Richard S. Messing
The Ethic of Human Repair

On secrets, the unconscious and human nature

Why so often do people appear to have a secret agenda, sometimes so secret they themselves are unaware of it?  Why do we keep our personal problems so secret given it is no secret everyone has them?  Why do we keep secrets even from those we are most loyal to and love?

These questions are meant to be rhetorical, inviting us to begin thinking about the human condition, choosing as a starting point the phenomenon we call ‘secrets.’  Given that secrets are uniquely human, there are a few questions about secrets that are specifically designed to yield insights about ourselves.  People get somewhat confused by these questions, because the nature of secrets and the human condition is fundamentally paradoxical, given that paradox naturally causes confusion.

Some people have little tolerance for confusion such that you may not even tolerate reading this blog post in its entirety.  But if you are sufficiently interested in helping people, including yourself, solve the chronic human problems that confront us daily, it is essential to understand the paradoxical nature of our human condition, especially the nature of confusion. Confusion alerts us that something appears wrong or unknown, that we do not yet understand nor have explained.

Keep in mind that paradox and confusion are the two statues that guard the gates to the ancient Buddhist temples where, for centuries, many people sought the Truth.  Paradox is also the thirteenth rule that scholars and students of the Talmud use to derive the Truth, G-d’s Will, from the Bible.  And in their efforts to prove their theories, scientists work to reconcile the paradoxes posed by the output data of their experiments.  Apparently, the human nervous system is biologically organized to detect paradox so that we can see the world rightly.

I do want to alert you before we go further.  People deal with confusion in different ways.  Some people naturally feel threatened when they get confused especially when the paradox involves their own self-image.  For example, if you are a psychologist and what you are now reading contradicts your beliefs about how human beings function, your confusion will probably cause you to question the validity of what you are reading, instead of questioning the validity of your prevailing beliefs about human behavior.  Or, if you are a person whose self-image includes the belief that you are not smart enough, your confusion may lead you to stop reading further in order to relieve yourself of the pain of feeling inadequate.  So  we need to pay close attention to our own internal reactions to the paradox of secrets, which begins with the following question.

The question is, can you lie about anything?  I’ve asked many people this question, and most say, “yes”, off-the-cuff.  What do you think?  Do you think it is possible to lie about anything?  For example, can a person lie about being alive?  Can the statement, “I am alive” be a lie?  Obviously not, because you must be alive when making such a statement. This is a silly example, but nevertheless true.

Are there any other statements that must be true when we say them, that cannot be a lie?

Consider the statement, “I have secrets.”

If a person says, “I have secrets”, can they be lying? 

Before answering, keep in mind that we are completely in control, as in an act of free will, of what we keep secret and what we no longer keep secret, by simply declaring so.  We can declare to ourselves, privately, that we will not withhold any information from anyone who asks us for it, which would mean we no longer keep secrets, in which case we would be lying if we said, “I have secrets”.

Now, please answer the following question:

If a person says, “I have secrets”, can they be lying?

If your answer is “yes”, you are incorrect.  If your answer is “no”, you are correct, but your reason is probably incorrect.  Here’s why:

The statement “I have secrets” can’t be a lie due to the fact that whenever you lie you always keep the fact you are lying a secret from the person you are lying to.  In other words, lying always creates a new secret, which forces the statement “I have secrets” to be true, always.

Take the case of the person who declares to themselves privately that they are no longer keeping secrets.  If such a person were to say “I have secrets”, he would be creating a paradox by contradicting himself, which would make the person either a hypocrite or ignorant about the nature of lies and secrets.

The paradoxical nature of secrets leads to a much more important insight, which is that every human being must have an unconscious, where secrets are kept unbeknownst to the person who possesses them.  We derive this conclusion in the following way:

We already established that the statement “I have secrets” is always true.  It is also true that a person has the freedom to make the statement “I have secrets” at any time.  Given that the statement “I have secrets” does not, in and of itself, create any secrets, then it must be the case that the person making the statement already possesses secrets at the time they make the statement “I have secrets”.  And since a person can make such a statement at any time, it must be the case that everyone possesses secrets at all times.  Because we can decide, at any time, to no longer keep secrets, it must also be the case that we possess secrets that we are not yet conscious of.  In common parlance, the location of such secrets is referred to as the unconscious.

* * *

G-d, who is very secretive, spoke to humanity only once, approximately 3000 years ago, at Mount Sinai, according to the Bible.   In Genesis, G-d disclosed that He created Man in His Image.  By definition, G-d can create and destroy anything at any time at will.  Likewise, we can create and destroy secrets at anytime at will.  Furthermore, according to the Bible, G-d created His Creation, including Man, by speaking.  Likewise, we create secrets by speaking, by simply saying what is or is not a secret. The fact that we can create and destroy secrets and do so by speaking is one example of the divine nature of Man.

G-d, who exists in His own unique secret realm, is an absolute unique oneness, such that there is no other being like Him and nothing else can co-exist in His Realm – He is absolutely alone in this respect, by definition.  Isn’t it fascinating that every person is also an absolute unique oneness, in that there are no two people exactly alike.  Furthermore, everyone has a private mind that is a unique secret realm where no one else can co-exist – we too are absolutely alone in this respect.  This is another example of the divine nature of Man, consistent with G-d’s decision to create Man in His Image.

On a final note, a sure way to develop a very close relationship with someone is to exchange one’s most closely held secrets.  For a more elaborate treatment on this topic, read Secrets about Secrets.

About the Author
People are seeking greater meaning, freedom and growth in their personal and professional lives. Because the source of freedom, meaning and growth is poorly understood, they are often difficult to achieve and maintain. For this reason, in 2004, Richard Messing embarked on a research project culminating in The Ethic of Human Repair, the intellectual property that documents the underlying principles and methods that describe, explain and solve chronic personal or organizational problems where human freedom, meaning and growth pertain. Richard is a published writer, invited conference speaker and thought leader on the human condition in general and free will in particular. In 2019, Richard formed Kotel Group LLC, an ethics-based business consulting firm, to rehabilitate and transform chronically underperforming for-profit or non-profit organizations that resist conventional management interventions and methodologies.
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