Episode 117: The Secret Life of Secrets

August 9, 2022 by Justin Lehmiller

Sex and Psychology Podcast

Episode 117: The Secret Life of Secrets


Think about a secret you’re keeping right now. Odds are, it shouldn’t take long for something to come to mind. We all keep secrets. In fact, the average person is keeping roughly 13 secrets at any given point in time! So what exactly are we hiding, and why are we hiding so much? Today’s episode offers a deep dive into the psychology of secrets. We’ll explore why secrecy is such a pervasive part of our lives, the psychological effects of secrecy, how to deal with the burdens of secrecy, and much more.

My guest today is Michael Slepian, an Associate Professor of Leadership and Ethics at Columbia University. His latest book is titled The Secret Life of Secrets: How Our Inner Worlds Shape Well-Being, Relationships, and Who We Are. Some of the topics we discuss include:

  • The difference between secrecy and privacy.
  • The difference between secrecy and lying.
  • The most common things people keep secret (hint: sex and relationships are pretty high on the list!).
  • How your personality affects the number of secrets you keep–and how good you are at keeping them.
  • The potential positive and negative effects of secrecy on our mental health.
  • How keeping other people’s secrets is different from keeping your own secrets.
  • What to do when secrecy becomes really burdensome.

Check it out! To learn more about Michael, check out his website at michaelslepian.com, take the secrets survey at keepingsecrets.org, and check out The Secret Life of Secrets.

Thanks to FirmTech (myfirmtech.com) and the Modern Sex Therapy Institutes (modernsextherapyinstitutes.com)  for sponsoring this episode!

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Credits: Jonathan Raz Audio (Podcast editing) and Shutterstock/Florian (Music). Image created with Canva; photos used with permission of guest.

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Written by

Dr. Justin Lehmiller

Founder & Owner of Sex and Psychology

Dr. Justin Lehmiller is a social psychologist and Research Fellow at The Kinsey Institute. He runs the Sex and Psychology blog and podcast and is author of the popular book Tell Me What You Want. Dr. Lehmiller is an award-winning educator, and a prolific researcher who has published more than 50 academic works.

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