Re: my ongoing “Recapitulation Project”: I continue to root around in the bowels of stuff I wrote decades ago. Usually I’m working with complete essays which, if I still appreciate them, I post here, under “AK Reader.” But there’s one piece of paper that, over the years, has continued to surface, over and over again, reminding me of when I wrote it down, in some kind of inspirational frenzy. No longer remember when or where, likely at least 40 years ago; in any case, the words on this old wrinkled piece of paper, for me at least, continue to provoke.
Here goes, verbatim, with the word “origins” larger and circled, in the left margin.
Secrecy is natural result when you didn’t get the privacy you needed. (When there is a collapse — or a non-building — of boundaries between self and others, so no sense of self. [The word “self” underlined, twice.]
Secrecy then becomes self’s way of assuring a (secret) identity in private. [The phrase “in private” added later and placed above.] Secret, because if others knew about it, they would take it away.
Healthy people give each other privacy — all the circles must be honored —. [By which I meant, the “circle of the self” as the first of a set of concentric circles radiating out from the center of the self. This idea, of “honoring all the circles,” has been one of my foundational assumptions all these years.
Unhealthy people deny others privacy and then force them into secrecy in order to obtain privacy.
Then, larger, and as if a crucial afterthought.
Holding or keeping secrets drains energy.
I think back to the times when I felt it necessary to keep a (very private i.e., secret) journal: always when I was in some kind of dicey, mutually controlling, mutually ambivalent relationship with a man. But not all men. For example, my deceased husband Jeff gave me plenty of room, and respected my individuality (the central “circle of my self”); furthermore, though I tried to control him, it didn’t work. He would just look at me as if I was nuts. I find it a very good sign that, after the first year or so, I felt no need to keep a journal during our 12 years together.
And let me confess — after all, I’m a forever recovering “Catholic”! As a young girl, if I found somebody’s journal, I would find a way to sneakily read it. And of course, felt guilty for doing so. But my need to understand “where they were coming from” was even stronger than my conscience. I was always, from an early age, highly aware of the enormous difference between what someone “showed” on the outside, and what they were “really like” on the inside. Or maybe I was just so aware of that difference in myself that I figured everybody must be like me?! Though of course, I pretended that I wasn’t like that, along with pretending that I did not read another person’s private journal. Not that anyone ever accused me of doing so. I was very careful . . .
What would I have done had someone accused me of reading their journal? Would my conscience have won out? Or would I have lied, and thus doubled the guilt? Somehow I doubt it, since “telling the truth” was always a primary value for this Sagittarian.
In these days when we are obsessed with, and appalled by, the idea of government secrecy, and especially, of how nations (especially this one) uses the phrase “national security” as a justification for secrecy (and thus control — of at least information, and often much more), I like to remember that the need for secrecy starts inside each of us very early on, given this culture where the paradoxical needs for both individuality (privacy) and community are so rarely in balance.