I assume your question refers to the concept of willful disclosure as opposed to involuntary disclosure (which would be things like wearing certain clothing or belonging to certain organizations). Willful self-disclosure is
the process that grants access to private things and secrets.
Such disclosures might include sharing dreams, fears, or past events which might cause the listener to think differently about the sharer, so there are some inherent risks in self-disclosure.
There are also some potential benefits to self-disclosure, among them the following:
- Getting a different perspective on the situation. When a person shares something personal and important (it must be important, at least to the sharer, or it would not be considered a disclosing), the listener has an opportunity to weigh in on the matter. Perhaps the disclosure is a problem the listener can help solve or perhaps the listener can put the problem into perspective. If the disclosure is a dream or goal of some kind, perhaps the listener can provide help and/or encouragement to help the sharer accomplish the goal or dream.
- Fostering emotional intimacy. When a person reveals (discloses) something personal with another, it is an act of emotional intimacy. This kind of revelatory act invites an emotional response from the listener and serves as an opportunity for relationship growth to occur. Of course, the emotion (love, friendship, trust) might not be reciprocated, which is an inherent risk in these kinds of self-revelations.
- Learning to trust. It is true that there is great risk involved with disclosing everything about oneself with just anybody, which is why most people are guarded about what information about themselves they choose to share and with whom. Despite the risks, it is healthy for people to learn how to trust in the appropriate times and with appropriate people. Disclosing small things to measure trust is quite normal when developing most kinds of relationships; it is also a necessary component to help maintain meaningful relationships of any kind.
Undoubtedly there are many more advantages to self-disclosing, just as there are undoubtedly disadvantages. In any case, the level of disclosure, the person to whom one discloses, the timing of those disclosures, and--the uncontrollable factor--how the listener reacts to the disclosures are all factors in determining whether self-revelation is a positive or a negative experience.