As I begin to write this post I find myself thinking of the man in the iron mask, who was imprisoned for thirty four years, and whose identity was never known as he always wore a mask of black velvet. Historians have debated his identity for years, and various theories have been expounded in books and films, such as the one released in 1998 starring Leonardo Dicaprio and John Malcovich.
Whilst fortunately we are not locked away and forgotten as that man was, all of us wear masks throughout our lives and are conscious of the varied roles we play in the world, and the expectations of others that go with many of these roles. Society would not function without the shared understanding of what it means to be, for example, a doctor or a teacher.
Most of the time, our feelings and behavior are not in conflict with the roles we are asked to play, nor with our inner selves. At other times however, the mask has become something else – virtual black velvet that protects a story, contains an identity, and stops us from feeling our own vulnerability. But it’s the very thing which stands us in resistance to living our truth and ends up attracting realities that conflict with who we really are. Because we are living inauthentic lives, we end up attracting the very things we are trying desperately to avoid.
So how do we begin to remove these masks, and how do we even know they are there? Are they so finely molded to us that we no longer perceive them as anything other than truth? To begin to explore we have to look at our inner and outer lives through the eyes of the witness. The part of us that is able to observe our own thoughts and psyche. Until we start to see that we are not our stories, we are unable to go into the darker deeper parts of our-self because we are too invested in our identity. We need a certain sense of distance from our own experience first, and there are many ways we can begin to achieve this, such as through writing, meditation, mindfulness and other practices.
Another aspect of releasing masks is that:
It requires us to feel.
Whilst most of us are willing to feel up to a certain extent, there are often deeper feelings that we will do anything to avoid because they hurt, frighten us, and often relate to deep unmet needs we are not consciously aware of. So we have to be kind to ourselves and understand that it takes time to unravel a lifetime of mystery, and gentleness to allow ourselves to feel and move from head to heart.
Feelings aren’t enemies, they are clues. Way points in an uncertain world, direction markers that guide us back into the brilliance of our-selves.
If we’ll allow it.