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Continuum of Secrets®

This chart categorizes Secret Keeping and where it fits among secrets in general.


Continuum of Secrets

LITTLE HARM TO MORE HARM

MUCH HARM TO GREAT HARM

1
SIMPLE SECRETS

(everybody has)

2
SILENT SECRETS

(dark and taboo but passive)

3
SECRET KEEPING

(acting out ethical and moral wrongs but nothing illegal)

4
CRIMINAL-PSYCHOTIC BEHAVIOR

(arrestable offenses or hospitalizations)

BENIGN

PASSIVE

DYNAMIC

MALIGNANT


1. Simple Secrets emerge from isolated, rare events, the kind of harmless mistakes or lapses in judgment that seldom require self-disclosure or therapy – often memories of childhood or adolescent activities.

2. Silent Secrets result from ingrained thoughts or attitudes and can pose a risk to one's mental health. Fantasies that are not acted out fit here. So do acts of deceptive omission, as in the thoughts of racism, sexism or bigotry that are never spoken in anyone's presence.

3. Secret Keeping goes one step further and includes acting out, more specifically, indulging in habits or rituals that can lead to risking one's safety, health, or sanity and that of others. These are the kind of harmful patterns that make one sick, and the person caught up in them can benefit from disclosure and therapy. Secrets in this category include behavior patterns and rituals that lead to sneaking away to do things that make one feel better. These hidden acts stretch, and eventually transgress, ethical/moral standards and relational boundaries but do not cross the line into breaking the law or psychosis.

4. Criminal-Psychotic Behavior: Secrets in this category may include a mixture of secrets from the previous categories, but the acting out of them violates legal boundaries/standards, thereby making the crimes punishable by law, such as shoplifting. Certain acts may not constitute crime, but they sink to the level of serious psychological pathology. A psychotic person is one who loses touch with reality and becomes captive to paranoia, delusions, and hallucinations, often leading to hospitalization or institutionalization. Like the delirious Mr. Hyde, the individual's split personality divides too far, making the healthy psyche lose its governing power over the unhealthy psyche. Movie characters like Cy Parish in One-Hour Photo or the kidnapper in Silence of the Lambs fit this description.