By Shimali Perera, AThR
“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
Wearing a mask is something that comes naturally for some of us. The mask is what helps us to “look strong” and “look happy” even when we are going through the deepest battles at the depths of our being. It is what keeps us from telling the world “I’m not okay”, simply because the world out there expects us to be strong and happy. But the truth is none of us walk on a smooth path, we all experience different types of road blocks such as sickness, financial challenges, work-life balance etc. and can emerge out of it stronger if only we take the time to deal with our true selves and what we are going through.
According to psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, Carl Jung, the concept of wearing a mask is called ‘Persona’. Persona is a great part of our lives as we need to wear it in the different roles that we play at home, school, work etc. However, the danger lies when we identify more with our persona than with who we are deep inside. As a result, we are not able to accept and identify our true natures, but rather in what the world around us thinks we are and expects us to be. This can lead to achieving success only according to the terms of society, but being dissatisfied from deep inside with who we are, as we are not able to live out our calling or achieve a deeper purpose (Funder, 2007; Carl Jung Resources,2018).
In the same way, ‘Denial’- a Defense Mechanism, can be yet another reason for us to wear a mask. Where we don’t want to accept and come to terms with the burdens, cares and worries of life. However, being in denial is a greater danger than coming to terms and seeking help as it could lead to a decrease in one’s mental, emotional and psychological well-being. The images displayed here are one such representation, where the front of the mask depicts what society wants us to be and the back of the mask depicts the chaos deep inside, that which we know exists but yet are in denial of.
Seeking help and support for oneself is an important step that we take towards self-care and learning to tell ourselves that “it’s okay to not be okay”. Art Therapy can be one such approach especially when you don’t have the words to express what you are going through. The creative process of art making and working alongside a trained Art Therapist would help to reduce stress and anxiety, achieve insight into one’s life, and increase self-esteem and self-confidence.