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Anatomy of a Secret Life The Psychology of Living a Lie Gail Saltz Morgan Road Books: 224 pp., $22.95

April 23, 2006|Susan Salter Reynolds

ACCORDING to psychiatrist Gail Saltz, it's not the secrets we keep from others that get us in trouble and threaten our emotional health but the secrets we keep from ourselves.

When not confronted, the secret worlds we construct (sexual perversion, addiction, shoplifting, emotional or sexual affairs) and the lies we tell prevent us from understanding our perceptions and behavioral patterns. Secret lives are an effort to replace something missing, but in the end they trap us. They're created by people with a childish "failure to establish the crucial boundary between the self and the rest of the world," who live with the fear that they have "no self to surrender." But Saltz shows, using examples from the lives of her patients and from such historical figures as Charles Lindbergh (who had four separate families), that this compartmentalizing allows what's malignant to metastasize. Secret lives are not worth "the anxiety and emotional cost," she warns, concluding that "an examined -- and candid -- life is the only kind worth living."

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