Posts Tagged ‘Michael Slepian’

Service of Secrets That Burden

Thursday, June 14th, 2018

Photo: rd.com

I’ve covered this topic before. I defended Nora Ephron in one post. Many of her friends had complained when she died “suddenly.” She’d kept her Leukemia diagnosis a secret. I wrote about General David Petraeus’ pillow talk where he was accused of sharing state secrets with his lover and about leakers in business and government.

Elizabeth Bernstein brought up a different perspective when she wrote “Should You Keep a Secret?” in The Wall Street Journal. One of her sisters, Rebecca, asked her to travel to be with her when she had a breast biopsy. She asked her to tell nobody else in the family, one that is chock full of doctors from surgeons to gynecologists. Her sister, an internist who trusted her surgeon, didn’t want the pressure of unsolicited advice.

Photo: theundercoverrecruiter.com

Bernstein asked: “How do you decide whether to keep someone’s secret when there are good reasons to tell?” More later about the repercussions of her decision to stay mum.

She offered other examples: You know the spouse of a person having an affair–do you snitch? What about a secret drinker in the family who needs help? Say you learn that a close friend, who died, had led a double life? “You might want to disclose someone’s secret if it will help him or her in the long run. Or if someone else is being hurt or has a right to know the information.”

According to studies to be published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology “we often feel closer to a loved one when we know a secret of theirs, but this information can also be a burden. The studies show that the closer a person is to a friend or loved one whose secret they know, the more he or she is likely to think about the secret. And the more friends the two people have in common, the more likely one person is to keep another’s secret.”

Photo: popsugar.com

Bernstein quoted the lead researcher, Michael Slepian, PhD, Columbia Business School: “Just having to think about someone else’s secret makes it harmful to our wellbeing.” In an earlier study Dr. Slepian reported that when people think about a secret, everything seems to be more difficult: “They estimate hills to be steeper and distances to be farther” than people not so burdened.

So what happened to Bernstein? She was still at her sister’s house when her mother called. Mom knew—her sister had told her—and “was angry with me for preventing the rest of the family from supporting Rebecca.” The gynecologist was “hurt that I didn’t seem to value her expertise. Too late, I realized that in keeping Rebecca’s secret, I might have betrayed others. It took me almost a week to get back into everyone’s good graces. By then, we’d learned that the biopsy, thankfully, was negative.”

Had you been Bernstein, would you have told the rest of the family? Do you think anyone has “the right” to personal information and someone’s secret and that you should be the person to share it? Have you felt burdened and sluggish when harboring a dear one’s secret? Have you been in the “no good deed goes unpunished” position, like Bernstein, on the bad end of the stick when others learn you knew but didn’t share? Are there some personal secrets you should never share under any circumstance?

Photo: kbic.com

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