Monday, December 26, 2011

Masks

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Good evening ladies and gentlemen! Welcome to our masquerade! What masquerade?, you ask yourself. This is a Toastmasters meeting and not a masquerade where we wear masks. But I tell you, we all wear masks everyday of our lives. We hide our real selves behind the masks we create. Sometimes we get so used to these masks we wear that we forget our real selves, what our real feelings are.


Psychologists have a way of describing how people create this mask we wear. They call them defense mechanisms. Simply described, a defense mechanism is an unconscious denial, distortion or falsification of reality in order to protect the ego from excessive anxiety. Simply put, we all have our way of coping with reality in order to make it less stressful for us. Looking at it this way, our masks serve a purpose, it protects us from having bad feelings. However, there are certain ways of how such defense mechanisms can alienate us from the people we love. For instance, when a certain experience is simply too horrible to bear a certain individual simply responds by denying the existence of the loss or experience. As a defense mechanism, denial involves the refusal of an individual to accept that something terrible has happened. For example, after a terrible fight, Maria has stopped talking to her brother Manny. Despite this, Manny continues to tell others how close he is to his sister and he has managed to convince himself that he is closer to her than any of their other siblings. Now, doesnt this mask prevent him from seeing the truth?


Another kind of defense mechanism that allows individuals to avoid conscious recognition of unacceptable impulses or feeling is projection. This involves attributing those impulses or feelings to somebody else. A man who is lusting after his neighbors wife may believe that his own wife is planning to cheat on him. This is the kind of mask that you believe the other person is wearing but youre actually the one wearing it.


A third type of defense mechanism is reaction formation, when an unacceptable emotion becomes translated to its opposite. The eldest child who cuddles her newborn sister and repeatedly tells others how much she loves her baby sister can be wearing this type of mask. She unconsciously she is very jealous of this new arrival.


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Adults who bite their fingernails or chew the erasers off pencils when they are anxious illustrate the defense mechanism of regression�a retreat to behaviors that proved satisfying in earlier stages of psychological development. This kind of mask is shown in smoking, overindulging in alcoholic beverages, talking baby talk to oneself or other people, footstamping and even temper tantrums. Lastly, there is a defense mechanism which is seen as more adaptive and less primitive than others because they involve less distortion of reality. This is sublimation, which alters unacceptable impulses into completely acceptable and even admired social behaviors. Creative activities like painting, sculpting and writing music are sublimations of sexual drive while vigorous contact sports and even careers like surgery are sublimations of the aggressive drive.


So, not all masks are bad at all. Its up to us how to identify the process we use to make the masks and the reasons that motivate us to unconsciously choose which masks to wear. The most important thing is summed up by an Ancient Greek philosophers words...to thine own self be true. It is up to you on how you will alter your masks to make sure that you are being true to yourselves. Good evening!





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