Listen…Do You Want To Know a Secret?


Secrecy can be a form of coveting or hoarding, or it can be a healthy expression of boundaries.

I am secretive concerning my finances. For the most part, I choose to give out limited information. Those in trusted financial positions in my business know of the revenue I receive from the courses I teach. They do not, however, know of my retirement plan and how much is invested there. My financial advisor knows all about my retirement plan: the type of portfolio I possess as well as my retirement goals. Similarly, my accountant has the figures on my annual income and my bank learns about my net income over the last few years whenever I take out a car loan. My wife and I each are aware of our full f+inancial picture. To our knowledge, nobody else knows our complete financial picture, which may well be a naive assumption in these days of information overload, where anyone seems to be able to have access to personal and private information.

I have consciously chosen to be secretive in the handling of my finances. This is not so unusual since many people I know employ a certain element of discretion with regards to their own finances. Few of my friends voluntarily ask me how much I am earning, and I would not think to ask the same of my friends. This is a voluntary form of secrecy.

Secrecy is an important facet of my work with clients. I guarantee confidentiality. I assure my clients, “What is said between us will never go outside of these walls.” Everything my clients and I talk about remains between ourselves. I am voluntarily using secrecy as a tool to create a level of trust between us. I would expect the same from my doctor, accountant, and any friend or family member I may have entrusted with personal information.

If I am shamed I will go into hiding. I may not want to go into hiding, but given the circumstances, it may be one of the few ways to protect myself.

How might I be shamed? If I were the subject of abusive behaviour I would be shamed. I would be shamed if I was bullied, on the other end of sexually inappropriateness, yelled at in ways that were humiliating, controlled in times when other people’s needs were consistently more important than my own.

Trauma divides the emotional system. Emotional division is created when some behavioral parts are withdrawn from their functional roles, while others step into functional roles. (Read more about Trauma) (Read more about Parts).

Emotional division does not mean disintegration. In fact, division means the emotional system is made to feel stronger. This does not ensure that it is stronger. Stronger in this sense means it is fortified to withstand the possibility of abuse or trauma occurring again. Strengthening the system means shoring up its defenses and dealing with its troublemakers. It means moving into a state of impending war. (Read more about Defenses).

When the United States was attacked at Pearl Harbor the armed forces, indeed the nation itself, became more alerted to the possibility of being attacked again. The American-Japanese were interned in prison camps. The same occurred in Britain during the Second World War: every town had a siren to warn citizens of impending air attacks, in beach communities the population were trained to keep watchful eyes on the sea for signs of a German invasion, they were alerted to the possibility of unusual behaviour in people in case someone may be an enemy spy. The defenses were heightened, made more efficient and effective. And many Germans residing in Britain at that time were restricted in their movements.

Trauma induces division in the emotional system in the same way it creates division in a traumatized society. Trauma, whether emotional or societal, initiates the buoying up of defenses and the withdrawal or imprisonment of those sections of the community that are believed to have either caused the trauma, contributed to it, or have the potential to influence like-trauma occurring again in the future.

If we were to have interviewed those Americans who at the time agreed with the decision to intern the Japanese population within their own country, they are unlikely to say that the authorities responsible put the Japanese-Americans into camps because they were ashamed of them. If questioned, they would have likely said it was being done for the security of their country in a time of war. The Japanese-American citizens, however, on the other end of the decision, sitting behind the barbed wired fences guarded by armed soldiers, will feel shamed.

Shame is born out of distrust. The distrust those people were subject to caused them to feel the rest of the American population was ashamed of them. There is a strong argument to say this was the truth, that the American people were ashamed of their Japanese counterparts. Imagine, sitting in a prison camp or in any form of incarceration for a number of years under these conditions. It would be hard to not begin feeling that there was something essentially wrong with you.

Shame then induces secrecy, one in which we may choose, consciously or unconsciously, to hide ourselves, or certain parts of ourselves or personalities, with the hope and intention of preventing future trauma.

These are involuntary secrets: those we may feel the need to create in order to protect ourselves from the perceived effects of future trauma.


To understand the origins of shame, low self-esteem and self-confidence click on this link.

Tune in Next Friday and read about an involuntary secret that became very personal.


You have just read an excerpt from Pietro Abela’s forthcoming book, A Return to Consciousness

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I wish you well


7 thoughts on “Listen…Do You Want To Know a Secret?

  1. I didn’t realize that shame was a result of distrust. I felt a lot of shame about my heritage growing up. I felt shame because I felt I was different from others and didn’t fit in. I didn’t really understand why I felt like an outcast and am realizing there were many factors involved and not just my heritage. Interesting that shame induces secrecy. I never thought of it that way before. Of course I wanted to hide my heritage from others so I wouldn’t be judged. I also hid myself for other reasons as well. It’s helpful to understand that that to be safe, our defences create secrecy….
    Thank you Pietro for this new insight into shame and secrecy. It makes it easier for me to find acceptance and compassion for some of my my behaviours ( past and present) and why I wanted to hide so many aspects of myself.

    • Thank you for you comment, Evie and for sharing yourself in such a personal way.

      Shame does create distrust of self. However, the origin of shame is trauma. If the person on the other end of trauma is not able to rationalize or understand the true reasons behind the trauma he or she will therefore have no option but to draw self-conclusion from it. The self-conclusion will invariably be negative and will be directed towards themselves. More precisely, towards a certain aspect, or part, of their personality or method of functioning. This is more fully explained in the earlier blog titled Does Low Self-Esteem Limit You?

      Shame then is how we personalized our trauma. The defense response to the trauma is shame, and each one of us will experience shame, as some sort of negative self-conclusion. Defenses are always highly creative – but not necessarily correct. They invariably will latch on to any factor or story current in the person’s life to add weight to the shame.

      It is always useful to challenge shame. An example of such challenge could be, “Are my defenses correct in advising me that I am different from others?” You could take that a step further and create a statement directed towards the defense: “I refuse to accept the advice of my defense. ”

      I hope this helps, Evie. Thank you again for sharing.

  2. Thanks for all your contribution in your work and service to others. I appreciate your input regarding `shame`. There are or have been many reasons for feeling shame and I like the new insight given on this topic in these statements I have included below. Many blessings and happy Thanksgiving weekend.

    “Secrecy can be a form of coveting or hoarding, or it can be a healthy expression of boundaries. What is said between us will never go outside of these walls.” Everything my clients and I talk about remains between ourselves. I am voluntarily using secrecy as a tool to create a level of trust between us.“.

  3. I’d add ‘with-holding’ and ‘not responding’ to some silences or secrecies as possible strategies of the creative defences–conscious or unconscious.

    I like to and appreciate being responded to. A part of me can be frustrated when I don’t hear back from someone on some subject matters. Knowing of the cleverness of the CD’s—that it’s in their job description– helps me understand and be more creative ie. I can come up with many stories as to why someone didn’t get back to me——AND— not even invest any time in making up stories :} There’s much freedom and choice in this for me .I’m less inclined to take what I used to ——personally.

    • Hello Madelainne. My response to Evie has relevance to your comment too.

      To say that you are less “inclined to take what I used to personally” is saying that you are succeeding in reducing the influence of trauma. From the perspective of shame, if trauma’s influence is reduced then shame has less power and we are less inclined to personalize or to draw negative self-conclusion.

      You also make another important point: understanding the nature of shame helps to understand how people operate in general. This reduces the need to draw negative conclusion from people’s actions.

      Appreciated, Madelainne .

  4. This is my third read of this blog. And, finally I believe I have been able to think through the logic of the relationship between trauma and shame. My hesitancy to validate my own traumatic experiences and to accept how trauma has influenced my distrust and defensive behaviours seems bound up in “catch 22” logic. I can easily remember during my childhood/teenhood the forever present shameful feelings I felt regarding the behaviours (fighting, mental illness and poverty) that went on behind the doors of my family home. And, if there was some indication outside those doors within that small prairie town that others knew the truth I was even more traumatised and defensive.

    Well this is highly reflective and hopefully productive territory for me to stumble through. And, truly I am stumbling so here is the concept taking shape in. Y mind. Healthy secrets versus unhealthy secrets can lead to self distrust and shame which unconsciously gets added to and acted out in a defensive way. I very much appreciated your example of Japanese people Pietro. Imprisoned over time self destruct led to shame for the imprisoned Japanese people. My “imprisonment” (family trauma dynamics) resulting in unhealthy secrets and self distrust was undoubtedly significant.

    BUT BUT BUT!! I have a bit of an incessant self critical piece that doesn’t stop! It goes like this….”How self indulgent I am to call the dynamics of my formative years traumatic? Shouldn’t diagnosis such as PTSD or trauma sufferer be reserved for those who have witnessed war and or human suffering much more violent that what I suffered.” And herein lies the never ending circle. My defences are such that with this logic I am deftly applying the exact self distrust you describe in this article.

    As per your advice above…..”I refuse to accept this advice from my self defence.”

    Thank you Pietro

    Truly a work in progress… long……! Argh! I would rather just get plugged in somewhere to be rewired with a diagnosis of “healed” to your full human potential! HFHP….:)

    • Hello Judith,

      Not accepting the advice from the defense part, that your own trauma is irrelevant next to the trauma of others, is the most appropriate approach. Well done.

      We will always find others who have experienced more intense trauma than we have. There is a measurement to trauma. I quote below from my book, A Return to Consciousness:

      1. The age trauma occurred: The earlier the age the child was subject to his or her trauma, the fewer resources the child has available to enable him or her to cope with and recover from trauma. Therefore, the earlier the age the child was exposed to trauma, the greater the quantity, level and influence of survival-anxiety.

      2. The more abusive the care or the more abuse infiltrates the child’s care, the greater the quantity of survival-anxiety.

      3. How consistent conditional care was: The more consistent the trauma was – whether that trauma was grossly abusive or it was comparatively sublime in nature – the greater the quantity of survival-anxiety.

      I add to this list: the more pervasive the trauma – or the greater the length of time the person or child had to endure trauma – the greater its impact. Also, the earlier trauma was experienced the greater the effects of trauma. This is because children are more vulnerable and have less learned ability to recover from the trauma.

      So trauma has a measurement. This does not nullify or invalidate the trauma any single person suffered from. As the very first series of blogs states, personal change is more readily achieved if we first own our trauma. Comparing our trauma to others threatens to invalidate the owning of our trauma experience.

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