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Peeling Away Mask

Living Your Life Behind a Mask?

Life behind a mask is exhausting!

For many people it is difficult to consciously live life as their true selves. Many put up a mask or use defenses that allow them to cope with daily life. They are living life behind a mask. Unaware of the repressed feelings, they struggle through a murky haze, baffled by moods that are unbearable to live with. They may alternate between feelings of profound sadness, powerlessness, and despair. Some may even consider suicide.

What is this mask and do you wear it?

Worn like a piece of clothing, the mask is a flawless replica of an expressionless or false façade. It can often feel like an extra appendage, a third arm or leg. The deceptive nature of the mask bears down on its owner, getting heavier every day.

Initially the mask serves as protection against an environment perceived as threatening and dangerous. Underneath it however, lies frightening and hideous memories of past traumas too difficult to bear.

The very substance of the mask erodes and destroys the soul of its owner. Uncertainty pervades and doubt is everywhere. Feelings of inferiority and worthlessness pervades the mind. Wearing the mask helps keep perceived poison out and allows feelings to be shut down and buried beneath the surface.

What drives this dire need to wear a mask and suppress one’s true self?

Often, there is a history of childhood trauma, rife with judgment, criticism, and loneliness. Perception of oneself is questioned and one may struggle to understand life’s purpose. Simple daily routines become too difficult to get through. Instinctively and unconsciously maladaptive coping mechanisms are used to lessen the pain.

The mask is one of these coping mechanisms. The inability to cope with and without the mask eventually leads to a process of personality change. The human that once was, is now hardly perceptible. It becomes clear that the mask and other chosen defenses only provide short lived relief. Ultimately, without the right support there is profound dysfunction and a collapse of the entire system.

How do we remove this mask is a healthy way?

Courage is required to begin a search for life’s meaning and uncover the myriad feelings that have been suppressed for decades. With proper support and therapy, one can slowly peel the mask away and learn to deal with suppressed emotions. Practicing effective coping skills to use in place of the mask will help put these maladaptive coping mechanism to rest.

It is true that the awfulness of trauma temporarily destroys one’s ability to discover meaning in life. However, working to restore one’s life narrative can help bring new perspectives and build renewal.

Welcoming feelings back into one’s life takes great bravery, but it is possible. Life without a mask allows one to breathe freely and experience the full potential of life’s gifts.

For more ideas on healing, check out these articles:

Therapy or Coaching: Which is Right for You?

Mindfulness for Depression and Anxiety?

About the author:

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RENEE Traube

I am a family and psychiatric nurse practitioner with over 25 years of experience in the frum and chassidish communities.

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