Behind The Mask Connecting To What Is Real In Ourselves And Others
Many people get dressed in costume on the upcoming Jewish holiday of Purim, and I believe that in order to capture the essence of the holiday, the best costume is a mask.
For me the Purim holiday is a time to connect. Purim is a time when we make a conscious effort to connect to others through the giving of gift baskets to our friends and neighbors, and charity to those in need, and a time to connect to ourselves (and to others) in a real way. This, in my mind, is where the mask comes in. A mask serves the purpose of covering up our outer, expected identity and allows for the opportunity to share and express who we truly are.
We live in society that makes judgment calls about others based on status; by what we look like or by what we may own or have. Without realizing it, we tend to define ourselves and others not by who we are, but rather by what we are. We allow for our clothes, our status, the number of children we have, the kind of car we drive, the type of people we socialize with, and the academic degree or the job that we have, to define who we are. And in my personal and professional experience, this is what leaves so many people unhappy, confused, and stuck in their lives and relationships.
It is when we focus on the superficial, on the ‘what’, or what I like to call ‘the outside,’ that we get confused about whether or not we are in the ‘right’ profession, living in the ‘right’ community, dating the ‘right’ people, bringing up our children the ‘right way’, or going about making the ‘right’ choices for ourselves. This is because when our focus is on the ‘outside,’ our choices are more likely being driven by what we think we ‘should’ be doing, or what we think others will think of us, or what we think others want us to do. At this point we are detached from our situation and ourselves and unable to tap into our most precious resource: our own voice and our true selves.
We can use the mask as an opportunity for us to think about how we express ourselves to others and who we are when we are not wearing the everyday ‘clothes’ that others (or we) define us by.
Making it Practical
Some ways we can bring this lesson into our everyday lives and relationships is by making an effort to step back and look for the humanness, the realness, and the qualities in ourselves and in others.
With our children we can make an effort to look beyond the tantrums, the whining, or the disrespectful talk and look at these behaviors from another perspective. We can see these behaviors as just that – behaviors. These are the ways the child or the teenager may be expressing a deep need or painful feeling, on the ‘outside.’ Perhaps this is their mistaken way of telling us that they are hurting, angry, frustrated, or feeling lost, confused, or a lack of belonging. When we only focus on the ‘outside’ in these situations (the symptom) and try to control it or take it away, we are very likely missing an opportunity to answer our children’s cry for help and support.
With our significant others/spouses we can make an effort to change our view and perspective of angry outbursts or unkind words by that person, and view the behavior as information. Perhaps they are hurting inside, feel helpless, or do not have the tools to express their true feelings in a healthy way. Again, once we take a step back to look beyond what is being expressed by the behavior and we look deeper into what may be at the core of what is motivating the behavior, we can then make better and healthier choices about how to respond.
With ourselves we can make an effort to be gentle with ourselves and trust that our own reactions to given situations are expressions of something deeper within us. We can remind ourselves that we are more than what we ‘have’ or ‘don’t have;’ that we are more than what we are doing and not doing, and more than what we have accomplished or not accomplished in our lives. We can also make the time and the effort to ‘date ourselves’ and get to know ourselves without judgment. Doing this will allow us to reconnect to our true selves and allow others to connect to us in the realest way.