I have recently gone through hell and back with someone who I believed to be one person, who changed in an instant. The change was shocking, scary and cruel. But it was something I am thankful for. Why? Because it helped me to learn a lot about what I want and need, and what happens when you challenged another person’s mask by putting up healthy boundaries. I saw the real person that had been hiding behind an emotional mask.
The Emotional Masks We Wear
Many people wear emotional masks to hide feelings that they don’t want to deal with. Emotional masks are worn due to fear. There are many reasons for this; some people come from family backgrounds that have never supported or encouraged open expression of emotions. Or sometimes a person has been through trauma or difficulties in the past and feel like they can’t express, or don’t want to express the emotions associated with the event.
Sometimes people who stop showing their own emotions to people around them, stop recognising their own emotions completely. Emotional masks are a common way to avoid dealing with these difficult emotions. These aren’t actual physical masks I’m talking about. So, what exactly are emotional masks? Here’s a few examples:
Unfortunately for those who live behind emotional masks for a long time may begin to find softer emotions trigger anger easily. Such as sadness, shame and fear. It can also lead to substance abuse, such as alcoholism and drug use as a way to numb the emotions that they don’t want to deal with.
Why Wear Emotional Masks?
Everyone wears masks to some degree. However, when it’s a long-term habit to cover emotions that you don’t want to face, it becomes unhealthy and it negatively affects your relationships. One of the most common reasons people wear masks is the fear of people finding them out. One of our greatest fears is showing our true selves!
“Be yourself, everyone else is taken.” Oscar Wilde.
The Courage to Look Behind the Eyes of Another Person
What happens when someone see’s through your mask to the real person? This is a deeply unnerving experience for the mask wearer. They have been caught out. Everyone longs to be seen, and known for who they really are. But the fear of being seen may be too much for the mask wearer to handle. They may not be ready, or just may not want to face their difficult emotions.
“The greatest battle we face as human beings is the battle to protect our true selves from the self the world wants us to become.” E.E. Cummings.
Seeing another person for who they truly are, even if they don’t see it, can be a wonderful thing. However, if you challenge their mask it can trigger their fear of being found out causing them to turn on you. You have challenged their ego, their entire sense of self, even though it’s fake.
Uh oh spaghetti-O!
Challenging someone to take off their mask means showing their authentic self. This is a very vulnerable thing to do and requires a huge amount of courage, and a great deal of trust. But if you never do it, the past will continue to affect your present.
“You can’t change the past, but you can change how it affects you.” Unknown.
Why Should You Take Off Your Masks?
We ALL wear emotional masks to some degree, and this can be ok when it’s not taken to the extreme. However, there will come a point in life when juggling all of these masks becomes exhausting and pointless. Vulnerability isn’t a weakness, it’s a true strength. Masks are the real signs of weakness. Masks push away the ones who love you the most. Masks can create isolation and loneliness.
Most of us can tell immediately when we are in the presence of an authentic person. One without masks, who is not “putting on a show”. These are the people who enjoy the deep sense of peace authenticity brings. They experience life and love to the fullest. It doesn’t mean they don’t experience pain, but they don’t allow past experiences to prevent them from getting the most out of the present.
I think most of us have heard or read about the universe and everything in it being one, we are all one etc, etc. That's all well and good, but I feel quite individual and I found it hard to understand completely. What I mean is, I understand it in theory, logically, but the idea remained stuck in my head for many years before I truly understood it.
Could dreams be the clue to understanding what life is? I think it's very likely. If you look at a dream, as you are dreaming everything within the dream seems very real. You don't know that you're dreaming while you're dreaming (unless you have mastered lucid dreaming). It's true that a lot of the time dreams are very strange, but while you're in them you don't feel that they are.
Now on to the "one" part. Everything within your dream is within you. Every building, plant, animal and person is created by you and is you, because it's coming from you and it's your mind's creation. You may have a dream where you're in a crowd of hundreds of people, every person there acts independently and has their own personality, yet technically they are you. You have just taken on one point of focus within that dream (the character you are at that moment). Sometimes you even step back and view your creation (dream) from a distance. Almost like you're watching a movie, and you aren't specifically one of the characters.
Could it be that the universe, or god, or whatever you like to call it, is just some sort of massive consciousness creating some sort of dream-like reality and each life form is a point of focus for many different experiences? I think that it's probably far more complicated than that, and maybe too complex for us to understand. But I think it might be something along those lines. Possibly consciousness gets sort of duller as we move into a dream with in a dream within a dream.
Maybe we lose some signal quality as we move further down in a sense. For example consciousness changes or gets a little duller as you move from the spiritual world, to the physical world, and finally to the dream world. I say this because when you read about those who have had near death experiences (NDE's), so many of them mention how the spiritual world felt more real, they felt more awake and more conscious. And when you look at being awake versus dreaming, you also see a similar difference. Of course you don't notice this difference until you wake up. So you will not understand this difference until you wake up from this current "life dream".
There are many references to life being a type of dream. For example the song Row Row Row Your Boat. The boat signifies you or your body and the stream is your life journey. You're suppose to row gently down the stream, with the current (the flow of life). If you try to row against the current you will struggle as many of us do. If you try to stay in one place you will struggle; the current will do it's best to pull you in the right direction. If you try to go too fast you will miss a lot along the way. So you should row gently and enjoy the ride. Merrily as the song goes; not stressfully, because life is but a dream.
"Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent on." - Albert Einstein.
Buddhists also believe that life is a type of dream and waking up to the illusion is known as enlightenment.
Anyway, if life is "but a dream" this doesn't make it insignificant or any less important. There is surely a reason for it, a reason which may be far beyond our ability to understand. But most of us feel, or even know that we have a purpose whether we work out what that is or not. We know we have a reason for being here, some sort of inner knowing.
Everything in the physical world is impermanent just like a dream. So we can do our best not to get too caught up in the details and row our boats gently in flow with the stream of life.