We men have many masks inside, and of course a face behind the mask, and not displaying all of them can cause us to feel angry, anxious, depressed and addicted to outlets where those other masks can live and breathe. Movies, sports, video games, the news, reality shows, books, are big business in part due to the forum they provide for us to vicariously remove one mask and try another. – Ben Ringler
Wearing masks can be quite fun. You can pretend you are someone else, play a character, take on a persona, exaggerate, be menacing, afraid, goofy. Then, when you’ve had enough, you can take off the mask, and return to you, perhaps a little sweaty and satisfied with the encounter.
Imagine if you couldn’t take off the mask? (For all of you Twilight Zone fans, there’s a great episode dedicated to that nightmarish scenario). Perhaps the people around you expect you to keep it on, or maybe you just forget that it is on and go to work, business as usual.
Well, this is how it is for many men. We have been given, and have worn, our masks for so long that we’ve forgotten that they are on. We may even have a sense, but are too afraid to take them off, that we will be abandoned or attacked for doing so. Or, just as awful, we are afraid to take off the mask to find that there is no longer a face behind it. That the mask now keeps us in one piece and we might fall apart if removed.
These masks are caricatures (or aspects) of masculinity (strong/silent, aggressive, non-emotional, intellectual, sexual prowess, to name a few); they are not drawn from thin air, but are quite often over-emphasized when we were little boys. They most likely represent a true aspect of us, but not nearly the whole picture. That’s what is so confusing. They are the masks that quite often comforted those around us in our early years, and/or fit well in our families so we made (unconscious) pacts to keep them on, to over-emphasize these qualities, to deny the face behind the mask.
We men have many masks inside, and of course a face behind the mask, and not displaying all of them can cause us to feel angry, anxious, depressed and addicted to outlets where those other masks can live and breathe. Movies, sports, video games, the news, reality shows, books, are big business in part due to the forum they provide for us to vicariously remove one mask and try another. For example, if the mask one wears is of the wimp, watching football may allow one to be infused with the mask of physical strength. When that game is over, however, the deflation may return quite quickly.
This predicament is serious. There are major shifts occurring around men’s role in our society, and this can be quite unsettling. Given these trends, if we men wear one mask too long, this can be quite anxiety provoking and we can even approach breakdown territory (i.e. the proverbial mid-life crisis). We must start to work with this, develop our awareness of what unconscious agreements we have made and start to broker new deals for ourselves. Here are some ways to start to work with your masks:
Start relating to all the masks inside you; take some time and ask yourself:
What mask do I most tend to wear and where did I get this particular mask?
How is this mask serving and limiting me?
What other masks am I drawn to? Where do I show these masks?
Feel free to share with me what you’ve come up with at firstname.lastname@example.org.