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July 7, 2022 38 mins

In this bonus episode, Dani speaks with professor and author Michael Slepian about the psychology of secret keeping and his new book The Secret Life of Secrets: How Our Inner Worlds Shape Well-Being, Relationships, and Who We Are.

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Speaker 1 (00:00):
Family Secrets is a production of I Heart Radio. I'm
Danny Shapiro and this is probably the last bonus episode
of Family Secrets before we launch our all new season
on September one. I'm very excited about our lineup and

(00:23):
can't wait to share it with you all. I've been
hearing from so many of you about the personal impact
this podcast has had on your lives, and that couldn't
mean more to me, which is why I'm especially excited
to introduce you to Professor Michael Slepian, author of the
Secret Life of Secrets. Michael is the Sanford S. Bernstein

(00:44):
Associate Professor of Leadership and Ethics at Columbia Business School.
His research will be of particular interest to Family Secrets listeners.
How does keeping secrets affect us? Listen in to our conversation.

(01:07):
What led you to your research on the impact of secrets?
I stumbled into this research topic where I wasn't originally
trying to study secrecy, but I was interested in metaphor
and how we use physical experiences to understand more abstract concepts,
and so my earliest studies on secrecy was interested in

(01:28):
this metaphor that people will use for talking about their secrets.
They'll say they feel way down by a secret, or
that a secret can be heavy or weighty. And so
my original studies just asked, well, if people think about
or if they if they speak about secrets in this way,
does that mean they think about secrets in this way?
Does that mean when the secret is on their mind

(01:49):
they might feel a sense of burden? And so my
original studies asked participants to answer questions that we knew
vary with the experience of physical burdens. So when someone
feels encumbered by something that they're carrying, or they feel
fatigued for any reason, they judge distances far as farther
and hills is steeper because it requires more effort to

(02:10):
scale a hill or to walk a distance. And sure enough,
when participants were thinking about secrets that preoccupied their mind,
they made the same kinds of judgments based all hills
is steeper, They thought distances were farther, they thought tasks
for would require more effort. That's fascinating. And there's a
moment in your book where you talk about a crackling
fire in a fireplace, except the fireplaces on television and

(02:33):
people experiencing m the warmth a sensation of warms looking
at a fire on on the television screen. Yes, and
so this was like that. It's even though there's of
course not anything physically weighing you down by a secret,
could it still somehow, in some small way feel that way?
And and they're my early studies suggested. Yes. Um, you

(02:55):
tell a personal story, which is as a young professor,
it seems recently kind of going on the job market. Um.
You you go um to Columbia University, which is where
you where you currently do your research and teach. Um
for a job interview, and you're out to dinner with

(03:15):
some of your future colleagues, and your phone rings a
couple of times and you don't pick it up, but um,
the calls from your father, and this concerns you. So
when you do call your father back, he asks you
if you're sitting down. Then he goes on to say
the reason I'm calling is I wanted to let you
know that I'm not biologically able to have children. He

(03:37):
was telling me that he's not my biological father, and
that I was born by a donor conception, and so
was my brother five years later, different donor. All of
a sudden, half brother and so as you know, it's
that's really surprising, But it was the secret keeping that
I found even more surprising. Yeah, without knowing it, without

(04:03):
having any consciousness of the fact that your parents had
actually been secret keepers. Um, without the knowledge of that
that you went into this field. Is that something that
since then you've sort of interrogated for yourself in terms of,
like I know, on this podcast, something that comes up
pretty often is this phrase from the psychoanalyst and writer

(04:27):
Christopher Bolas, which is the unthought known and what we
what we somehow into it? Or no? But can you know,
can never sink? Was that present at all for you?
Or was this really coincidence? It never was something that
I saw coming and it you know, at first I
thought it was just this amazing inquisidence or maybe not amazing,

(04:50):
certainly a coincidence. But years later, as I got closer
to this book, and especially as I started writing it,
I started asking my parents and more questions about what
it was like to keep this secret. And I learned
so much that I was just like, why didn't I
ask these questions years ago? There was just so much
I didn't know about what it was like to keep

(05:11):
that secret. And some of the details around the decisions
they made and who was involved in the decision, and
what it was like to carry that secret, Especially that
last part. I learned that, you know, their experiences were
really mapping onto what I would be finding in my research.
At the same time that they said it wasn't hard
to conceal in conversation, it was in fact quite easy,

(05:32):
but sometimes they had to revisit that decision and in
their own thoughts, and that's what was difficult. What year
was it when your father called you and told you this.
This was two thousand, so that was I mean, yes,
there was DNA testing out there and people were discovering things,
but it was really actually pretty early. Um, parents weren't

(05:54):
yet thinking, oh, I better tell my children because they're
going to find out that wasn't happening. It's certainly happening
now ten years later. You're right. It's It's amazing how
big of a difference there is across those years. So
your parents were unusual for the time, even a decade
ago UM, in making the decision to tell you and

(06:16):
your brother. And so you ask your your mom, you know,
when did you decide to tell me? And this made
me laugh. She says, when did your your first paper
on secrecy come out? I couldn't believe it. I just
never so, so there are they are more deeply related
at in that sense, and that I couldn't My own

(06:36):
research was changing her thinking about whether to continue keeping
the secret. Your mother and father were making a choice
that really was informed by the research that that that
you've been doing and what they were understanding about that.
I mean, I think that's fascinating. Yeah, me too, And
something that came out much later. I just you know,
even even once a secret like this is out, it's

(07:00):
not the kind of thing you talked about a lot.
And so there was still so much for me to
learn about about this experience with them years later. So
one of the things that you write in your book
is we must define secrecy not as something we do,
but as an intention. Um, I intend for people not

(07:22):
to learn this thing. Uh. And that was I mean.
The distinctions that you make in the sort of the
ways in which you um parce secret keeping, UM, we're
really interesting to me. You know. The the tagline for
this show is the secrets that are kept from us,
the secrets we keep from others, and the secrets we
keep from ourselves and your focus, it seems in your

(07:46):
research is the secrets we keep. Would you say that's accurate? Yeah,
I think so. So this intention, what have you learned
about keeping secrets, does to us beyond the sort of
the weight or that you were describing the you know,

(08:07):
the making the hills you know look steeper and the
load heavier. So what's useful about this definition of secrecy
has an intention rather than an action is it allows
for the reality, which is that as soon as you
intend to keep a secret, you have a secret. I
think probably the most prototypical example as someone cheese on

(08:29):
their partner and immediately they have a secret, well before
they ever have to have a conversation with their partner
where they might be thinking about it. And so the
moment you intend to keep a secret is when it
can start affecting you, and your mind is going to
return to this intention time and time again. That's actually
what it means to have an intention in any domain.

(08:49):
You want to be easily reminded of it, and sometimes
you might have to act on that intention. But it
turns out that's pretty rare. The typical secret is not
one that you frequently need hiding conversation is not one
that people ask you questions about very often, and so
allow the action that's happening in your own head, on
your own time. Where the more people simply think about

(09:12):
their secrets outside of situations when they need to conceal them,
the more ashamed they can feel of those secrets, the
more isolated they can feel with those secrets, the more
uncertain about whether they're doing the right thing, and so
each of those experiences are associated with lower health and
well being. That's so interesting. One of the things that
you write is that people, all people have secrets, but

(09:34):
not all secrets are alike. Um, some secrets don't hurt
others do. You did this research in which you identified
thirty eight of the most common secrets by surveying a
couple of thousand people for that particular survey in the
United States, asking them, what what is a secret you're

(09:54):
currently keeping? What did you discover about within those thirty
eight most common secrets, the ones that that hurt us
and and the ones that don't. And so this this
turns out to be another important aspect of this research.
Whereas the research that came before Mind would often study
sort of one secret at a time, UM, often when
they fabricated in the lab environment. And the problem with

(10:16):
that kind of design is that I can't get you
very far because people have multiple secrets and and the
question is which other ones that hurt you? And to
ask that question, you have to look at the whole
set of secrets that people have. And so essentially there's
three different answers to this question. UM. The secrets that
we feel are really immoral, those are the secrets we

(10:37):
frequently think about and feel ashamed about. The secrets that
feel really personal, Those are secrets that we frequently think
about and feel isolated with. And secrets that are not
based in logic or reason or goals or aspirations, but
are more feeling based. Those are the secrets we feel
we don't have much insight into. And again we think

(10:57):
about those secrets frequently. And and so it's not a
specific kind of secret. It's not, you know, one of
the secrets from the list that's especially harmful, but it's
the ways in which you experience these common secrets. And
the more you feel that it's a moral, the more
you feel that it's personal, or the more you feel
like you don't have insight into it, the more that

(11:19):
that secret is going to be harming your well being.
I wonder whether in all three of those um ways
of of of keeping secrets that are that are harmful,
whether there's a commonality among them, which would be a
sense that no one would understand. I mean, one of
the themes that occurs again and again on this podcast

(11:43):
is where there's secrecy, there's shame, you know, thrumbing beneath
it so often, or if not shame, a sense of
isolation or you know, nobody would understand this. If if
I said this out loud, I would be either you know,
wild or mocked or just looked at blankly. The research

(12:03):
shows that these experiences of confiding a secret or revealing
a secret often go much better than we anticipate them too.
And you're right, people thinks people won't understand or they'll
be quick to judge or think worst of them. But
when we choose to be alone with something, when we
when the only venue to work on something is your

(12:24):
own mind, you often develop pretty unhealthy ways of thinking
about that thing that isn't curbed by the reality checks
that come out in the real world. And so that
is the reason people hold back, but it's quite often miscalibrated.
The average experience someone has with revealing a secret to
another person is that they felt something good came out

(12:45):
of it, They felt like they got help. And so
of course we have the sports case scenario in mind,
but it's really really really rare. Yeah, And that's that's
really good to hear, and I think it's really good
for all Family Secrets listeners to hear because, um, that
also is what gets reiterated again and again and again

(13:06):
over the course of seven seasons and seventy interviews. The feeling,
ultimately in each case is feeling somewhat liberated or freed,
you know, from this haunting. So you tell a story
in the book about a woman named Melody Casson. It

(13:26):
was so astonishing really and illuminating about because it's not
always you know, people are afraid of being quote unquote
found out, but that doesn't actually seem to be the
most damaging part of secret keeping. Yeah. So this is
a story about someone who at the age of fifteen

(13:48):
had had had a child, and that child died at
the age of fifteen days and what had happened or
what was reported to the police at the time was
that she accidentally rolled onto her son and suffocated him
as a result. Fifty two years after this happened, when

(14:09):
there was a police person over on another unrelated issue,
she all of a sudden confessed to the police officer
and said that she needed to correct the record and
said that I've been living with the spain all my life,
and what happened fifty two years prior is that it

(14:31):
was this. You know, she has a newborn baby, her
father is unwell, her mother's in the hospital recovering from
an operation. She has a sister home, and her sister's Beyonce,
and they need to get up early for work, and
so it's this really delicate situation at home where you know,
attentions are attentions are rising, and her baby, her newborn son,

(14:54):
is just crying and crying and crying, you know, as
newborns will do. And she was just trying to get
it to be quiet. And she thought if she could
just muffle its voice, his voice for a second, the
sobbing would stop, and so she held a cushion over
his face and and the crying did stop. And then

(15:16):
when she removed the cushion, she immediately could tell what
she did, and you know, she just froze and and
so it was reported as an accident, and in some
ways that is pretty close to the truth. But this
was something that was on her mind for the next

(15:38):
fifty two years, to the extent that she felt like
she finally needed to come clean, even though this could
put her at risk for for jail time. Um, that's
not what happened, but it could have happened. And so
when you think about a story like that, you think, well,
why would someone put themselves at this legal peril just
to get a secret off their chest? And it reminds

(16:02):
you that we want to talk about our secrets. The
reason she wanted to do this is she couldn't. She
didn't want to be alone with us anymore. Her Her
worry wasn't about one day being found out, but that
nobody would ever find out. And she just didn't want
to be alone with it anymore. And so she revealed it.
Even when it's something really big, even though there's this

(16:24):
huge risk she took for her was worth it. You know,
we don't want to be alone, We don't want to
be alone with our thoughts, and so we want to
share these things, even the difficult things. The judge that
you know, you've been living with this all your life,
and you you know, you really had this lifelong guilt
and nothing I can do, you can never change that.

(16:44):
And you've essentially already have served your time and suffering
for this alone with this. And so she didn't give
out jail time, just a suspended sentence. And so it's
so hard to imagine being alone with this thing for
decades and decades and just not wanting to do it anymore.

(17:05):
I think that's one of the things that I found
most poignant about. Um. Sort of that aspect of your
research is that it seems it's such a human need,
longing desire to be known. And Um, there's this quote
from from DW. Winnicott that I sometimes share and have

(17:26):
written about, which is it is a joy to be hidden,
but disaster not to be found. And I just, you know,
thinking about being known, and it's inverse. You know, what
it is to suffer the the the isolation of knowing
that that you know something that no one else knows. Um.

(17:47):
I mean, this is obviously a huge secret. Um. I
mean in terms of what it's you know, what its content, is,
But is that something that you've seen um elsewhere in
your research. Is that feeling of the burden just getting
heavier and heavier and heavier until it's just not possible
to keep bearing it. So we're at the forefront of

(18:08):
what we know on this topic here on the relationship
between time and secrecy, and I think you're right that
certain secrets get heavier over time. They think there's a
different set of secrets that get later over time as
it becomes less relevant to our life. And then I
think there's secrets that can sort of reappear as as
something in your life changes and all of a sudden

(18:30):
it's burdensome again. That's so interesting, the idea of secrets
reappearing and becoming burdensome again. Does that have to do
like the pattern of something coming up that reminds one
of it, or you know, sort of brings it up
again or makes it relevant again. Yeah, I think there's that.
I think you know, it wasn't relevant for years and years,

(18:50):
and all of a sudden it's relevant again. For some reason.
I think entering into a new serious relationship or romantic
relationship also has this flavor of reactivating secrets where when
you're in this new relationship, we're like, Okay, here are
the things I need to tell them when the time
is right. And and there's that sort of slowly revealing

(19:14):
your cards as you get closer. Um, But it could
be things that haven't been in your mind and so long.
What about the kinds of secrets that grow lighter over time.
That's really interesting. I think some secrets that, even though
they're huge at the time, they just loose their relevance
um as life moves on and as you change, and

(19:36):
you know, maybe your new situation is you don't know
any of the people involved anymore. You know, you don't
live in this place anymore. Your life is totally different now,
whether it's because you have a totally different career or
you know, you have a family, whatever it is. I
think as like changes, so do we. And and some
really big secrets from our past I don't feel as

(19:58):
relevant anymore, and I they kind of like dormant until
for some reason you get reminded of them again. We'll
be right back. Let's talk a little bit about the
distinction between secrecy and privacy. You know, we we use
the expression, you know, I'm a very private person, or

(20:21):
you know, some people are not particularly private in the
sense of feeling comfortable sharing all sorts of detail about
their lives, whether it's their histories, or their financial lives,
or their work lives, or their family life, whatever it
might be. But talk about the distinction between holding a
secret and just feeling private. This is where that definition

(20:46):
comes in handy again. And so there's all kinds of
things about us that other people don't know that aren't secrets.
You know, it's just something that you would be willing
to discuss, but it just has yet to come up,
or it's something you would be like discussed, but only
if the setting was right, only if you felt comfortable
in that moment, because you know there weren't other people
who could overhear, or maybe you know you need to

(21:08):
be close to someone to discuss certain intimate facts. I think, um,
you know, discussions around sex and discussions around money are
two good examples of things that we're willing to talk about,
but only with the right person. But if there's a
specific experience, specific sexual experience, or specific financial decision that

(21:28):
you don't want people to know about, and if you
ever got asked about it, you would dodge the question
or not reveal the true answer. The reason people don't
know this thing about you is you're specifically intending to
hold it back. Then it's a secret. And so when
it's private, it's something you would be willing to discuss,
but only if the setting is right. You also write
about positive secrets. Have interviewed other people on the show

(21:53):
who um would would say, there's no such thing as
an okay secret. Um, you know, all see goods are toxic.
What would be examples of positive secrets and their outcome?
So positive secrets are this really special case and they
really sort of change the rules a little bit, and
and they're often good for us. And there's really two kinds.

(22:14):
There's the big kind is things like marriage proposals. A
couple has been trying to get pregnant and then they
do um some big surprise party or some big gift
where a lot of these experiences people purposely keep secret
for some period of time so that they have control

(22:35):
over how the information comes out, and often in a
very exciting or celebratory way. And those secrets operate very
differently because we feel good about them, but also we
really feel in control over them. Because we have that
exploration data when the secret is going to be revealed,
and we carefully have chosen the timing and the manner

(22:56):
and who will learn it, And so we feel really
in control over our positive secrets, which turns out to
be a really healthy feeling. We better cope with life's
challenges when we feel in control. There's another kind of
positive secret that's I think it's a bit rare where
there isn't an intense to reveal it. And so these
are things like secret hobbies that you enjoy but think

(23:19):
people won't get um you know, whether that's collecting stamps
or whether that's watching soap operations, or you know, for
a lot of people it's actually um. Meditating is another
good example where it's it's people are like, this is
this thing I enjoy. I know the people around me
won't get it, and rather than having to deal with

(23:39):
that and have the conversation about that, I feel at
peace just enjoying this thing by myself. That's interesting though,
because what you're describing there is people around me won't
get it. Is there that little bit of the other
kind of secret keeping there, which is people people won't
get it? So I'm not gonna, not going to share it.
That's exactly right. Yeah, So positive secrets you plan to reveal,

(24:03):
those are clearly like this totally different set of secrets
that just operates so differently. But this other kind of
positive secret, it starts blurring the boundaries. You're totally right
where it does start. The motivations do start seeming the thing.
Even still, even when you're fearing a negative reaction, this
is something you enjoy doing, it still seems to operate differently.

(24:25):
And so I think there's a lesson there to try
to apply to our more prototypically negative secrets, which is,
you know, how can we feel okay with them? How
can we feel ready to confront them? Are are ready
to talk about them? Even And when it goes back
to the more difficult, you know, to to process secrets

(24:47):
or the ones that are more damaging to us, I'm
wondering how that process unfold in order to reach a
point of readiness I'm comfortable sharing this, or I'm comfortable
enough I'm not afraid enough to share this with a
particular person or you know, family member or spouse or

(25:11):
a partner or whatever it is that has to be
preceded by it would seem having reached a place of
maybe this isn't as bad as I've been thinking for
all these years, or or I'm a little bit less ashamed,
or I've worked on this enough to want to see
the benefits of revealing it. Yeah, so it's so right

(25:31):
finding some kind of peace with it, some kind of acceptance.
If you reach that point, it certainly makes it easier
to talk about. But of course, how do you reach
that point when you're entirely alone with something. It's really hard.
And so if it's something that you feel particularly alone
with or that you're struggling with, one other way of

(25:52):
thinking about how you might get to a place where
you feel comfortable talking about it with someone. And it
could be anyone. It could be someone totally removed from
it all, and it certainly doesn't have to be the
person you're keeping the secret from. It can be a
third party. And maybe it's to imagine what it would
be like to talk about it and what that would
actually realistically happen if you if you revealed it to someone.

(26:17):
The research is really clear that the typical experience of
revealing a secret to a third party can fighting at
a third party is very helpful. Um, even a small
amount of help, even a small amount of support, seems
to go a really long way. And so maybe it's
thinking about, well, how is this hurting me? What do
I need help with? What would make me feel better

(26:39):
about this thing? And would that come out of a
conversation with someone else? And for most cases the answer
is yes. So you write about this art installation that
has to do with essentially anonymous confession. Yeah, it reminded
me of several years ago there was another art installation

(26:59):
at the Have been a museum in in Manhattan where um,
they had index cards in the entry where people could
write down, you know, without signing, just completely anonymously, their
greatest fear and their greatest hope. And there was this
whole wall of hope and this whole wall of fear,
and you know, in the fears were things that people
might not ever tell anyone, but there they were for

(27:23):
everyone to read and to realize, Wow, this is what
it is to be human. All these fears, you know,
afraid of afraid of being homeless, afraid you know, afraid
of dying, Afraid no one will love me, you know,
I mean, just so basic that it was very powerful.
I mean, could you talk a little bit about that,
that installation that you were that you referred to in

(27:44):
the book. So this installation was also inspired by something
very similar to what you just described, where if you
can remember what it was like after the presidential election,
which feels so far away right now, Um, what was
happening at that time in New York is is this

(28:04):
guy Um, Matthew chap Az, This this artist Um had
set up essentially just piles of pens and post it
and in the sub It was essentially this was taking
place inside the subway, asking people to just write out
their feelings on a post it and put it on
the wall. And and it was just this outpouring of

(28:28):
emotion on each on each individual post it, you know,
things like let's stay together, we we can like work
through this um since the nation at that time had
never felt so divided, and so just walking and there
was so many. At its peak, there was about fifty
post it's in the Union Square station, and it was

(28:50):
just this huge display of different colors and and and
when you looked up close to these different emotions, and
it so happens that maybe two years after that, I
was walking through the subway one day and I saw
another version of this same installation, but this time it
was called Sticky Notes Secrets, and they were the these

(29:11):
black post its and silver ink writing on them revealing
these the secrets. And so I saw this installation, I
was like, oh wow, and I took a photo and
then I just kept walking and then I thought, wait
a minute, and I turned around and went back and
started reading them more carefully. And it's a good thing
I did, because that's when I met Matthew Chavis, who

(29:32):
was taking down the post It's for the night, and
his name for his project is his Subway Therapy, where
you know, the very early versions of this kind of
installation was him sitting at a table saying, you know,
essentially like the you know, Lucy and the Peanuts, being like,
I'm here for you talk to me about anything. And

(29:54):
that's what eventually became Subway Therapy. And so he was
telling me about the history of this, and he was
telling me about something that he had always wanted to do,
which is like create a telephone version of this where
you picked up a receiver and you can listen to
other people's secrets or reveal your own. And a few
months later, him and amazing engineers and me doing very

(30:16):
little together, we put together the Secret Telephone and put
it up in different parks in New York City, and
at some point people were lining up to reveal their
secrets on the Secret Telephone. Wow, that's amazing. So you
would be like just walking down the street or walking
through the park and there would be a phone. Yeah.

(30:39):
So it was like a wooden table with like like
a landline phone on it, which, of course it's so
rare to see a landline period these days. Little there
in the middle of Central Park and there was just
a banner that said, some you know, get something off
your chest, the Secret Telephone. We'll be back in a
moment with more family secrets. Has there been any research

(31:05):
about whether it's in some way easier to write a
secret down than to speak it. There is something once
you say it out loud, it's undeniably a real thing.
There's research on, you know, journaling as a way to
work through traumatic experiences or just coping with anything that

(31:26):
you're struggling with, And journaling can work, but only under
certain conditions. If what you're using your journal or is
rehashing the past and how bad you feel about it. Unfortunately,
their journal just becomes a written record of harmful rumination.
And so when journaling really works well is when you're
using it to challenge your counterproductive ways of thinking. Of course,

(31:48):
that's really hard to do on your own. It's really
easy to fall out of a conversation with another person.
The secret telephone is interesting because you're speaking your secret
and so the receiver knowing that at some point someone
will also listen to it and hear it. And you know,
that's what's different about that compared to writing in a journal.

(32:10):
And then of course there's Post Secret. That project is
still ongoing where people write their secrets on a postcard
and mail them in And actually on this podcast we
have a toll free number where people can call in
and and share their share their secrets, and every once
in a while we'll actually share one or you know,
share a few just anonymously on the show. But you know,

(32:34):
I've been so moved and struck by how many people
call him and just just want to say and and
know that we're going to hear them. We're gonna hear
the stories. And that's the purpose is there's somebody on
the other side who's listening. There's some research totally separate
from what we're talking about now that essentially shows people
a message that someone has written, you know, the in words,

(32:54):
or you hear it the audio recording on the person speaking,
and to hear someone's voices is are more humanizing. There's
something special about saying it out loud, not alone in
a room, but saying it out loud in a manner
that one time, somewhat, sometime else someone will hear it.
I'm curious what you learned as the years you know

(33:16):
have gone by, this decade has gone by since your
father told you and your your parents you know, agreed
to tell you about your genetic origins. What have you
learned from them about what it was like? Um, the
trajectory over the course of your life in and your
brother's life, of of keeping that secret. And and if

(33:39):
I'm not mistaken, there were other people in your family
who knew. So it wasn't a secret that only you
know that your parents were quote unquote taking to the
grave with them. There were others who knew. It was
you and your brother who didn't know. I think the
two main big things that I learned and asking my
parents more about what it was like to have the

(34:00):
secret was first, you know, when it started to become
a problem for them, And it seemed to become problematic
for my mother because you know, the situation is like,
now he's a teenager and I'm maybe in my early twenties,
and he's starting to, as any person does, you know,

(34:25):
starting to think about which trades they have inherited from
which parents, and and starting to extrapolate and started asking
questions around this, not questions about genetics, but like, oh,
do you think I'm going to inherit this trade or
you know, when I'm an adult, I'll be like this
instead of this the way you know you are, And that,

(34:45):
of course that's kind of questioning would make anyone in
my parents situation really uncomfortable. And that was sort of
the first clue that, you know, my my parents might
one day reveal this secret because it was incredibly awkward
for my mom to try to navigate those questions, you know,
not difficult conversationally, but just emotionally uncomfortable. And so, you know,

(35:09):
I think that's what eventually was one of the reasons
why this is the secret eventually came out. But the
other was learning about who else was involved in this decision,
and I was so surprised, shocked to learn that there
was another major player and in this secret, which was
my dad's mother, my grandmother, And she so much did

(35:36):
not want us to ever learn the secret. And I
wish I could talk to her about it today and
you know, tell her it's okay, but that's that's not
how that, that's not the timing um. And she just
really didn't want us to learn this because she felt
so close to us, and she didn't want us to

(35:56):
feel not part of the family, you know, on my
dad's side, and and me and my brother were so
close with my dad's parents. And I think the reason
my grandmother not just didn't want us to learn is
she just didn't want anything to interfere with those relationships.
You know, when I found out that I wasn't genetically

(36:18):
related to them, it made those relationships for me more special,
not less that they that they weren't based in any
sort of sense of genetic complication or anything like that.
That they treated us as their great children as if
we were genetically related to us. And for me, that

(36:39):
just makes the relationships more special to learn that they
weren't based in genetics. But unfortunately I can't I can't
tell her that that's really moving and also a loss,
because um, wouldn't it have been wonderful for her to
know that it didn't matter, that it that it didn't matter,
It didn't matter her, uh and it didn't matter to her,

(37:02):
but also that it didn't matter to you, uh and
it didn't matter to your brother. And I think that
that's always you know, the fear is it's gonna it's
gonna make a difference, and you know that goes back
to well, then then it has to be then it
has to be kept secret and then and then it
remains this this um you know, in some way psychically

(37:22):
the elephant in the room. Yeah, I mean everyone has
secrets because, um, your research showed that at any given moment,
all of us, you know, on an average, are carrying
how many secrets as you define them, and that that
includes some of the dormant ones we were talking about too,
but um, yeah, that includes some small ones and big ones.

(37:47):
It's it's the whole picture. And and we're not just
all keeping many secrets, even you know, whilst only some
of them are currently relevant to today we're all keeping
the same kinds of secrets. Yeah, and that's so important
to note because if we only, if we only realize that,
like really on a deep level, realized that it would
just kind of explode the need to keep so many

(38:08):
of them. Yeah, as isolating and personal as a seeker
can feel, we all have similar ones. For more podcasts

(38:40):
for my heart radio, visit the I heart Radio app,
Apple podcast, or wherever you listen to your favorite shows.

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