I do not like being duplicitous.   A state of being double: both here and what I am, whilst aware that soon I will be not quite there and not quite what I am.  There is nothing I can do about this, it is the way things have to be, but every time I agree to something enthusiastically in the moment when I am being who I am,  I live with the thought that soon my promises might not be possible to deliver in the way we’ve all assumed and, in truth, a bit of me dies.  But I cannot be other than I am otherwise I might alert those around me that things will be changing and make those changes visible.  And it must not be made visible.  I must lie by omission.  I find this soul destroying and stressful.  Perhaps this is the same for everyone?

If we lie a little, or perhaps are not quite positioned to tell the whole truth – does this erode our self? Does it change who we are?

When people meet me they often say, “you’re so calm.”  This is a compliment.  But it is also something I have cultivated to buy me time, to not give my lack of knowledge or understanding away to those around me.   They also say I am funny.  I do have good comic timing (and a slightly riotous brain that will not always behave itself.)  I puzzle the possibility that I am both of these things: calm and funny, but also that they are cloaks I have created to hide the person who is neither of these things.  But perhaps we are what we are and the antithesis too – the shadow side?

I think the combination of calm and funny is generally considered a good thing and I really am these things although when you are neither – an off day perhaps – people ask, “Are you okay?”

And if you are not okay because you are holding a secret I think this becomes a matter of stress.  You do not need to wrap it up in bandages to give it form though.  I think of it as waves of pain across the stomach region.  Animals can die of stress.  And stress has a physical dimension if left unchecked that can lead to symptoms that affect your body and your thoughts.  Cortisol is released in massive quantities when you’re stressed and it speeds up your brain and slows down your body.   The stress I’m under is not a threat to life: in fact it’s essentially very exciting BUT stress can be totally traumatic and debilitating.

I’ve got no stories to tell today – just these observations here.  If you have to transition from one place to another and that requires some level of secrecy because of structures or protocols, however well intentioned it starts to feel like a physical pain.

And if you try to live and breathe authenticity, that is inevitably compromised.  It’s not serious.  It’s not life-threatening BUT it makes you feel a bit not yourself.

And if you are in this place it troubles your integrity.

I do need to get a grip though. Really!

Let’s get some perspective on this.

Imagine if you had a real secret to keep, something that you could never tell the world because to do so would make the world slip into nothingness, into another place and certain death?  Imagine if you were living in a society that would want to kill you if they knew who you really were.  Many people have to live like this and don’t have to imagine it: people live in daily fear for their lives.  Many people have secrets that would kill them if they spoke them out loud.  This week figures have been released that indicate around 1 in 4 people world wide believe that gay people should be charged with criminal offences just for being gay.  45% of respondents in 15 African countries felt this way.  Even in the UK, what might be considered a liberal country, 17% of those questioned felt that same-sex couples should be charged just for being in these relationships.  For some gay people in the world, to come out is to sign your own death warrant.

People lived submerged ‘untergetaucht’ in Nazi Germany, living as non-Jews throughout the war years – living underground and changing their identities to avoid detection.  For example, about 1500 Jews survived in Berlin in this way helped by underground movements or through sheer tenacity.  Their lives were not always lived well – women particularly were beaten, attacked, raped.  And yet some lived to tell the tale.  And many others sacrificed something to help save them.  There are people now who are living untergetaucht in all countries: migrants who have slipped through or people who hold secrets that could kill them, their beliefs, their truths.

There is much about truth and lies in the news at the moment.  About what is fake and what is real. About what is acceptable and what is unacceptable.  About who knew what and what we knew.

I knew about Jimmy Saville: I never met him, but I knew.  Every woman I have ever known knew ‘about’ him.

I imagine people knew (and did not say) about Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey and Max Stafford Clark.  I imagine that many people know in most business places in most walks of life of men (and some women) who have behaved the way these men have behaved.   I have reported incidents of men not behaving well at work because I believe that to know and not to do is not to know. And then you are part of the problem too.

So, to go full circle – where I am at is, in the hierarchy of telling lies, a necessary temporary stay on not telling the truth that I must live with for (hopefully) under a month or (worse case scenario) a couple of months and it is not such a big deal. And it will be a good truth when it emerges so I can live with myself even if it doesn’t sit easy.

I do not know how people who have lived bad things like sexually predatory behaviour or harassment live with their duplicity – but as Vicky Featherstone says  We. All. Knew. So it is time to do something about it.

I make no excuse for these men but I think truth is often elusive for ourselves.  Walt Whitman nailed it for me:

“Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes”?

Because what Whitman knew, and what we all know, whether we say it out loud or not is that we are all flawed, that we are often contradictory or confused.

But this will never excuse hurting another living soul in any circumstances…never.

Tell the truth as often as you can.  I do.









Author: Mary Brearley

I work in the charitable arts sector. I have worked all over the UK, and occasionally elsewhere.

16 thoughts on “Duplicity”

  1. An insightful and thought provoking article, Mary.

    Yes, we are all flawed individuals. We all guard secrets of some kind. Just ten years ago, my mother finally shared with me what to her was a shameful family secret.

    In this complex world we live in, the truth would shake the very foundations of all that we’ve ever believed to be true.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. That Whitman quote perfectly sums up me too Mary. I often believe that one does not fully reveal oneself (at least on a virtual medium). There are facets of ourselves we put out there and often they might be mere perceptions. But calm and funny are Good ones to roll with 🙂 I liked this contemplative post. xx

    Liked by 2 people

  3. As I said on Jack’s comment, truth is frightening. People can’t handle real truth constantly.
    As for duplicity. Is having different facets of one’s life which are wholly different, bad? Very thought provoking.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. But perhaps we are what we are and the antithesis too – the shadow side?
    Yes, true.

    Savile was so blatant that I, I think many people too, assumed that it couldn’t possibly be so. Just because of that. He hid in plain sight. But if it talks like a duck and walks like a duck…

    People know inconvenient truths and contrive to forget them, submerge them. How could they continue to function, otherwise?


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