The Masks We Wear

DSCN1237We all wear masks, though how different the mask is from the real face varies from person to person.  Most of us are different at work than we would be at home, or with friends, or with our parents.  There’s a number of reasons we do this.  One reason is that people often don’t want to appear weak or vulnerable in front of others, so they pretty much show one face to the world.  Another reason is that we’re all taught that some emotions are “good” and some are “bad.”  Good emotions are things like happiness and love.  Bad emotions are things like sadness and anger.

As a therapist by day, this drives me crazy.  Emotions are value neutral.  We all get sad and angry; they’re just emotions.  It’s what we do with the emotions that functional or not.  For instance, having a bad day and crying is normal.  Grieving the loss of a loved one is normal.  Being sad all day every day for weeks, not eating, not sleeping, blowing off friends, not functional.  It’s not the emotion that’s good or bad, it’s the behavior that goes along with it that may be problematic.

By the same token, “good” emotions aren’t necessarily good all the time either.  No one is happy all the time.  Those that do might have a problem.  Some people only show their happy face to the world all the time.  Some of those people are great, and some are less than great.  If it’s okay to laugh in public, why is it that crying should be done in private?

It’s interesting though… even though I say we all wear masks, isn’t that just different sides to personality?  For instance, at work, I’m a little more social, a little friendlier, and a little more helpful than I would be otherwise.  On my day off, people talking to me is the sign of a bad day.  At work, I’ve learned to tolerate it and sometimes even welcome it.  Who’s to say I don’t secretly crave social interaction?  (I don’t; it was just an example)

Do you feel like you wear any masks?