Have You Read?: A ‘Secret’ worth keeping
“PostSecret: Extraordinary Confessions from Ordinary Lives” by Frank Warren
In November 2004, Frank Warren printed 3,000 postcards. He handed them out to strangers, tucked them into books at stores and libraries and left them at bus stops, park benches and galleries. The front of each card was blank, but the back read, “You are invited to anonymously contribute a secret in a group art project. Your secret can be a regret, fear, betrayal, desire, confession or childhood humiliation. Reveal anything – as long as it is true and you have never shared it with anyone before.”
About 100 postcards were returned to him from the original 3,000, and they were shown in an art exhibit in Washington, D.C. Each was unique. They were printed, typed, collaged, drawn on with markers, showed old photographs, etc. Most importantly, they gave the viewer a fascinating peek into the interior lives of the people who sent them.
Soon, more postcards began to arrive, first from neighboring states, then from across the country and eventually from around the world. Warren began a Web site called PostSecret.com and began uploading the most interesting ones every Sunday. Three years later, the site draws more than 1 million hits per week, and he receives around 4,000 cards per month.
Anne C. Fisher, Ph.D. asked, “Why is PostSecret so appealing? It is because Frank has tapped into the universal stuff of being human – the collective, often unconscious level of existence that defies age, culture, gender, economics and so on. By sharing or viewing a secret, we are bringing the experience to conscious awareness and expressing what is deepest inside. In this aspect, it is akin to psychotherapy.
“This exercise gives us the potential and the opportunity for self-reflection, for self-acceptance, for increased understanding about the self and for healing and personal growth.”
PostSecret gave Warren the strength to confront his own painful humiliation from childhood, something he had almost forgotten about. When a particular card caught his eye expressing a secret similar to his, he gathered the courage to talk about it with his wife and daughter. Then he made a postcard and sent it to himself in the mail.
“I found the process for me was very therapeutic, and I really feel that this whole project has not just brought me healing. I’ve been most surprised by the reaction the project has had with other people. I get e-mails all the time from people who say that facing their secret on a postcard and releasing it has brought them a sense of ownership in their own lives,” he said.
“PostSecret: Extraordinary Confessions from Ordinary Lives” is the first of four books that have been published collecting the secrets that Warren receives from around the globe. The postcards are works of art, carefully and creatively constructed by hand from cardboard, old photographs, wedding invitations and other personal items. The secrets themselves are humorous, heart-wrenching and powerful, expressing and exposing hidden desires, aspirations, frailties and regrets that are at once unique and common to us all.
A portion of the proceeds from every PostSecret book goes to support the National Hopeline Network at (800) SUICIDE, a 24-hour hotline for anyone who is thinking about suicide or knows someone who is considering it. In January 2005, when all federal funds were pulled from this program, Frank Warren and the PostSecret online community raised more than $30,000 in one week, enabling this important resource to continue helping people across the country.
– Lydia Chagolla is an avid reader who enjoys sharing her reviews with the community.
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