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The Masks We Wear

Our Public and Private Faces

Photo by John Noonan on Unsplash
Source: Photo by John Noonan on Unsplash

In everyday life, we all wear masks. It’s part of the reality of living that we have different “masks” or personas we project to the public.

But what’s important is having some conscious awareness of what we’re doing and being able to see if the masks we wear interfere with healthy living.

I periodically ask clients to create two masks of themselves: the “outside” mask they allow others to see and the “inside” mask that few people see. What’s extraordinary about this exercise is not only the differences that come up between the images but also how the unconscious aspects of one’s self becomes much more evident. Clients who may never verbally share this information to me someone feel it’s permissible to do it via art. In other words, this creative exercise similar to other artistic endeavors can bypass a person’s conscious efforts to hold back certain thoughts and feelings because the exercise itself can provide containment for their fears of rejection, judgment, and insecurities.

For the purposes of this exercise, a client not only learns more about themselves through this visual representation but in their ability to share this with others. In do so, they can begin to notice similarities, differences, and other themes that they may want to work on to improve their emotional world.

For example, many male clients feel stuck in portraying themselves as all-knowing, confident, and never lacking in verve or security. But when we peel back the layers, fear, anxiety, depression, grief, and other facets of the true self emerge.

Part of my work as a therapist is to find a channel through which this suppressed side can find safety and be known and integrated with the rest of the self. That is the hard work not of therapy but of life itself-the ability to be whole. To no longer need substances, addictions, the longing of power or prestige to feel complete but to feel secure in ourselves for just being.

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