As reported by The Hartford Courant, June 2, 2005.

A Secret's Life

Once Out, Even A Bombshell Like Felt's 'Deep Throat' Confession Quickly Loses Its Power

By Kathleen Megan

So, now that we know who "Deep Throat" is, do we care?

Would we care more if "Deep Throat" had been former U.S. Secretary of State Alexander Haig or Diane Sawyer, rather than the relatively unknown FBI official W. Mark Felt? Would we care more if we'd found out 20 years ago?

The power and value of a secret has a lot to do with who knows, who knows that you know and when you choose to reveal the truth.

Susie Watson, a Wisconsin trend analyst, said that in general "secrets are like party balloons. The longer the secret is held, the bigger the balloon gets ... And once a balloon pops, it becomes uninteresting to us and to others and all of its power dissipates."

Jon Bloch, an associate sociology professor at Southern Connecticut State University, says that when a secret is told can be as important as what is revealed.

"[Watergate] was a long time ago. It wasn't anybody we were sort of hoping it would be. It was more fun to keep it a secret than to know the truth," Bloch said. "I think it's kind of anticlimactic at this point."

Secrets are an inevitable part of life. "We can't tell everybody everything all of the time," Bloch said. And even if we could, we wouldn't want to because as any child on the playground knows: Having a secret is fun.

It's a currency whose value we learn early on, trading secrets to make friends, to climb the ladder in the workplace, to appear powerful, to create intimacy with loved ones.

"When you share a secret with someone, it's supposed to be an act of intimacy and trust," said Rachel Ranis, sociology professor at Quinnipiac University. "Secrets bond people. They're something very special."

America, Ranis said, is a culture that traffics in secrets and is less willing to keep them than other societies. A pervasive, open-book policy - fostered by tell-all tabs, daytime television gabfests and leave-no-childhood-secret-untold psychology - exists in American culture, she said.

Still, secrets are a critical part of any government or business organization, often used to maintain a competitive edge and establish a pecking order.

"Knowledge is power," said Dr. Robert Trestman, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Connecticut Health Center. "Who knows what first gets to determine who gets to make what decision.

"If you are in on a secret, you're special, you're valued. Other people want what you have and so it's a great way to feel very important."

Trestman said he could certainly understand why Felt would want to keep his identity a secret in the Watergate case.

"People get killed for dabbling in that level of power," said Trestman.

Thirty years later, he said, "enough time has passed. The emotional energy associated with it isn't as powerful."

Steve Katz, who worked as counsel for former U.S. Sen. John Glenn and helped to make public the records on the Kennedy assassination, said he expects the interest in Felt "to have a relatively short shelf life as a story."

"People are much more interested in the story shrouded in secrecy and in the mystery," he said. "People were much more interested in the secrecy surrounding the Kennedy assassination than in the millions of papers released on it."

And then there's the power of personal secrets: incest, abuse, adultery.

Keeping such secrets, Trestman said, "can cripple a person's ability to have a close emotional relationship as an adult." Discussing those secrets openly and in a safe environment can help to dissipate guilt and fear, he said.

On the other hand, there are topics that Americans could perhaps stand to be a bit more private about.

When she flicks past "Dr. Phil" and other talk shows, Jocelyn Linnekin, an anthropology professor at the University of Connecticut, says she gets the feeling that Americans believe "everybody is supposed to know everything about everyone else."

The word `secret' has a negative connotation in American culture she said. Everyone is expected to "share," she said, and if they don't they are suspect.

"In other cultures, everybody understands there are things that are appropriate to be shared," she said, and things that are not.