Thursday, January 13, 2005

Secret Lives

From the New York Times (free registration required)
...... but psychologists say that most normal adults are well equipped to start a secret life, if not to sustain it. The ability to hold a secret is fundamental to healthy social development, they say, and the desire to sample other identities - to reinvent oneself, to pretend - can last well into adulthood. And in recent years researchers have found that some of the same psychological skills that help many people avoid mental distress can also put them at heightened risk for prolonging covert activities.

"In a very deep sense, you don't have a self unless you have a secret, and we all have moments throughout our lives when we feel we're losing ourselves in our social group, or work or marriage, and it feels good to grab for a secret, or some subterfuge, to reassert our identity as somebody apart," said Dr. Daniel M. Wegner, a professor of psychology at Harvard. He added, "And we are now learning that some people are better at doing this than others."
I think that societal pressures in Kuwait have forced many Kuwaitis to lead secret lives in one form or another, away from their regular everyday existences. The Internet's various tools - blogs, forums, chat rooms etc. - have allowed many to invent a totally new persona for themselves, and have unleashed a range of talents, voices and experiences that were previously suppressed or perhaps undiscovered.


  1. We all have secret lives that are parallel to the usual, its just the same as saying something and thinking otherwise...ain't it? humm, evil people are the only ones whose secret lives are on display and clear. I mean, its not going to be secret unless its something extraordinarly evil...

  2. I don't think evil has much to do with it... it's just a need to retain a private life that is nobody's business but your own

    Jewaira.. you were front and center in my thoughts when I read the NY Times article ;-)

  3. Having a secret side to ones person is a good thing I guess. But to invent a persona and lead a secret life is taking it too far. I for one prefer an open life regardless of sociaties pressures. most of my life I was able to fend it off by not giving it any importance and at the sametime keeping my integrity!

  4. Some people around me are leading very lame secret lives.. What a waste of secrecy.

  5. Your absolutely right. Living in a society like ours, one has no choice but to keep certain aspects of themselves secret or else risk being scorned and judged by the people around us, often time those closest to us. The way I deal with it, and some might see it as hypocritical, is by having different groups of friends with little or no connection with one another. There's the group that I party with, the group I fulfill social obligations and protocol with, one that I like to converse with intelectually, my work buddies, family.....and so on. I'm carefull not to mix from group to group because each see me in a certain way. These different characters are all a part of me, but living here in kuwait as a female, I'm not totally comfortable being everything all at once.....
    I hope I made sense, sometimes things are clearer in my head. Definately a subject worth discussing openly and many others on you blog. I'm a new reader and I'll be checking out your blog more often...

  6. Good example Samy. Same thing applies on me too; I am a totally different person with my friends.

    "In a very deep sense, you don't have a self unless you have a secret..."

    It should be a good thing to have secrets then, since having a self means having a character of one's own. It may not be unhealthy afterall.

    Good topic

  7. Zaidoun
    Although blogs and internet are a way to unravel ones suppressed personalities, they are not so secret with our societies curious, and extremely witty minds. All will eventually be known. Secret lives the author is referring to is more evident in our society than anywhere else in the world. Here, most are with double standards, and multiple personalities. It all depends on where and how you meet them ;)

  8. I used to believe in the ideal that we shouldn't live a lie, and should always be frank and open about how we live. Moving back to Kuwait made me realize the urgent importance of having a secret life. To protect personal mental health at least, especially since non-conformists are often ostracized in this type of society. Needless to say, I developed multiple personalities in Kuwait. human capablitiy to adapt is truly amazing indeed!

  9. I don't think I harbour a secret life... With me what you see is what you get.. How Positively Boring!

    I wish I did have a secret life.. Secret lives ROCK! It's so much more fun to know or do something not everyone knows about...

    *sigh* I want to be a secret agent a la Mata Hari style.. Loyal to no one but myself :)

    A Dreamy PSS

  10. Luminous: you have put it in words beautifully n simply this agonizing realizaion that turns into a dillema. You spoke a truth thats out there.
    We adapt yes but the process for me was horribly hard, even though, I did not change much i resist it almost everyday I simply refuse bieng ambiguouse and to resort to lying so bluntly. This is and imprtant issue as it was said in another comment because we might make a mistake in the generation after us to think that reaching this hight of secrecy mixed with double standards is alright. or that it is excused. How can we make a change?I can see there is a lot of ppl out there who do not like living everything in secrecy so what are we to do?

  11. beatnik:
    when I was living my life out in the open I was subjected to a lot of judgement...personally I decided it wasn't worth it. we live in a society that is infected with superficiality and double standards.
    The danger is that even independent thinkers become somehow brainwashed to conform and judge all those around them simply to avoid being ostracized.
    I think developing a community of creative, westernized and versatile individuals that are all willing to accept each other might alleviate the double life phenomena. I suppose its a matter of time, for people to get educated and more open minded. LOL..I've been here for more than a year, and I'm STILL finding ways to 'adapt'.

  12. This november marked a year of me being back in Kuwait, and I can safely say I get what your saying! One of the ways that I've learned to cope...and this might by taking off every 8weeks or so, for an extended weekend somewhere fun. I've explained to my boss that I need a change of scenary from time to time and he's fine with that. Weekend trips are my therapy!

  13. هل بالإمكان التعليق على هذا الموضوع باللغة السواحلية ؟

  14. أبو حفص... الموضوع عن الحياة السرية لكل شخص، ومدى تفشي هذه الظاهرة في مجتمعنا الذي يتسرع في اطلاق الأحكام على الغير ضمن نظرة ضيقة لا تتقبل ما هو مختلف عن السائد

    أنت مثلاً لك شخصيتك المهووسة بالحمامات، لكن قد لا يعلم أهلك أي شيء عنها

    بعدين شدعوى إلى هالدرجة ميح بالانجليزي؟

  15. Very interesting discusssion .. I think that the whole thing depends on the type of the family you are raised in .. If your parents are open-minded and encouraging you will grow up doing what you like and saying what you want .. you will just be yourself everywhere ..

  16. I forgot to add something .. these blogs introduced to different types of people that I didn't know that they really exist here in Kuwait .. They just didn't have to chance to show up ..

  17. معظم الشباب العربي المسلم التقي المبشر بالجنة يستخدم الإنترنت من أجل مشاهدة الصور والأفلام الإباحية و في نفس الوقت يحافظ على أداء صلاة الجمعة

  18. tattas: Man you culdn;t be more wrong about the parents and raising thing. My father for example is a fantastcilly confused man, reaaaallly strict, Am not really allowed to go out, for example I cannot say am going to the souk alone and go off three hours god knows where, someone has to g with me and he won;t understand why I would need more than an hour to finish up,but then again he sent me all the way to Ireland alone for an education! Am 27 an not married because the thought of a strange man talking to me infuriates my father so taking the traditional way the Syrian do by exposing thier daughters to families and thier sons in public places and gatherings like the Bardawni and all those lebanese and syrian style eateries.That is a no no for him, he thinks it humiliating to parade me like that(me too lol) still he sits there wondering why am not getting proposals lol.
    Instead I live my private life exactly as it is PRIVATE not secret.
    And as you said there is some wonderfully exciting poeple in Kuwait, which I myself after 27 years in Kuwait just found out about it. silly me.

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  20. I think leading a secret life isnt a product of modernism. History is rich with prominent people, who have led secret lives. In my humble opinion, leading a secret life gives the person a feeling similar to that of an andrenaline rush, one needs to be unique and many define uniqueness as doing something that others havent done, or doing something others dont know that you're doing.

    For example in Kuwait like in many other societies, when someone does something that doesnt, adhere to the norms of the society, then its going to be a feeding frenzy, therefore, that individual would prefere to do things in private instead of public to avoid criticism and humilation. One more reason is that men dig mysterious women and vice versa, though some people might not have a secret life they might pretend to have one just to show others that they're unique, sexy, and actually have a certain individuality.

    rambling like always................

  21. I used to be a man... Just kidding! :)

    My VERY un-virginal Kuwaiti girlfriends have to act like virgins. They were taught to fake who they really are at an early age - and guess what - they fake who they really are all the way up to marriage. Nobody ever really knows them! Gay male friends have to act straight and get married to prove to their parents that they're not really gay. Friends "forced" to marry by their families (grow up and say NO) can't stand each other, but stay married "for the kids"; everybody ends up cheating on everybody. AIDS is on the rise in Kuwait.

    What have secrets gotten Kuwait? Really. Why can't people be themselves, speak their minds - and still retain their culture? It CAN be done.

    I agree - it depends on how you are raised. If your parents teach you that it is okay to lie, then you'll fear exposing your true identity for your entire life.


Keep it clean, people!