By Lenzie Avery, LAMFT
Although Halloween costumes today don’t always involve masks, the ghost and witch masks of traditional costumes create an anonymity that covers the individual within. Even costumes without masks create a new persona, a new being, that gives us an opportunity to be something different. Why is this so appealing to us? Why does shifting into a different, unrecognizable form spark enjoyment and satisfaction within?
We use masks throughout our daily experience. We morph from one form to another when we enter new scenarios and feel as though we must cover up some of the vulnerability of our true form. This is a normal, functioning part of human life. Think of the last time you were on an interview. How authentic were you? Were you even supposed to be authentic? Pretending to be something different is not always a bad thing. It can create a safe space for us to explore new environments, or create a safe space to explore unknown aspects within ourselves. Many performers and artists love entering the spotlight as they can become something completely new without fear of being judged for being “fake”. The daily worries of each move being scrutinized dissolves under the expectation of entertainment.
When it comes to depression, people often use masks to cover up underlying pain. This can temporarily make depression easier. It can be a defense mechanism so that one does not have to face the symptoms head on. It can help us get through the daily grind of work, school, family, without creating concern of those around us. But it can also create a façade that everything is ok. That we are not struggling. That we are invisible. And this, while unintentional, may create an expectation within yourself that you do not deserve to acknowledge your paint—that it must be covered up or shielded.
Therapy dissolves masks. It provides a safe space to explore the struggles underneath whatever mask covers up true feelings and the true self. Whether that be an angry mask, a cheerful mask, a mask fueled by humor—they are all broken down through a non-judgmental stance taken by your therapist. When seeking out a therapist, look for someone who notices your masks, and for someone you feel connected enough with to let them help you take those masks off.
Be curious about the masks you wear throughout your life, whether you are experiencing depression or not. Has society told you to act in a certain way that doesn’t really fit? Do you feel unseen, out of place or unheard in your social circle? Once you start to see your own masks, you may be able to align your life with the true self underneath.