Culture

TED Weekends explores the catharsis of revealing secrets

Posted by: Kate Torgovnick May
Photo: James Duncan Davidson

Photo: James Duncan Davidson

In 2004, Frank Warren began a massive undertaking: he distributed 3,000 blank postcards and invited strangers to share their secrets with him. This project grew into PostSecret.com – which now holds more than half a million secrets. Warren found that this initiative reveals our common fears, hopes, loves and desires – which are otherwise invisible. With Post Secret, he gives people the opportunity to anonymously relieve their silent burdens.

Frank Warren: Half a million secretsFrank Warren: Half a million secretsAt TED2012, Warren shared some of these secrets, showing the impact that the revealing of a secret can have. Today’s edition of TED Weekends on the Huffington Post explores his talk. Below, find two essays all about the power of secrets. Plus, make sure to check out HuffPo’s slideshow of 10 particularly poignant secrets that people have revealed to the site.

Frank Warren: We want to tell our secrets… Anonymously

Secrets can be transformative: Sharing a secret with another person, or just with ourselves, can change who we are.

Two questions I often hear are: Do you think these anonymous secrets are true? And what happens if you get a secret about a serious crime?

I think of each postcard as a work of art, and as self-revelatory art. Secrets can have different layers of truth. Some can be both true and false; others can become true over time depending on our choices.

Sometimes a secret we keep from ourselves only becomes true after we read it on a stranger’s postcard. Early in the project I received this email:

“Dear Frank, Do you know that I left my boyfriend of a year and a half because of the postcard that read, ‘His temper is so scary, I’ve lost all my opinions.’ It hadn’t even occurred to me what was happening, and it took a total stranger writing it down to make me realize what the hell was going on in my life.” Read the full essay »

Pepper Schwartz: The Secrets We Keep From Our Partners

I recently did a study that, among other things, looked at the secrets and lies that people keep from their spouse or committed partner. You know, the person who we share vows with, the person who we say “I love you” to, the person we share a bed and a life with — that person. The national and international study of 80,000 people, part of which appears in The Normal Bar (with Chrisanna Northrup and Jim Witte) indicates that secrets and lies are commonplace in relationships, not only in the United States, but in the world. 43 percent of men and 33 percent of women say they keep major secrets from each other — in fact, 27 percent of people who said they were in an “extremely happy relationship” also admitted to having major secrets from their partner.

In France and Italy , big secrets seem to be a way of life; approximately 75 percent of men and women there said they had them. As for lies, 75 percent of our men, and 71 percent of the women said they occasionally lie to their partner-and that was even true for 69 percent of the happiest couples. Read the full essay »