Individual therapy, Individuation & Masks, 1: Symbolism
How do the masks we wear connect to our individuation, and how do they fit into individual therapy? For we do, all of us, wear masks, though many of them are not literal face coverings, but ways that we hide our real selves behind what we present — a smile, a “tough person look”, or a “poker face”.
Jung saw that we all conceal our true nature to at least some extent , and identified it with a particular structure in the personality: the persona, which means “mask” in Latin. Mask is an deep thing in all of us.
Fascinated with Masks
Mask is an archetype: it appears all over the world. They are virtually universal, even though the forms of masks vary greatly. Coming to terms with mask is an important part of individuation.
Wearing a mask, we hide behind something that can almost be taken as a real face.
We can become identified with, and maybe inflated with, what the mask represents. In primal cultures, one who donned the mask of a god or spirit became that spirit. And today? Doesn’t one who dons the Guy Fawkes mask of Anonymous become Anonymous?
Disturbed by Masks
Masks resemble living faces, but aren’t. They are static, and that can make them seem eerily lifeless.
Masks can be fearsome. We fear that they might become so fastened to our face, that we will be unable to remove them. This was the theme of a famous 1964 Japanese horror movie, Onibaba, which centers around a demon-like mask that cannot be removed, and that causes the features of the wearer to become distorted.
The Truth Behind the Masks
We certainly all do wear masks. We must, because we need them. If we were just absolutely “raw and out there” with everything we think and feel, we’d get hurt and hurt others without end. Yet, although we need masks, there’s good reason to have a healthy caution and respect for them, and sometimes even to be afraid of what they hide, what they reveal, and of being overly identified with them.
Relating to Our Masks
The ways in which we relate to tmasks we wear in individuation will be the subject of the rest of this series of posts, and we’ll explore it at some length. We can say for sure that one essential way we need to relate to the masks we wear, is to be conscious that we are wearing them — and to be conscious of what exactly we are wearing — an essential part of the process of individual therapy.