"Our shadow thrives when we have secrets. The moment we close the door on one or more aspects of ourselves, we set into motion a secret life. There's an adage in twelve-step programs: 'Your secrets keep you sick.' And in my years of working with people, I can confirm that this is, in fact, true. It is nothing to be ashamed of, because most of us have a public life and a secret life. We have a public persona we show the world and a secret life we keep hidden. We construct a secret life in order to hide the parts of ourselves that we're most ashamed to face. It could be an area of our life that holds some shame or where we are behaving in a way we fear will be unacceptable to those we love. Maybe it's an area of our life that's out of control, a habit or addiction we are struggling with, or a fantasy that we're afraid to speak out loud. When our behaviors are incongruent with the masks we wear, we will work hard to hide them. We might be really sweet and caring to everyone we come in contact with during the day and then go home at night and yell at our kids. Maybe we position ourselves as a brilliant intellectual while we're with our colleagues, only to go home and spend hours watching mindless TV and playing video games. Perhaps we're in a committed relationship but are secretly cheating, or we act like a self-made success when the fact is we are secretly living off our parents.
"Our unresolved shame causes us to act out; it eventually gets expressed as an outer behavior that blows the cover off the parts of our life we've been trying to conceal. We can work day and night trying to control our hidden impulses from ever coming to the surface, but we are only a moment away from acting in ways that undermine our self-respect. If we've been hiding a part of our life in which we act without integrity, it will eventually be exposed as we write bad checks or cheat on our tax returns. If we routinely cover over feelings of loneliness, they may surface in the quiet of the night as an insatiable hunger for sugar, alcohol, or sedatives to fill the emptiness we feel. If the rage we were subjected to decades ago is not addressed and released, it may seek expression by turning us in to a nagging parent or a bickering spouse. Maybe our distaste for our cheating parent causes us to keep attracting partners who can't be trusted and are emotionally abusive. It could be that our normal sexual curiosity was shut down at a young age, giving rise to an insatiable fascination with illegal pornography or dangerous sex. However, to free ourselves from the unmanageable compulsions that cause us to live a secret life, we must find healthy ways to express our repressed aspects so that we can be safe from behaviors that can sabotage our life."