Life Masks

I once met a dear fellow who was selling medical equipments and on this faithful day he was promoting a medical device that could detect cervical cancer using light and reflective spectroscopy through a method called biophotonics.  It was interesting because the device primarily makes its diagnosis based on the interaction of this particular light form with the different layers of cells in the cervix. So cancer signs hidden in the deepest layers of the cervix beyond physical sight can be located and analyzed by this device.  And that led to my musing, what life will be like if such a device existed but only to reveal our true emotions?

We live in a world where we make a lot of effort to hide exactly what we feel, everybody does it and quite frankly it even has some positive value. But my concern is the loss of who we are that has arisen as a result of these masks that we wear from place to place. At the work place you are a different person, when you live work driving home you are different, at home or in the country club you are still different. It’s almost like we have created for ourselves an emotional persona of who to be at any place and at any time.

Like I said it helps in some ways but becomes a burden when these emotional personas start to overlap. When I cannot verbalize my anger in the work place because I don’t want to be seen as crude and intolerant, with overlapping of these emotional personas I will get home and not be able to converse or discuss something at home that is obviously making me mad.

“Get mad, and then get over it.”

                                                    Colin Powell

With this way of life we internalize a lot of things that have no part being on our insides, so I am angry and in order not to show it, I let it simmer within me, I am disappointed with a task instead of expressing that, I show a happy face and push the disappointment down to the basement as it were. I am disillusioned in my home but because I don’t want my wife to think that her effort at  helping me build a home is not paying off, I swallow the disillusionment and I smile broadly when I come home.

In her book “Her blue body, everything we know” the American author and poet Alice Walker said that, “tears left unshed turn to poison in the ducts”. True enough psychological events have long been recognized as trigger factors for some of our physical ailments. Women have long known that emotional instability affects their menstrual periods, doctors have long proved that physical and emotional stress are predisposing factors for hypertension, anger and intense emotional reactions has been known to cause relapse in peptic ulcer disease patients, men and women have been known to have congestive cardiac failure (heart attack) in response to sudden and intense emotions and the list is endless.

“A man who has not passed through the inferno of his

passions has never overcome them.”

                                                                                                                    Carl Gustav Jung

When this “poison in the ducts” do not manifest as physical ailments, they may manifest in the way we react to people and situations. Disproportionate punishments are meted out to children who commit an offence. The emotions thought to be forever buried sip out intermittently when we least expect it to. You take your wife to a restaurant smiling and joking and a waiter brings you mineral water instead of the bottled water you ordered and you absolutely blow a fuse. You find you cannot genuinely express some emotions anymore because you have lost the spontaneity of expression that makes emotions beautiful. Now you have to will them into being in the façade that have become your life.

You have lost sight of who you are and sometimes you are even afraid to find out because for you, the mask allows you to have a flawless performance on the stage of life so why “change a winning team”. On the outside we exert supreme and absolute emotional control but on the inside we let these emotions run wild with unimpeded freedom because in reality we can only do so much to have control over our internal and external milieu and so we end up having dark hearts and minds but happy faces.

“Outside, among your fellows, among strangers,

you must preserve appearances, a hundred things

you cannot do, but inside, the terrible freedom!”

                                                                                                         Ralph Waldo Emerson

So what’s the way out? In as much as it’s beautiful and wise to have some bit of emotional masking, there is a more important need  to have a way of letting out these bottled up and toxic emotions cause if we don’t,  we may drown in them. Some people do well with therapists others do well by themselves and yet others achieve “release” by talking with a very close friend. Whatever the means, the important thing is to acknowledge and understand the harm these “unshed tears” are causing and are capable of causing in your life. When you achieve that then the next and all important step is to find a way to liberate the emotions of yesterday clogging up your emotional ducts of today, so that you can liberate your glorious emotions from the shackles that have long held them down.

It is a harder journey for deeply introspective individuals because on their own most times they can find the cause of the malaise, if they put their minds to it. But to take the needed step to solve it becomes difficult. For them; it is difficult to understand that the solutions to some problems lie outside of the mind and that the finder of the problem does not necessarily become the solver of the problem, so they labor alone and despair when they don’t succeed.

At the other end is the extremely extroverted group of individuals who do not even acknowledge situations that will bring out “normal negative” emotional responses that every human being will expect, these are the extremely cheerful who live in absolute denial of the fact that they are “mono-emotional”. For them happiness whether real or imagined is the only emotion worth showing, every other emotion or situation that will warrant them is shoved aside and remains unacknowledged.

For them and others who may want  to embark on this  journey to remove the masks that have prevented them from being who they really are emotionally and sentimentally, I say have hope and never stop working towards living the life you were meant to live.

Improbable as it is, unlikely as it is;

we are being set up as a beacon of hope for the world.

                                                                                                        Archbishop Desmond Tutu

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