Every secret has a certain degree of power. The moment you reveal a secret to anyone, you are giving that power to the other person. The more the secrets you keep in your heart, the greater your personal power. It is not power over other people; it is power within.
You don’t know how a revealed secret will come back to you with a sting. People love to play games with other people just for the sake of preserving whatever ascendancy they have over others. People love power. Worse, they don’t know how to use power for the welfare of others. Why do you want to give your power to another person and be his slave?
There are only two kinds of secrets: the kind you don’t want to share and the kind you don’t dare to share. There may be a few, a third kind, which may do a little good by sharing: like reduce a burden in your heart. It may be quite alright if you have a good friend who can share your burden. But the question is how many such good friends does anyone really have? The ideal friend is one who helps you keep your own secrets.
In Joseph Conrad’s story, The Secret Sharer, the Captain of a ship is confronted with a dilemma when a naked man swims his way through the ocean to the ship. The man who introduces himself as Leggatt was the chief mate of another ship on which he accidentally killed an insolent fellow crewman. He was kept under custody and would have to face trial for murder on landing. He escaped by jumping into the ocean. The Captain feels an uncanny affinity to Leggatt especially when he puts on the Captain’s clothes. According to seamen’s morality, the Captain should report him to the concerned authorities. But the Captain conceals him in his stateroom and saves him even when the people of the latter’s ship come in search of him. Finally the Captain goes out of his way to help him escape.
The secret gives a unique power to the Captain who was considered a weak man especially by himself. Leggatt is a murderer even though the murder was committed accidentally and the victim was a bully who posed a threat to the very safety of the ship. Leggatt symbolises the irrational but brave side of humankind, while the Captain represents the more civilised and refined rational side. The crew on the Captain’s ship are the normal human beings who have their fair share of irrationality. The Captain’s refinement is powerless before them. His secret, however, gives him a mysterious power.
Critics have suggested that Leggatt is the Captain’s doppelganger, an alter ego. Our secrets constitute our doppelganger which has a mysterious power. As long as our secrets are not evil or supportive of evil, it is better to trust them to the doppelganger who will eventually vanish into the ocean and the unknown beyond, having empowered you.