“We understand how dangerous a mask can be. We all become what we pretend to be.”Patrick Rothfuss, The Name of the Wind
Masks. All of us wear them. Everyday we cloak our identities or our true feelings by suppressing our thoughts or acting in certain ways. Some of the masks we like and some we don’t. Some we are forced to wear to get along in life, and others we wear voluntarily and are afraid to remove because we feel the costs of doing so would be too great.
I believe some metaphorical masking can be healthy and freeing. But when masking is a permanent part of your work and home life, something is truly amiss.
Just like a surgical mask cannot be worn 24/7, our metaphorical masks must slip off eventually.
This is a tough question that I’m afraid I don’t have the answer to! I would suggest dialoguing with the emotions that come up when wearing the mask (whether it be positive or negative) and take in this awareness. The mask, if its been on for awhile, will have some protective factors that you want to be aware of before taking it off. You want to have safeguards in place. For example, you may want to replace the mask with a “more loose” mask or shed it all together in front of people that you trust and that won’t judge you for it.
Masks can be undeniably fun.
Centuries ago, Masks were used as protection from “evil spirits.” Most of us have happy childhood memories of dressing up for Halloween; since Halloween celebrations with disguises gained popularity by way of massive Irish immigration in the 1840’s, the holiday has become America’s third most favorite, beaten out by only Christmas and Thanksgiving.
The German language has a word for the happiness such customs bring called, Maskenfreiheit-the freedom conferred from masks. The freedom can be literal; at Carnival for example, hiding one’s face can be liberating. But it doesn’t have to be. Think of the feeling you have when you’re in a setting and know no one. Perhaps you get a small thrill from striking up a conversation in a bar with a stranger, in which you would share things you would never tell someone you know well.
In my private practice, clients often tell me about the freedom they experience when being in the company of strangers; they describe this freedom as if the fear of judgement is non-existent in these moments.
I’ve found these to be the top 3 masks we wear to disguise who we really are.
In a world where everyone expresses themselves freely is probably undesirable. I, for one, would have been fired many times without my masks. But all of us can mask and unmask in healthier ways.
3 rules for masking and unmasking in healthier ways:
Writing can be a deceptive act. It is its own mask. When writing, we reveal, we hide, we dissemble, we resemble, we direct, we entangle, we clarify.
But it also can be a liberating act. This was the case for me. Much to my chagrin, writing was the least anonymous thing I could do. Every choice I made said something.
What choices are you willing to make?
One choice you could make is to hold out your gifts (masked or not!) in community with expressive writing.
I believe the magic of expressive writing is to be able to share our stories and our true selves in community. None of us will make it through this life without having experienced some form of suffering.
The beauty of a writing community is that it is a safe space where we can listen to and tell stories that are brave, unapologetic, and true. We are here to write our way through to our future selves.
If you are interested in learning more about the Writing Bravely Group, click here!
To listen to the Writing Bravely series podcast episode highlighting masks, click here!