, causing dark moods. No one ever guessed why she fretted so much.
Brad: Betting on Marbles
As a child of seven, Brad watched his parents having a rollicking time playing their bridge games and betting on poker with friends. He learned that playing cards and betting meant having fun. It seemed only natural, then, that he picked up these pastimes too. Growing up during the 1960s, Brad watched TV shows like Mr. Lucky and Maverick, whose heroes, says Brad, "were charming gamblers with romantic mystiques — guys I admired and wanted to be like."
Cards were banned at school, so Brad brought his bag of marbles to class and secretly made bets with schoolmates during recess. He enjoyed the daring action and face-to-face haggling. Whether he was winning or losing, it hardly mattered. By the sixth grade he habitually skipped classes in order to run a playground betting operation. In time Brad stole money from his mom's purse to pay back losses. Whenever a teacher tried to stop his betting, he would make witty quips to defuse the tension, but eventually his hours in detention threatened his academic standing.
At home, he joined his parents' card games and became so skilled at bluffing and cheating that he frequently won large pots. Brad would then put back the money taken from his mom's purse and bet the remainder on the playground. As a sophomore, he woke up one day and realized that his whole focus was on gambling instead of grades or girls or sports. He was hooked, and he dropped out of high school. From that day on, he put extra energy into turning his habit into a livelihood — and keeping it a closely held secret. His parents tried to talk him into going back to classes, but he would hear nothing of it and moved out to his own tiny apartment.
In his twenties, Brad earned his GED and successfully completed three years of college, but military service rekindled his love affair with gambling. When he returned to civilian life and a well-paying sales job, he kept his gambling clandestine for the next nineteen years until a mental breakdown loomed, prompted by financial losses and thoughts of suicide. Those close to him, especially his wife, tried to get him to admit his secrets but grew tired and alienated.
Masked Feelings: How We Hide Them
What is going on beneath the surface in these brief biographies? Both Caroline and Brad learned at a young age to mask their true feelings and to act in ways that did not reflect their inner worlds. While Caroline felt genuine affection for animals and Brad felt thrilled about betting, they both learned to express the opposite of these feelings, shrugging passively or making witty quips to deflect scrutiny.
As Caroline put it, "I cared so deeply for animals and their safety that it made me anxious, eventually so paranoid that I chewed my fingernails. I was also afraid of imaginary things like monsters. My parents frowned at me, and my brothers and sisters teased me, so I hid my feelings and acted numb. I learned to smile on cue whenever I ached inside or was afraid of monsters under my bed."
Brad described how he also hid his true feelings: "I loved the thrills of betting and winning until it became obvious that classmates and teachers thought I was weird. Later I hid any hint from employers and my family, sneaking to casinos at midnight or whenever I had an alibi. I plastered on a 'bright-and-happy' face, even though my urges got stronger. Letting my feelings show was the worst thing I could do. I just acted 'normal' like others expected me to."
This trait of substituting what's false for what's real, called incongruence, showed up early in my own childhood as well. When I was five, I prided myself on being a good boy, never wanting to be a problem. My greatest offense back then was stealing cookies, especially Mom's home-baked peanut butter or chocolate chip specialties. I'd climb up on a chair next to the kitchen counter, crawl quietly to the cookie jar, lift the lid ever so slowly, and swipe a handful — always listening carefully for her footsteps from the next room. Part of the thrill was knowing that she could walk in on me any second and catch me in a forbidden act.
In this way I learned early that the key factors leading to secret keeping were:
the excitement of breaking rules,
the pleasure of indulging in what's forbidden (eating stolen treats), and
the delight of not getting caught.
This triple whammy became the first of several secret-keeping dynamics that gripped me. In later years I came to call it the Triad of Secret-Keeping Emotions. Various forms of this combination of temptation, craving, indulgence, and guilt held me captive for decades, as I've learned it does for other Secret Keepers. For many kids, stealing cookies is an everyday part of growing up and leads to nothing more serious. But for me stealing cookies started a behavior pattern that I later perfected as secret keeping, although I never thought of the word secret until midlife. While for most kids pilfering treats may be as far as this kind of behavior goes, for me it started a "guilt pocket," a reservoir of dualistic thinking. This kind of double-mindedness kept sneaking up on me and eventually took hold. Much like it did Caroline and Brad, masking what was true inside me became an ingrained habit. Like them, I too began slipping into the secret-keeping trap early in my teen years, what I've come to call the first of the eight splintered mind-sets of a Secret Keeper: acting one way while feeling another. We'll be exploring this mind-set further in this chapter.
Whether or not to surrender and to admit being out of control from balancing two separate worlds is the predicament many Secret Keepers eventually find themselves in, and it is at this precarious point when their investment in clandestine activities breaks down. At this juncture they must choose between two options that feel very difficult: disclosure can lead to health and sanity but also to shock and dismay for those who learn the painful truth. Meanwhile, denial and delays can lead to dire, even violent, consequences, even though the sufferer remains safe for the time being, albeit enslaved.
The Roots of Duality in Us All
These three examples indicate the innocent ways in which secret keeping can start. The notion of two selves existing within one being is as ancient as that of saint and sinner inhabiting the same person. Throughout Western literature, authors from Saint Paul to Saint Augustine to Goethe to modern writers such as Sigmund Freud, Robert Louis Stevenson, Carl Jung, and Joseph Campbell have all plumbed the depths of humankind's dual personality in an effort to unwrap its mysteries. The stark opposites of kindly Dr. Jekyll and menacing Mr. Hyde in Stevenson's classic tale of one person's dual, and dueling, personalities represent this dichotomy in fiction.
Author and researcher Daniel Goleman, in his ground-breaking book Emotional Intelligence, describes the inherent duality human beings experience. Basing his research on recent scientific studies, he has this to say about the splitting of one's psyche: "In a very real sense we have two minds, one that thinks and one that feels. These two fundamentally different ways of knowing interact to construct our mental life. One, the rational mind, is the mode of comprehension we are typically conscious of. But alongside that there is another system of knowing: impulsive and powerful, if sometimes illogical — the emotional mind."
How often have you observed the tension, whether in works of fiction or in your own life, between "heart" and "head"? The conflict between the emotional and the rational seems universal, yet the two often combine harmoniously in the countless daily decisions we make. When the emotional and rational minds are in balance, they inform and enhance each other. If we didn't have both ways of perceiving, our world would seem flat and dull.
Goleman goes on to explain how the brain's distinct components (see the diagram that follows) comprise the architecture that manifests the "perennial tension between reason and emotion. The fact that the thinking brain grew from the emotional brain reveals much about the relationship of thought to feeling; there was an emotional brain long before there was a rational one.... [So] when passions surge, the balance tips: it is the emotional mind that captures the upper hand, swamping the rational mind."
I believe that these passions are at the core of a Secret Keeper's psyche. Secret keeping is an attempt to satisfy one's emotional demands, despite societal constraints. Sooner or later, something has to give. This conflict, as experienced by Caroline and Brad, led to their habit of stifling their genuine feelings and then masking those feelings to fit their environment. Perhaps Secret Keepers instinctively realize that an honest display of emotions will clash with others' expectations and elicit disapproval.
This phenomenon, described by Goleman as display rules, is learned very early by human beings. "An education in display rules is imparted when we instruct a child not to seem disappointed, but to smile and say thank you instead, when Grandpa has given a dreadful but well-intentioned birthday present.... The rule being learned by the child is something like, 'Mask your real feelings when they will hurt someone you love; substitute a phony, but less hurtful feeling instead.'"
Excerpted from Secret Keeping by John Howard Prin. Copyright © 2006 John Howard Prin. Excerpted by permission of New World Library.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
PART 1. 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,
PART 2. 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,
About the Author,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews