Individual therapy, Individuation & Masks, 3: Thin Mask
In “Individual therapy, Individuation & Masks, 2“, I dealt with the “overly thick” persona or social mask — but can the mask also be overly thin?
A number of my readers have pointed out in responses to that earlier post that it most certainly can — and that’s an individuation issue!
Not Guarding Our Treasure
Many of us can relate to the experience of feeling overly open or overly exposed in social situations. Sometimes, we can put ourselves “out there”, and have the clear sense that others either don’t understand, value, or respect the aspects of ourselves that we have shown to them.
Vulnerable and Unprotected
Especially with those with who are not intimates, social interactions can feel dangerous without an adequately protective social mask or persona. We can feel genuinely vulnerable, or at risk, facing issues of identity and anxiety. Individual therapy shows that sometimes the injury done through inappropriate self-disclosure or social interaction with others can lead to real and lasting wounds. Often those coming from different cultural environments can feel particularly vulnerable, when the persona or social mask required in a different social milieu may be very different.
Believing the Fun House Mirror
A danger of not adequately respecting or protecting our inner life or individuation process, is that we may end up accepting the evaluations that others place on us. That’s the psychological equivalent of looking in the mirror in a fun house, and taking the distorted image to be our real face. This can happen unconsciously before we are even aware of what has happened, and we can find ourselves now devaluing ourselves and dealing with shame on a deep and unwarranted level.
Sincerety AND Respect for the Inner Person
There’s a balance that we have to maintain when it comes to the social mask or persona. A mask that is too thick hides us from the world, and keeps us trapped in an impersonal, unrelated place, where we cannot be ourselves in the social world. A mask that is too thin threatens to allow others to see aspects of our inmost self and cherished inner life that can make social contact unbearable. The crucial thing can be to find the appropriate balance, where we protect the treasures of the self, and are also able to be ourselves in the world with freedom. Finding the freedom to do this is a key part of individuation, and individual therapy.
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