Privacy and Secrecy – Is it the Death of Intimacy?

This article’s purpose to help people build intimacy through the topic of privacy and secrecy, and how to keep the balance between the two.

Why I Wrote This Article

My struggles with understanding people’s perceived need to be private and secretive began when I started opening up to people about my struggles and pain. When I became open about my thoughts, beliefs and lack of knowledge, I started having more intimate relationships with each person who then came along.

The danger of sharing my thoughts suddenly dropped, and even the things I used to be ashamed about was a reason to connect with others.

It eventually came to a point such that I didn’t see the value in the high sense of secrecy and privacy. In fact, I recognise that I’ve sometimes been judged over the openness of what I talk about, but do not care for it. My purpose in my life, and in Undelusional, is to help illuminate the darkness to help people see the light in life, not enhancing the shadows that exist.

I had little to no understanding of the value of privacy and secrecy when I was younger. I was private and secretive. I was also terrible at communicating with others. I only shared information when things overwhelmed me – which meant I only had bad things to say, not the good stuff.

It was only through being an open book that I started discovering how communication, including stupid and wrong communication mistakes I made, works. And it is from a revision of the way I communicated that I found the value of privacy and secrecy, but we need to be clear to utilise it effectively.

Three Classes of Secrets

Let’s begin with the three classes of secrets:

  1. Secrets of Severe Consequence

These secrets are pretty straightforward. These secrets are the reason why governments and companies have such strict Non-Disclosure Agreements and even air-gapping between internet and intranet. There are dire consequences due to leaks. People can die, countries can destabilise, livelihoods can be lost.

  1. Secrets of Manageable Consequence

The straightforwardness of secrets ended with the previous class of secrets. For example, wanting to go to the bar to drink instead of going home but not wanting to hurt your loved ones, because you need your alone time. These secrets are due to the difference in preferences and values between people. The consequences are manageable because they can be managed through communication. However, it depends on your communication skills to manage it.

  1. Secrets of Shame

These secrets are secrets where there often isn’t an actual consequence of the sharing. However, most people believe there would be. Things like “I feel like a useless person”, are secrets that have little to no negative consequence, but in fact, help people connect with the person. It is our shame that prevents us from sharing these secrets, not the consequences.

Value of Openness

“The truth will set you free” is a statement from the Bible, and has been used by psychologists and coaches to help people learn to move on from previous traumas. I was personally involved in a session of Storytelling Live where people came together to go through a cathartic experience of sharing their stories.

These cathartic moments also create a connection between people. As Brene Brown shared over a TEDtalk, vulnerability is the best way for people to love. It is only through the vulnerability that people gain intimacy – the foundation of relationships.

Any form of secrets will take a toll on a person, creating distance from others. These secrets are common reasons why many relationships eventually fail – there are too many secrets between partners.

Mistaken Value of Secrets

If you take some time to think about it, the majority of the time, people believe that their secrets are that of the severe consequences. We have no clue how to tell what class our secrets are most of the time.

The truth is, class 2 and 3 secrets are a lot more common (class 1 is rare), and are hurting intimacy on a daily level. So, if those secrets are more common, and we don’t know it, how can we tell?

Three simple questions:

  1. Do I know the consequences of sharing the secret?

  2. What are the consequences of sharing the secret?

  3. Can I manage the consequences of sharing the secret?

Usually, people do not know the consequences of sharing the secret. They never tried. It is a massive black hole of knowledge that makes them freeze.

Majority of secrets are that of one’s failures, and insecurities (because there are just that many failures and insecurities in everyone’s life). We never shared them, which is why we don’t know the consequences. It is only through sharing that we can finally figure out what are the true consequences of these secrets.

Secrets of manageable consequence are often due to differences in opinions and values. We are worried that someone would judge us, leave us, or make life difficult for us as we rarely have the skills to manage it after. Usually, these are secrets we have experienced failures in before (where we get bullied because of what we shared).

Manageable consequence means that if one has the skill to overcome the consequence, things might turn for the better. This is covered in my book, Employee A&E, called Conflict Revolution, which we have a free version of it available here.

Another question to the secrets of manageable consequence is “do I want to manage the consequence?” This is when the most important question is how much value the person in front of you is.

Secrets of severe consequence are few and far between and are the most understandable secret. It has to be kept, and it has to be a secret. However, to mistake every secret as that is the reason why people today are feeling lonely and lacking in intimacy – when vulnerability is the only way to build it, secrets kill it.


Privacy and secrecy is an important part of our lives. Knowing who to share with, knowing how to manage the consequences of these secrets, and knowing why these are secrets, are the important parts of the equation. It is a part of one’s morality – the ability to predict and manage the outcomes and consequences of every action.

To build true intimacy with people who matter, it is imperative to know what secrets are good to share and what are the consequences, and how to manage them. It is by knowing the value of secrets staying as secrets as opposed to the loss created due to the consequence of sharing that would help us find the right balance between privacy and intimacy.

The Vision of Undelusional – Inspiration Is The Only Antidote To Tribethink

We All Have Intentions

Recently, there is a game called Evolution of Trust that flooded my Facebook and is an apt reminder of why the world is so screwed up. While it beautifully presents Game Theory, it fails to recognise the complexity of human emotions and dynamics, where peer influence, empathy, relationship building and a whole host of other things will affect the relationships. Nick Casey addresses this beautifully in his conclusion slide, but knowing how people think, they’re likely to misunderstand it completely.

And it is games like this, despite its well-meaning intentions, that can deliver a message that confuses and possibly justify people who will end up taking from the rest of the world.

Why is that so? I realised every message in this world is absolutely loaded. Whether they are philosophersscientistsbusinessmenreligious figures, or political figures, would load their statements with a perspective. In fact, in the list, the people, on average, are more loaded the further down the list.

So rather than hiding it to sound “objective”, I’d rather people take a stand and build it into the systems that they’ve created rather than a byline. Especially when there are so many people hiding their personal agenda of ill-intent, why is it that positive intent is viewed as a bad thing?

So, let me propose another angle to this – if he purposefully sold an angle on how IF the world was made up of ALL unconditional givers, how the points would just continue to stack rather than stay at a level of zero-sum at the end of the game?

People don’t like to play sandbox mode and test out all the options. Masses don’t. If you put it as part of the linear experience of the game, then we would be able to sell an ideal state, which he expressed ONLY as his credits.

This non-positioning is a massive problem to me, because without showing one’s intentions, people will project their own intentions onto whatever you’re saying at use it against you.


The Bible is a great example. In South Korea, there are over 50 leaders with cult status using the Bible to sell their story as the Second Coming. How are you sure that your leader is not one of them?

They project their own thoughts and beliefs onto the Bible and use the fact that the Bible can be misinterpreted to their favour, to con others with it. If we don’t align the intentions, how do we know if this is what we want?

Sun Myung Moon (second to the left), founder of the Unification Church, and his wife (second to the right) bless the brides and the grooms in a mass wedding ceremony at Chamsil Olympic Stadium in Seoul Feb 13 2000. The Unification Church, also known as Moonie, was among the cults that exists in South Korea. Photo: AFP

I’ve personally been conned by people who made me believe that they had great abilities, only to realise that I was the one who did all the work and carried the whole thing. A lot of cult leaders function on the same level, and I realised that I could have become, and sometimes even acted like, one of them.

A lot of them are great delusionals, they have the ability to twist and warp every experience and thought into something that confirms their beliefs. They do not take in challenges and do not welcome it. They spend more time destroying differences than accepting and integrating them.

What is the specific skillset of the cult leader? Tribethink creation.

Tribethink Creation

What the conmen used to do to me was to take up my whole mental space. When I talk about it, I refer to the fact that they would not allow me much interaction with friends outside of the circle that they’ve created around me, and/or spent a lot of time asking me for help for a spectrum of things.

They would always dominate my thought sphere by consistently sending me thought articles, things that emphasised their point of view, and poisoning the view I had of the people we met.

They created distrust of others in me.

They made me believe in doing things I wouldn’t have otherwise believed.

It was only because I had so many beautiful people around me that supported me through this that I managed to find my way back during the process.

This is also part of why I would never view a person’s actions as it is. If the person refuses to give me proper service, is it because his boss is an ass? If so, then I’m shooting the messenger arguing with this guy.

If someone is arguing with me because he/she had a bad day, rather than deeming this person as terrible, could I just understand more and be the person to turn that around?

Separating Actions From Intentions And Thoughts

We keep understanding everything by the “measurable things”, which are behaviours, skin colour, clothing, general countenance, and material wealth. This is because we have to been taught to oversimplify the situation where we read into people’s actions as their intentions. But in this day and age where internet and mass media is everywhere, how much of our actions are our own?

Is buying an iPhoneX really a showcase of your ability to think for yourself?

Is taking a Masters really a showcase of your superior intelligence and knowledge?

Does getting a degree guarantee you a good career?

How many actions are yours?

Let me go back to the problem with the world, which is tribethink. It is the basis behind the segregation we see in the world today. We spend more time thinking about who are the enemies of liberty (America always going into war with someone or something), enemies of humanity (look at the amount of alternative media), or stick by small circles of similar interests that are hesitant to step out of their circles.

This prevents us from actually being ourselves, more than the tribe that we are in. When we follow tribethink, we actually go to into a model of accommodation, rather than assimilation, reverting us back to little kids. For more information, read up on Piaget’s developmental psychology theory.

When we are accommodating, we look for people to agree with us, or force us to agree rather than challenge our thoughts to think bigger. We constantly seek a path of least pain, rather than look at the possibilities of what we could do for ourselves if we just went through that little tinsy winsy bit of pain. When we go through the pain, we might actually realise that these options and choices can be assimilated rather than accommodated.

How many times have you heard someone said, “I never thought of that before” or “_______ recommended me to go down this path since it seems to _______”? Even though they probably have been told their options, they never assimilated the information. This is because they never aligned the hearts with the actions.

I hear it all the time, about 9 out of 10 Singaporeans and half of the international people I’ve met in Singapore all tell me similar stories. So, have you taken the path of more pain, less resistance and made the choice by yourself?

Which is why we spend more time looking for people to agree with us than to deeply challenge us, to make us think, to make us wonder.

The Challenge

To challenge this, I spent time reading Trump supporters’ and Trump haters’ points of view to understand the bigger picture. I read up on multiple religions, experienced multiple forms of music, met a lot of people, before deciding on what I want to believe in, what music I want to align myself to, and what people I want to have in my life.

I spent one year with people who go Karaoke bars, whisky/cigar lounges, Thai disco, techno clubs, jazz bars, and also hung out with stay-at-home gamers, programmers and coders, engineers etc. before deciding who to mix around with, and even then, I made massive mistakes.

I wanted to burn to learn. I needed to burn to learn. I grew up too sheltered, and I was too fearful of life, and my tribethink made me stick behind the wall called “safety”, and not venture out into the world. Now we are getting to the good part – how did I break out of this wall?


I was inspired. I didn’t get frightened out of it. I didn’t get cornered into the need to earn lots of money or fight to survive. Because I was inspired and I made the choice, I couldn’t and wouldn’t turn back. Because I had made the decisions to walk down these paths, I knew I wanted to keep going. The pain didn’t matter, for I had a purpose in mind.

I asked myself at age 24, having met amazing people like Derek SiversRandolf ArriolaChristian McBrideSteve Thornton, some CEOs I won’t name, and realised that I personally knew a number of heavyweights in the academics and the business scene, what I could do to be like them.

I had just left medical school on a leave of absence due to depression at that time, and was seeking meaning, literally through the book “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Viktor Frankl. I had all these people that I met and looked up to, and I was wondering where medicine would lead me to. This is when I realised that when I’m 30, I’d not be anywhere closer to my goals if I continued in Medicine and got stuck in the system. However, if I went out and tried my luck, I might actually make headway.

It was inspiration that drove me to start my first studio, learn recording and production, and teach music. It was inspiration that drove me to jump into business consultancy and web and app creation and the event space business. It was never fear. Yes, part of it was being conned, but I always learned so fast I would outwit the conman, and leave within less than 6 months (that was the longest).

It helped me pivot. It helped me stay unjaded. It helped me become a better person and affect lives of all the people I met through the years. It made me still the person that can’t do evil stuff on RPG games just because I feel terrible for doing it. It made me maintain my youth rather than kill it. It made me still see the beauty of this world.

Antidote To The World’s Problems

If tribethink is poison, inspiration is the antidote. But inspiration comes with a lot of other things, it requires people to see possibilities (which is really hard if your tribethink is too strong), see progress in themselves (which is really hard if they self-judge all the time), and accept themselves as is.

It is like everything that our media does is to try to stop that.

Which is why I wanted to create Undelusional. We’re meant to be that antidote. Rather than poking holes at the system and just telling them what they’re doing wrong (which is what everyone does), or simply being jaded like everyone else and just working in the system, I want Undelusional to be showcased as the alternative life that we can have.

There are movements like this, like Humans of New York, Human Kindness Foundation, Singapore Kindness Movement, etc. but they don’t give you the context of how this can affect your daily life. Undelusional will do that. Undelusional is meant to create the web of inspiration and healing for us to get there.

It’s not that tribethink is bad. It is the source of our problems – everything from climate change to terrorism and wars. However, the solution at the end of it is clear – human annihilation. It is just that humans cease to exist as they are, and lose all the progress they’ve made.

I just want us to be more than that. It seems like the inevitable now, but it is possible to stop it from happening if we inspire every person who comes our way to break out of the spell of tribethink. That’s what I believe great sages like Buddha, Prophet Muhammad, Jesus, and all the different religious leaders came down to Earth for – to model the way, to show the way. Of course, as humans, we often take what we want and just run with it, not realising we need the full picture.

Undelusional aims to give the full picture (we aren’t there yet) so we can solve the real deepest issues from the basis of people’s hearts, not from their actions. It starts by being people who know where their intentions lie and from there taking action, not taking action before checking back with their intentions on their deathbeds.

Which One Comes First, Thoughts or Emotions?

One of the toughest things that I realised while trying to decipher the human mind was how tough it was for us to effectively identify causation and effect. While most people seem to believe that thoughts come before emotions – I had people who told me “because I think the guy is a jerk, therefore I felt unsafe around him” – I had discovered that thoughts tend to be an explanation, rationalisation or expansion for emotions rather than the source or cause of emotions.

Physical Reason

From neurological research, the sensory input always goes through the emotional centres of the brain before it reaches the frontal cortex – the place for our rational thought. With that understanding, one must realise it is actually physically impossible for thought to come before emotions.

Our subconscious mind would often take our sensory input and sends it to the unconscious, where the unconscious will match it with similar previous memories to pull up the emotions associated with the input. Like how certain scents remind you of your mother/wife/girlfriend etc, or a photo triggers a memory of an event, these are all pulled out from your memories. Psychologists call these emotion-linked memories flashbulb memories.

Emotions are the memory system’s way of organising information. When memories get solidified and saved into our unconscious, it is stored with the memories and patterns that we observed from those experiences. That is why it is easier to remember associated events when we feel a particular emotion.

What Are Emotions?

We’ve been talking about emotions for a while and actually haven’t defined it, which would further confuse you if we don’t address it now. Allow me to define emotions as a group of reactions that our unconscious mind creates and uses to try to communicate with the rest of the mind about what it notices. These could come in the form of an activation of your happiness, love, fear or anger neurological pathways. Emotions could come in the form of a physical feeling in your body, it could come in the form of a visualisation or audiation of what you can foresee.

Our commonplace definition of emotions is often that of “feelings” which we would portray physically or verbally. However, if we redefine unconscious reactions as “instinct”, of which “feelings” are a subset, it’ll open up a lot more aspects of emotions. Emotions are often paired with instinctive reactions. For example, if a ball were to fly right at you, your emotional reaction of fear would make you dodge or run away, while an emotional reaction of excitement would help you predict the flight path of the ball so that you could catch it.

Of course, these are overly simple ways of looking at it, but your unconscious, which creates these emotions, is simply trying to communicate with the subconscious and conscious to warn, predict and deal with whatever it deems to be happening.

Emotions vs Thought

When we talk about “gut instinct”, “business acumen” or “artistic vision”, these are all messages from our unconscious that should be labeled “emotions”. On the highest level, we call these messages “vision”, because they really function as predictions and perspectives that enable us to deal with the situation with our available skillsets. It is borne out of experiences we have of different scenarios.

Rational thought, on the other hand, is something that uses biases of the emotions to put words to an experience. I had a friend that once asked me why he had different thoughts about himself when he was feeling down, as opposed to when he’s feeling happy. The thoughts went from “you are useless” to “you are amazing”, even though it’s the same person in the mirror.

When he felt trashy, his thoughts were an extension of how his unconscious assessed the situation; his unconscious pulled out memories of failure, judgement and disgust towards himself, informing the rest of his mind how he should believe he would fail in life. While he was feeling bad, his unconscious pulled out memories of success, achievement, value and meaning. Naturally the deduction by the conscious part of the mind – the portion in charge of rational thoughts and putting words to them – would drastically change his opinion about himself.

This is also why when a person is in the midst of an argument, everything sounds bad and things escalate no matter how small the issue is. Wait for them to calm down, and they invariably have a completely different set of responses.

Rational Thought To Change Emotions

There is a different side of this as well. When we deal with situations we feel fearful about, we can actually change the way we feel by using rational thought to help create new memories for a different future reaction. For example, when we see a person with tattoos that seems scary to us, we might think the person is probably a thug or a gangster and worth avoiding. If we continue to allow the emotion to take place and avoid him, we would continue to believe that such people are worth fearing. However, by going up to the person and asking him about the tattoo and probably even understanding the story behind it, we might gain new insights on people with tattoos, and therefore create a new unconscious reaction to people with tattoos using the new information gained from this experience.

When people say they support or hate Trump and refuse to listen to reason, it’s because the unconscious is at play, and only through creating new positive memories and experiences of the other side can they be more open to actually look at the situation rationally. People can also train themselves to instinctively look for the opposite viewpoint to challenge one’s negative emotional reaction to other people’s opinions or situations. So, as much as thoughts do not necessarily change current emotions, they definitely have power to change future emotions, if we channel them in the right direction.


This is why practice in life is so essential – it trains the unconscious to run on its own to assess each situation in the manner you deem fit; with love, positivity and understanding. This allows one to be truly rational and accepting towards reality, and is the most important reason why one has to recognise that emotions come before thoughts.

3 Men In A Room: How Our Minds Work

There have been many models trying to explain the way our minds work. Plato has likened it to shadows in a cave, where everything we experience is but a shadow of the real thing. Meanwhile, we have the elephant and the rider by Dan and Chip Heath to explain our conscious and unconscious mind. We also have Sigmund Freud explaining it in the form of id, ego and superego while his peer Carl Jung presented a completely different model based on personality-based perceptions.

3 Men In A Room is a simplification of Thought Action Paradigm, a model that merges all these concepts and ups the ante against the modern-day behaviourist angle.

Current Knowledge Regarding The Human Condition

The world has been yearning to understand the human condition, mainly through large-scale studies and surveys based on what is tangible and measurable. However, watching behaviours alone, which can be mimicked, adapted to different contexts, and is highly unpredictable, does not yield any fruitful or generalisable insight as to the way people think.

The final behaviour of each person is often removed from one’s emotional and thought processes, not just once but many times over. Furthermore, behaviour is highly contextualised to each culture, which such studies do not take into account. Most importantly, these studies are unable to predict future behaviours, which further restrains their already limited applicability.

Thought Action Paradigm

Instead, the Thought Action Paradigm was created to understand this seemingly erratic range of human behaviour by merging all the models of the human mind. It was created out of a desire to formulate a new way of using behavioural consistencies; nuances of behaviour and speech are taken into account so as to assess each person’s emotional and thought processes.

Take for example the following summary of his behaviour, “he pressed the button that sent an electric shock to the person across the room”. To understand the thoughts and emotions behind that sequence of behaviours, we need to take into account the time that each person took to make the decision to press that button, the way they looked and felt, the sweat in their palms and the way they pressed the button. In short, it takes a very intense multi-perspective look at people’s behaviour to understand their thought and emotional processes.

3 Men In A Room

3 Men In A Room is a simplification of the whole model, where we reduced it to 3 men (humans, non-gendered) who are in a room with only one window through which to see reality. Their names are conscious, subconscious and unconscious, which also correspond to Sigmund Freud’s concept of ego, superego and id respectively. Each of these 3 men come with different skillsets.

The unconscious is the person with a large store of memory, much like a memory savant who doesn’t forget anything that he experiences. However, he communicates purely in emotions and visions.

The subconscious is the only person looking out through the window to see what’s happening in the world, which makes him the only person who can interact with the outside. He is only able to communicate with the other 2 men through charades-like behaviour where he acts out what is going on.

The conscious is the person who labels everything the subconscious tells him. He does not have direct access to the unconscious or the external world and relies purely on the subconscious to tell him what is going on. He speaks in English (or whatever the person’s operational language is) and has the ability to tell the subconscious what to do.

The Problem With The 3 Men

If you had 3 men in a room who could communicate with one another using the same language and with direct access to one another, it would still take a while for them to arrive at a common understanding with one another.

However, if the 3 men are all speaking in different languages, and the unconscious and unconscious can only speak to each other through the subconscious charades-playing-man (who is the only person “in touch” with the world), how much more complicated would things be?

For better or for worse, the way our minds actually work is the latter complicated scenario where the 3 men speak in different languages and not directly to one another, but only via the subconscious.

The Ideal

The ideal state for all of us entails the unconscious effectively pulling out relevant memories to inform the subconscious what are the possibilities, extrapolated from history. The subconscious then makes decisions for the body to execute before enacting the whole story for the conscious to understand.

The conscious, through observing the subconscious’s narrative of reality, can then see what is going on, assess the impact of the person’s actions based on history, match it with ideal outcomes the unconscious wants to achieve and tells the subconscious to get more relevant information from the unconscious to process.

This process then allows the unconscious to reorganise the information before handing it back to subconscious to make decisions as recommended by parameters given by the conscious.

This is just for one set of decision making. Don’t forget that all 3 men simultaneously communicate via different modes.

The Norm

Most people often seek to avoid mistakes and wrongdoing. This causes them to end up not recognising that the subconscious often misunderstands the conscious and unconscious.

Because the conscious tells the subconscious not to make mistakes or do any wrong, the subconscious often embarks on courses of action that do not do the 3 men any good.

As a result, the subconscious ends up having to constantly check back with the conscious, which forces the conscious to be a real-time behavioural editor. This constant blow-by-blow editing tires out the conscious; it is one major reason why people slow down their thought processes.

During this whole time, the emotions are deprioritized to the point of being muted, which results in the unconscious is being ignored. The unconscious is bigger and louder than the subconscious because it is the first part of the brain to be formed. As such, it can only stand being ignored for so long.

After it’s had enough of being ignored, the unconscious, in a bid to make itself heard, starts physically forcing the subconscious to take action through the use of the feeling of “danger” (arising from the fear of imaginary catastrophic consequences). This overrides whatever the conscious tries to tell the subconscious to do.

Those turbulent interactions I’ve just described create chaos in the mind. The unconscious is always feeling ignored, the conscious is always angry, and the subconscious is always confused.

This creates chaos in the mind. The unconscious is always feeling ignored, the conscious is always angry, and the subconscious is always confused. It requires a lot of time and effort for the 3 men to start understanding one another’s nuances and reopening their channels of communication so they can work together again despite the long unsavoury history of prior miscommunication.


Now we can see why it’s so hard for people to have any significant personal growth – where the 3 men are always improving their ability to communicate and make increasingly accurate assessments of reality in order to take more and more beneficial actions.

It is important to note that effective communication between the 3 men not only requires the correct categorisation of current information going forward; it also requires the correction of previously miscategorised information in the past.

Like any world class film director, the conscious never actually has to run the show, and rather than judging, editing and policing the self, the subconscious needs to confidently interpret reality so that the conscious and unconscious can play their parts as intended.

That is how 3 Men In A Room work together, and this model is the simplest way to explain how our complex mind works without oversimplification.