Sunday, January 28, 2007

The Masks We Wear: Counselling II

As many of you know, I am having counselling at the moment.

Now, in many respects, counselling is good. It is an opportunity to explore at least some of the issues with a sympathetic person who has the time to listen and enough distance from the situation to see certain things more clearly than I can.

So far, I like my counsellor. More importantly, I have a certain respect for her even though we don't know each other very well yet. She has a very intelligent, sensitive way of listening and yet she has quite a lot of very practical suggestions.

But, oh, there is something I hate about counselling: the exposure.

In life, as the ever-insightful Fiona has noted, we can wear a number of masks. I think of myself as a fairly honest and direct person and yet I know I wear a few: the good daughter who always looked after her mother, the efficient manager who is always cool in a crisis, the cheerful partner/carer briskly taking care of Things That Need to Be Done, the loving mother, the loyal friend.

None of these masks are lies. They are all both true and only part of the truth - as if my masks cover only part of my face. They show my best bits - or what I fondly imagine are my best bits.

These masks, I think, don't just cover our faces. The longer we wear them, the more they become part of our faces and part of ourselves. Sometimes it's not absolutely clear what is the mask and what is our real face.

What is becoming absolutely clear, though, is how much I dislike removing mine.

There is something deeply embarrassing about sharing such personal issues with a face to face person who knows who I am. I vent away on this blog, with practically no inhibitions. I have even shared some of my issues with a select few of my real-life friends. But I realize now that there has always been a protective mechanism in place - an anonymous blogger identity or a potted history of the issues minus the little details like the grief, the loneliness, the self-pity and the doubt. Another mask.

I had not realized that I was such a private person.

In masquerades, pulling off masks is a fun ritual. People take them off gently, hesitantly, revealing the beauty beneath. Or they take them off playfully, with a flourish, and everyone exclaims and laughs about how they'd never have guessed or how they knew all the time.

What we don't often see is the way a mask that has been on for a long time might not be easily removed at all. How a person might start to tug at the edges and be surprised by their own reluctance to be revealed. How it might come off only painfully, in pieces, pulling little bits of flesh and blood with it, revealing the face underneath, raw and bleeding.

Pretty, huh?


Blogger Rob said...

"What is becoming absolutely clear, though, is how much I dislike removing mine."

We are our own harshest critic, hiding FROM OURSELVES behind our various masks, afraid often to confront the stark reality and truth that lies out there and that we try to avoid, whatever it may be. And then to all of a sudden go emotionally naked in front of another. It takes courage. But it IS necessary and you do seem up to the challenge, even though internally you still are putting up resistance. Good luck and don't stop trying.

11:56 PM  
Blogger Desmond Jones said...

I so understand and sympathize, Em. Molly and I have been in counseling since the new year, and the whole notion of 'a different set of eyes' looking at our lives resonates here.

And, it's interesting to find out how the traumas that happened to both of us, that we had always felt hadn't affected us, really did have their pernicious effects, just in ways we never picked up on (I know that that begs explanation; perhaps when I've had more time to 'process' things, I'll blog about it. . .).

And yeah, the masks - very insightful. When you've worn them for a long time, they start to sort of 'stick', don't they?

Very insightful, too, about how the masks don't so much 'hide' us, as just sort of selectively let only the bits that we want seen, to be seen. It's not like you're not The Good Daughter; it's just that there's more to it than that. . .

Thanks, Em; I appreciate this.

6:52 AM  
Blogger Cat said...

This post really resonated with me.

11:38 AM  
Blogger aphron said...

Life's experiences tend to make wear our masks. I tend to look at them as shields. There are layers or levels to them, but they are never truly down. We tend to hide our true thoughts and feelings all of the time. I'm not sure it is, necessarily, a bad thing. If Sybil was constantly updating me on what she thinking/feeling, I would go insane.

I guess it might be sad that I could not envision a time without a mask. That speaks more to my insecurity than anything.

3:20 AM  
Blogger oblivion said...

That post Fiona did is still stuck with me. I've been wanting to post just as you did Em. But I'm too drained physically and emotionally to even think of it right now.

Hugs!!! Your post (just like Fiona's) hit me (in a good way!).


6:38 AM  
Blogger Lickety Split said...

I know that counseling has really helped me. We do wear masks...even if just a little. We use them to protect ourselves from the outside and the inside.

Good luck. Stick with it. I know it's helped me tremendously.

5:51 AM  
Blogger Summer Rose said...

Hi Emily - Sorry it's been a while, wanted to catch up on what's going on. And Wow a lot!

I have to say counselling has been a major help for Ch and I. I've attended twice with him, sometimes I talk sometimes I don't. I'll admit my first meeting with ch and his counselor was a little bit nervraking for me. I made it through.

5:20 PM  

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