Article: The Mask of the Personality

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I see that most of us are politicians in that most of us have a face or mask that we wear and then present to people in our daily lives. I’ve always known this but what I’m seeing about it today, is that there are different levels of consciousness of the individual in regards to wearing these kinds of masks. At the lowest level the person is not conscious of the role they’ve adopted and is projecting outwards to people they meet. An example of this that people can easily understand is one who is identified with their beauty, such as would be a model. The difference is that the model is conscious of the role they are playing and can easily switch it on or off as needed. I suppose many models are also identified with the role and are not conscious about it and so they normally don’t want anyone to see them without having their mask in place. So everyone is familiar with the woman who doesn’t want to be seen without her makeup on.

I saw a woman the other day who was like this, she was walking and I was observing her as she walked towards me. Her gait was normal and graceful, nothing wrong with it, and she was looking at the ground as she walked. In a little bit, she looked up and saw me, and then I watched as her entire body appearance shifted dramatically. Her hips started swinging, she started tossing her hair, her smile was painted onto her face, etc. For me it was quite obvious that this person had transformed in front of me in the blink of an eye, into a role that she was projecting outwards to other people.

I am aware of this kind of behavior in others because I’ve seen the same thing in myself in the past. For me the role was ‘spiritual’, I had had a spiritual experience and then identified with it thinking at the time ‘I was enlightened.’ I donned the role, modifying my eyes to make them look the way I thought they should be, I modified how I walked, talked, etc. At the time I was doing this, I was not conscious that I was doing it. I don’t recall how I became aware that I was doing this, but I remember when I first saw ‘how I was projecting this role’ and then how shocked and embarrassed I was to see how I was fooling myself with it. At this level, people are not conscious of the role they’ve adopted and are projecting outwards to others.

Then there are the people in certain positions, where they consciously adopt a role that they feel is best to present to the public eye. These people know they are using a role, just like an actor, and they adopt it feeling that it is in their best interest to do so. The reason to do this is in itself questionable and should be discussed, but it is not the topic that I want to cover here.

Then there is another level of these masks that is usually present and hardly anyone is conscious about it. This has primarily to do with the underlying identification with one’s personality, and one’s developed way to defend oneself to get confirmation for one’s self-image. I think in a way that the wearing of a mask, continues on at increasingly more subtle and clever levels even as a person is growing conscious about their own behavior. I think that the longer the person stays identified with one’s internal role, then the more clever and disguised the mask can become, appearing more natural and becoming more convincing to fool people as time goes by. So much so, that even those who are highly conscious might not be aware that they are donning a mask and presenting it for public viewing.

I have seen this kind of behavior in people who are in a confrontational situation with a person where they can’t back out and then to escape from it or deny that there is any problem ‘with them’, a switch is flipped inside of them and then their appearance and demeanor dramatically changes. All of a sudden the previously irate and angry person escapes by suddenly donning a friendly face, speaking words of calmness and wisdom to others around whom weren’t involved directly in the confrontation. The person who was confronting them and making them uncomfortable is ignored and the technique used is to show others that one is in fact ‘on top of things’, and then to secure it, they also give confirmation to others around to confirm the act they are now presenting for viewing.

The message is clear: “I am in control, there is nothing wrong with me, it is this other person that has problems.” A clever technique these kinds of role players will use is to give confirmation to others whom they are addressing, giving the individual the special feedback that they know will make them happy. People who have made it their habit to study personalities are quite good at this game. Of course this makes the others feel good and also attracts them to the speaker, making the presenting one feel stronger having gained the support through giving confirmation to the others. Part of this high-level game is to ignore the one who brought up the uncomfortable issue, and if one can put this person down in front of the group using such techniques, then the person can feel much stronger having gained the support of others not only by the demonstration through their role but also by confirming and stroking the audience.

Okay, so this is only one example of a myriad of games that people are playing while being identified with their self-image and how they achieve confirmation for it, by adopting masks and roles and using others to get their confirmation. Probably we are all doing this to some degree unconsciously, unless we have totally cleared up our unconscious background. I think we should all be on the alert to discover this aspect in ourselves and there are several things that I realize one can be on the lookout for to observe this in ourselves and also in others.

The first thing to know about it, is that the act of being identified with one’s personality, takes energy away from our consciousness or awareness and over time will drain and sap our energy. Projecting one’s role outwards and actively seeking confirmation for it takes energy that your body could otherwise use to repair itself. If one’s energy level falls when one is tired or is sick, then one can easily see by the appearance of the body the reality of the person as they don’t have sufficient energy to keep their mask in place.

I am starting to see this quite often in people, one day they look so happy and the next day completely exhausted, angry or full of tension. I have also seen this aspect in myself, observing this affect lately and seeing how it is tied with my identification with my inner dialog. One day I feel very good, then the next day so low, feeling angry or hurt in some way. It all has to do with what is going on internally, my body reactions reflect my inner space and I can’t deny it. Yes, one can in actuality be tired or not feeling so good on a day which doesn’t have to do with personal identification - there are natural highs and lows - but also I see that they aren’t usually so dramatic changing entirely the appearance of the person from day to day.

The artificiality that is projected onto these natural highs and lows, showing more extreme postures is entirely due to one’s identification with one’s personality. The highs exist together with the wearing of the role mask (the way the personality gets confirmation), and the lows are when the personality feels depleted and desperate not being able to get the confirmation the personality desired from reality. One side corresponds to the ‘happy body’ or feeling one is receiving the confirmation one wants, and the other side is the ‘pain body’ or feeling one is not receiving the confirmation one wants.

So much can be learned about one’s tendency to identify with an internal role and also that of others, by observing the highs and lows, the body energies, and the body postures across a period of days. The more that a person is pretending the more extreme these appearances will be between the natural high and low cycles of one’s daily life. I think that a person who is calm inside and has learned how to be the master of ones mind and is aware of ones emotions and thoughts or is highly conscious of oneself, will then have the appearance across days of being pretty much the same without these extremes.

So we can observe other people and know something about their inner reality by watching how they appear across days or at moments when their ‘guard is down’ – then you will see the reality of their inner world leap into view. If we want to know about it, we can be honest and detect this within ourselves simply by monitoring our internal space of thoughts and feelings. If we are rocketing between highs and lows, or whenever we are feeling extremes, this can be a warning sign to us that there is inner work that we need to attend to.

What I see about it, is that one can easily fool oneself by believing what one is thinking about oneself, but if we want to know the truth about our reality then our body will always gives us the most accurate presentation of our reality, it never lies to us.

Betsy
July 14, 2005

* Background image is the '7 of Clouds' from the Osho Zen Tarot deck. *

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