Tuesday, March 11, 2008


I juggle a lot of identities and worlds. How about you?

For instance, I'm a small business professional taking care of marketing and financial details; I am a healer giving massage and Reiki to my clients; I am an artist carving out moments to play with wax and paint; I am a writer who writes blog posts and little poem snippets on napkins; I am a daughter caring for my father in the hospital; I am a friend who offers support and hugs; I am a partner to my sweetheart and a "mommy" to two cats; I am a host or a guest at gatherings or parties; and the list goes on.

When I embody each of these identities, one or two of aspects of my personality rise to the surface and sort of "take over" (but not in that Invasion of the Body Snatchers kind of way). In effect, I put on a different mask each time I am in a different situation. And then there are the subtle masks I wear during each tiny moment of my day, as Charlene Geiss and Claudia Jessup explore in the section on "The Masks I Wear" in their book Inner Outings:

"For instance, we wear the face of carefree nonchalance with the one we have a crush on because we feel too vulnerable to show our true feelings. We take on the facade of robotic overcompetence to hide our nervousness around our intimidating boss. We appear in control with our children, even when our emotional world is falling apart. We try to impress our parents with an aura of confidence and authority. We disguise our feelings when our best pal marries someone we don't like, rather than risk ruining the friendship. Then there is the mask we wear when we have failed at a relationship or other endeavor to see as if we don't care."

Each of these examples may produce different reactions (or masks) for you, but the point is that we wear masks everyday -- even without fully realizing it. I remember that my voice used to rise about twelve octaves when I spoke to my grandparents on the phone. I gave them a sweet, girlish voice even when I was a full-grown adult dealing with real-life, gritty stuff. It took me years to stop doing that high-pitched voice (even when I was fully aware of it), and finally, during the last few years of my grandmother's life, I was able to speak to her like an adult and tell her if things weren't going so well.

So, what masks do you wear?

Try this:

Pull out your journal and start freewriting about all the ways you change in different circumstances. Remember that this is a natural thing we all do, and sometimes it is very appropriate and necessary. So many things you write will make perfect sense to you. But keep writing until you find a mask that you wear that is curious to you. When you get to a place where you truly question a certain mask you wear, go deeper. Keep writing until you understand the dynamics of this particular mask emerging. Do you wear it to protect you? Protect someone else? Is it helpful to you? Does it enable a certain behavior? Should it stay because it is actually quite useful? Or do you need a new mask now?

Now create a visual representation of this mask that you are trying to understand. Use whatever art medium you are drawn to (pens, pain, collage materials, fabric, etc.) and see if by creating this mask you are able to understand it on a whole new level.

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