An elaborate Renaissance Ball Mask. The masks were elaborate, but so was the ruse, an attempt to create mystery and tension, the possiblility of romance or illicit liasion. The masquerade was a feature of carnival season of 15th century Europe. In time masks became works of art. They were made of diferent materials, and bejeweled, like the one in the photo.
The masks we put on every day are not bejeweled, but they are clever, intricate, and very elaborate. If you want to read an early understanding the human mask, then Shakespeare is the one to read, and in particular, the ‘Taming of the Shrew.’ Psychologically, masks are a form of protection, we tend to mask anger, grief, anxiety, fear, a sense of failure, feeling like a fraud, needing to be the hero, the great intellect, and so on.
I have worked with people who use humour to mask what they perceive in themselves as a lack of sophistication. Others have thrown around biting sarcasm in order to keep others at bay. Some it is fear of success, so they play the incompetent. I have had the experience of never really knowing someone, at a funeral once I heard so much about someone I thought I knew, only to discover they had protected so much of their lives from public scrutiny, a compartmentalising. On another ocassion, when I was going through a difficult time, some said “I thought you had it all together” (like, really!!).
If we’re angry we may resort to condemnation, if we are grieving we might project happiness or amusement, anything but what we’re really feeling. That might be important at certain points in our lives, a boundary. But when it becomes avoidance, deception, fear, then we risk burying our true selves and others may never really know us. Even to the point that well entrenched masks become who we are. The question is, what are we trying to hide and why?
Jung developed the idea of the persona, the person we wanted others to know as ourselves, but not our true self.
I love this unattributed quote: “She threw away all of her masks, and put on her soul.”
That says it all. To dispense with the lie, the deception, which is really self-deception at best, the fear, and embrace our true selves, the raw self, the truly beautiful self. Created, bejeweled physical masks can be creations of great beauty. But the one who lives their true self, nothing could be more beautiful. We often use the phrase “warts and all”, meaning even our less good parts can be seen, our less succesful, less socially acceptable selves can be seen, yet this is healthy. The first step on the road of recovery is to know that we are never going to be perfect. And once we let go the ego, then masks become redundant because there is nothing to protect.
To put on our soul is to let go and find the juice of our lives and let that flow.
When we put on our soul, we are truly beautiful.
Hiding in layers the weapons of deception my real is naked ©Paul Cannon