Your Secret Room

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Everyone has a secret room. I go to mine a lot. People around me can tell when it happens. One moment, I'm present, and in the next, the look in my eyes betrays me, revealing that I'm somewhere far away. Before I get ahead of myself, let me take a step back for those who may be unfamiliar with the concept.

Those who are fans of the HBO series "Six Feet Under" will know exactly what I'm referring to. In fact, I'll give the show credit for coining the term. The idea of a "secret room" came about in the first season. The main character, Nate, in dealing with the aftermath of his father, Nathaniel's death, discovered that his father, a funeral home owner, had been bartering for funeral services. One of the things he had apparently gotten in exchange was an empty room. Since Nathaniel is dead, Nate is only left to stand in the room and imagine what his father used it for during his life. Gambling? Hookers? Drugs? He never found out, of course. The "secret room" in the show became a multilayered, brilliant metaphor, which was and still is a favorite among its fans.

Your "secret room" is the part of your consciousness that no one else sees. It's got all of the things you've thought but never said to anyone else. It houses your darkest fears and insecurities, guilty pleasures, and true motivations. It also has your innermost desires, some of them relegated there simply because you're afraid to tell them to anyone. I won't lie. There's some scary shit in there. Your secret room is a lot more like a dark attic than an inviting sun room. 

It's a very busy place. This is because every single thought you have is born there. From birth, you must decide whether to "dress" the thought and send it out into the world, or leave it naked and confined to the dark recesses of your mind. Some of these thoughts lie quietly in the shadows, like sleeping cats, all but forgotten. Others become loud and obnoxious, pawing at your conscious mind, constantly demanding your attention like a poorly trained, flea-ridden hound. These are the ones you have to watch out for. These are the ones who hold the secret to who you really are.

The philosopher Descartes introduced the popular phrase, cogito ergo sum. "I think, therefore I am." In other words, we are the sum of our thoughts. I've heard some argue instead that we are the sum of our acts. I don't think this is true and, and here's why: Before you act, you must conceive the thought that inspires the act. The thought is processed, and the action is then executed. Inevitably, the processing will filter out some of the purity of the original thought. So while the act may still be closely aligned with the thought, the thought itself remains the purest reflection of the mind that conceived it. Therefore, our unfiltered thoughts are the truest reflection of who we are. Since our unfiltered thoughts live in our secret room, then that room is the best reflection of our true selves. Yes, your secret room has a lot of terrifying things in it. But it also has a lot of good things in it. It's the rawest version of YOU there is. Visiting, taking inventory, and organizing your secret room regularly is the only way you can square with yourself. Alone there, you must sort through the debris, organize the chaos, and figure out what you really want.

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There are many people whose secret rooms are not that different from their outward selves. I believe they are some of the least-stressed, easy-going, and content of us all. They exude inner peace. They don't take much personally, forgive and forget easily, and seem to be generally satisfied with life. They tend to take things at face value, and rarely over-analyze anything. They know who they are, what they want, and spend their lives working to achieve it.

On the other hand, the secret rooms of others contain a reality that is altogether out of line with who they appear to be on the outside. It's possible to maintain this deficit for a while. Some do so for months, years, or even decades. Inevitably, the conflict between your inner and outer self will eventually reach its boiling point. When this happens, something extreme must occur to restore the balance. We commonly refer to this phenomenon as a "mid-life crisis." Trust me, it will happen at some point, it's only a matter of when. It's not necessarily a bad thing. It's just what happens when we deny ourselves what we truly want for too long. 

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You will know if your secret room is too far out of sync with your outer self. You will feel it in your soul. It will feel restless the way your legs do when you've been in the car on a twelve hour road trip. It will feel hungry and unsatisfied, like eating candy on an empty stomach. It will feel confined and compressed like your waistline in a pair of too-tight jeans. That's the real you, scratching furiously at the surface, trying to get out and breathe.   

If you feel this way, it's probably not your fault. From the time we are old enough to speak, we are under an unbelievable amount of pressure to comport ourselves in a way that is dictated by those that surround us. Today, with social media at an all-time peak, not only are we influenced by those in physical proximity to us, we are told how we should be by everyone in our worldwide cyber network. God forbid the people of the internet disapprove of our life choices! The disparity between representation and reality that I've seen on Facebook is astounding. 

Of course, this doesn't mean that you should post all of your business on the internet, or even tell other people all of your secrets. Everyone has a private self. It's normal and healthy. Obviously, we can't act on every single impulse we have. We can't just say everything that pops into our minds. We can't always have everything we want when we want it. Sacrifice is a part of daily survival, after all. But at some point, we will all have to reckon with the creatures we keep trapped in our rooms, lest they escape on their own terms. Some of us have mice. Others have dragons. What have you got locked up in your secret room?

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Thanks for reading!

1 comment

  1. To be mindful of your secret room and to analyse it is like reading a book. It's a taxing but rewarding exercise requiring introspection, maturity, and effort. That's why people play grand theft auto, consume porn/watch sports, and say hateful, stupid things to strangers on facebook instead.