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Anatomy of a Secret Life: The Psychology of Living a Lie Hardcover – April 11, 2006


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Broadway; First Edition edition (April 11, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0767922743
  • ISBN-13: 978-0767922746
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.1 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #616,308 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Says Saltz, clinical associate professor of psychiatry at Weill-Cornell School of Medicine and a Today show regular, "Secrets... are maddening, thrilling, dangerous.... And every day, secret-keepers keep on doing what they do: living one life, and then living another." Creating and nurturing a secret self can be a psychologically normal part of a child's development, but when do secrets become destructive? Saltz takes us on an engrossing and voyeuristic journey through the secret lives of several people, some composites from her psychoanalytic practice: a lonely teen whose secret Internet life becomes deadly; a man whose wife catches him cheating the IRS; a woman shoplifting in her 50s. Even more fascinating are the accounts of famous secret-keepers: Charles Lindbergh, Tchaikovsky, T.E. Lawrence and sociopath killers like Dennis Rader (the "BTK" killer), among others. The difference between keeping a secret and living a secret life is one of degree, says Saltz, and the most malignant secrets are the ones that remain in our unconscious, causing us to repeatedly act out. While most people's secrets aren't as dramatic as the stories related here, this book serves as a cautionary tale of how a secret is formed, lived, justified—and eventually exposed. (Apr. 18)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Everyone is said to have a private side they reveal to few if any others. That's human nature, says popular TV psychiatrist Saltz, and can function as a healthy clearing in the woods that nourishes creativity and maintains sanity. But a secret life can take on a life of its own and threaten not just its keeper's sanity but his or her marriage, career, public reputation, and, in extreme cases, the lives of others. Saltz cites as examples the secret lives of Charles Lindbergh, T. E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia), and Dennis Rader, the BTK killer. Most secret lives aren't as dramatic as those, but they can be destructive nevertheless. Saltz profiles a handful of such secret lives (actually, composites drawn from the files of her practice) to illustrate how a secret life can begin innocently enough and mushroom into a destructive force. She also demonstrates how the secrets involved stemmed from unresolved childhood issues in what ends up as an argument for psychiatric intervention when a secret life goes out of control. Donna Chavez
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

40 of 43 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Cathy Goodwin TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 1, 2006
Format: Hardcover
In my academic life, I was fascinated by privacy and secrecy and actually published some articles on those topics. So I was naturally eager to gain some new insights. Like many authors who are also psychoanalysts, Saltz raises questions instead of delivering answers.

Saltz organizes the book by categories of people with secrets: gay men and lesbians, lovers, addicts, and criminals. She illustrates with examples, composites of her own former patients, and sometimes with stories of public figures.

This technique represents the book's strength -- facinating stories -- but also weakness. One person's story rarely can be seen as an exemplar.

I can't help wondering how our views might change if we organized secrets by motivation rather than category. Some people have what Saltz calls malignant secrets, such as cheating spouses and criminals. Others have what she calls benign secrets, i.e., things we do that don't cause harm and aren't anyone else's business.

But we have other secrets that challenge us. Some people have secrets to protect their jobs and their lives -- and not just gay men and lesbians. Many years ago, I met a man who never told his employer he was Catholic.

Then we have secrets that represent simple on-disclosure and secrets that involve telling (and sometimes living) actual lies. We have secrets that represent discretion rather than necessity. I once knew a woman whose daughter was serving a long prison term. When asked, "Do you have children?" she had learned to come up with a story that didn't lead to more follow-up questions.

Some people keep secrets because they have inappropriate answers to appropriate questions. Casual acquaintances and coworkers feel comfortable asking most adults, "Where are your parents?
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33 of 35 people found the following review helpful By C. Hutton on April 15, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Dr. Saltz takes a pinch of Freud with a dash of cognitive behavioral pyschology to create the framework of "Anatomy of a Secret Life." Two years ago, she published "Becoming Real" which explored the past of her clients to free them from their self-destructive behaviors of today. She utilizes the same formula in her new book to look at the very public and secret lives of Lawrence of Arabia and Charles Lindbergh among other case studies. Written in a chatty & readable style, she hammers home her point that secret lives are rooted in their childhood and are very destructive. M. Scott Peck makes the same point from a religious viewpoint in his 1983 book, "People of the Lie."
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Ellen Rice on May 2, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I found this to be a clear-cut, simple explanation of a universal human condition -- the need to keep secrets, and how those secrets can be helpful and necessary, or sometimes, risky and even deadly. The writing is clear and easily understood (even early explanation of the id and ego -- and the first time I think I've ever really understood either) and has a pleasant lack of judgement for even the basest behaviors -- seemed oddly humanizing to me.

I guess this book most attracted me because I really do take people at their word and am stunned with a friend's secrets come out -- shocking and hard to grasp. It's made me understand the whole phenomena more and really has me wondering: what secrets do I keep? Are they healthy or building toward disaster? I actually made a list of my secrets and was surprised at the emotional charge some of them had -- not so much my fear of discovery as the way they affect behavior. For example, I have a friend who I once -- years ago -- gossiped about viciously and as it turned out, incorrectly. I've never had the guts to confess and whenever friend calls, I work so hard to be her very best friend, not because we're so particularly close, but because I have this mean little secret driving me on. Interesting subject. Much to chew on.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Linda PA on April 20, 2006
Format: Hardcover
The best book Ive ever read on this subject. You wont put it down once you start. It really makes you think about the people you know.
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By Anonymous on March 12, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I liked this book because it's sort of a unique, taboo topic. There were many different instances of secret lives. I would've liked more examples of sex since it's probably the most common
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