We all wear masks. They hide our pain, our fear, our anxiety, our shadow selves. They hide our true feelings. When the mask is no longer serving us a purpose, no longer good for our wellbeing, we have to be brave enough to reveal our true selves, and in that moment the healing begins.
Freedom is what you do with what’s been done to you.
~ Jean Paul Sartre ~
This feature blog has been inspired by the discussion that took place after my group meditation and reiki class today. Thank you to those who shared their stories, emotions, and raw selves amongst friends (some newly found, some old).
The topic of conversation in this feature blog is the masks we wear to hide what’s going inside our hearts and minds. Those who’ve followed my blog for a while will no that I’m no stranger to wearing many masks to hide all of those things mentioned above. In the end, though, they had to come off for my own wellbeing. At times we can see our masks as inner strength, and indeed for some it’s the only way to stay strong. That said, the healing cannot occur over this hidden self. It’s like stitching up a wound without removing the foreign object that caused it, or papering over the cracks in a hope that this time the paper was so thick that the cracks won’t come back through. It is our choice whether or not to go to that place we’ve hidden, and I respect each and every persons choice, for only you can truly know if you’re ready for whatever journey the unveiling is going to take you on.
In this blog I want to share some insights into the affects that these masks can have, and offer some techniques that you can try yourself, if you’re ready to.
Wearing the Mask
When was the last time you were asked how you were, and even though you were dying inside, you answered “I’m fine thanks”, or something similar to that? I do it all of the time, not always because I don’t want to share per su, I just may not want to share right there and then/with that person/in that situation etc. Sometimes, however, we just don’t want to take off the mask we’ve created.
In our very British culture we consider that a ‘stiff upper lip’ and just ‘getting on with it’, is the very best course of action. We feel that showing vulnerability is not a good demonstration of character. Whatever your feelings about not revealing your emotions honestly, the irony is that hiding them is always born out of fear. Fear that we will seem weak or not be worthy; fear that we are not enough or that we might be viewed in a particular way; or even fear of facing the horror that lies behind.
The Mask Affect
Whilst it may feel like the only way to survive is to mask the emotional shock or turmoil, and that might be right for you, it’s also worth understanding how that can manifest. You see, emotions have their own energy and when we try to suppress them, that has an impact on our body, which uses tactics such as muscular constriction and holding our breath to counter these emotions. This in turn can lead to mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. Neuroscience suggests that the more emotions and conflicts a person experiences, the more anxiety they feel. This in turn then impacts you psychically, and in particular with issues such as headaches, insomnia and digestive problems, to mention just a few. All of this is hidden from you, if you were not mindful of the biological and psychological affects.
Here’s a few ways that might indicate emotional pain is having an impact on your mental wellbeing:
- Feeling you are not enough: unworthy or worthless
- Feeling misunderstood
- Being fearful or anxious
- Worrying more, and disproportionately
- Feelings of disapproval or rejection
- Feeling unloved
- Suspecting people don’t wont to be around you
- Feeling taken advantage of
- Suspicious of being betrayed
- Aggressed against, taken advantage of; betrayed
- Feeling inferior or foolish
- Experiencing regular embarrassment or humiliation
- Feeling helpless or hopeless
- Feelings of guilt or shame for who you are/what you’ve done
As I’ve said, it takes much more courage to reveal and deal with the emotion, than it does to hide it in the depths of your unconscious mind.
Lifting the Mask
First things first, you (and only you), need to make the choice whether or not you want to deal with this head on. Weigh up the pro’s and con’s of both paths, considering the impact of not dealing with suppressed emotions as well as the initial pain from lifting the lid.
Secondly, you need to accept and acknowledge the hurt, all of it. Talk it out, at length, to someone impartial, just get it all out there. This could be a trained therapist or someone you trust that won’t judge you or get emotionally involved.
Thirdly, you need to understand it. It’s worth knowing at this stage that there are a few pointers that can help
The understanding part can take expertise to tease it out (enter coaching and psychotherapy), and it can take some time to unpack the full extend of it, given that you’re likely to have ‘locked down’ and ‘hidden’ the hurt and/or the cause of it. In this case, the root cause is hidden in our unconscious mind (a term coined by the psychologist Sigmund Freud); for example something that happened as a child that we haven’t connected to the present time, or something that’s happened on our journey into or during adulthood that’s hurt so deeply but the manifestations are not easily identifiable to the root cause (hence ‘The Mask Affect’, above). It may also sit in our subconscious mind, something that has become habitual, based on beliefs, or a constant recalling of the past, so that it lives in the present. Neither of which are helpful to healing. So here we go, a few things you can try for yourself:
Heal from the past
The aim here is to neutralise the story you tell yourself that keeps the past alive, so that it no longer has power over you. Again, you need to become mindful of your thoughts and words. You then want to change your relationship to your thoughts so they are acceptable and not heavy. Consider checking the reality. Consider forgiveness (self and others), and choose to let go when you’re ready. We are not, on the other hand, looking to suppress something else or create an unrealistic situation that can’t be healed, so make sure you’re not doing any of these:
- Forcing yourself to forget or not think about the past
- Suppress your feelings and emotions
- Waiting for an apology or acknowledgment
- Waiting for time to heal
- Let hurt fester and grow
- Give yourself up to your emotions
You can’t change the past, but you can change how it affects you
Trust in talking therapy
Being vulnerable with oneself and others takes courage, that is where real trust lies. If you have someone you can trust, be truly vulnerable with let them help you. Give them your trust, and let them know that’s what you’re doing, and why. If that vulnerability is too hard with a loved one or close friend, seek out a qualified therapist.
Once you’ve got it out there, talked it through, done with it, it’s time to let it go. The past does not serve you in the future. This is where I tend to use NLP (neuro linguistic programming) to allow clients to review what happened and then let it go.
Out of the shadows
- What is it attached to?
- For urgent and emergency support – call 111 or the Samaritans on 116 123
- Clinic on call – online support within 24 hours
- Talking therapy, psychotherapy & coaching sets – face to face or video/call support
- MindWell – information and resources for mental health
Mind Charity– information and resources for mental health
- Chill Panda: an app to help you learn to relax, manage your worries and improve your wellbeing (available on apple store and google play)
- Feeling good: positive mind – an app to relax your body and mind with a series of audio tracks (available on apple store and google play)
You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.
Craft your own wellbeing lifestyle
As well as blogging about wellbeing, I authored a book that brings together some of my favorite wellbeing learnings. In this short book I share lots of practical advice, tips and strategies for a wellbeing lifestyle.
The book cost only covers the cost of printing and is on sale at £6.49. You can grab a copy on Amazon here – if you buy it I’d love to hear what you think in the form of a book review on Amazon. Thank you.
Supporting you to be your best and happiest self