Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Recognizing Your Emotional Mask + Embracing Your True Identity

As we are within our Halloween Blog week, there has never been a better time to look over the concept of emotional masks. Additionally how to unmask yourself and embrace your true identity. To begin lets look at emotional masks in general.

What is an Emotional Mask?

This metaphorical mask is the emotions and reactions that we put on in various situations. A very applicable situation pertaining to pediatric cancer could be that you mask your fears or concerns with simple avoidance.

Are there different types of Emotional Masks?

Almost any behavior or emotion that we exert could be a "mask" to what we are truly feeling. The more common and easily recognized masks may be:

  • Avoidance Mask- All together avoiding all components of the situation. We ultimately think by avoiding issues and emotions protects us from all.
  • People Pleaser Mask- This mask motivates our action to please others in any way possible
  • Anger Mask- Anger is an extremely powerful emotion that can be arguably felt more than any other emotion
  • Happy Mask- The "everything is fine" mask, tends to coincide with avoidance. This mask alludes to us that if we are forcing happy emotions all of the time we are then actually happy. 

According to Psych Central the following are ways that you are able to unmask yourself:

1. Make the Decision:  The first step is to decide you want to drop the Avoidance Mask. This means you are committed to taking action even though it may be painful in the beginning. If you aren’t sure, make a list of pros and cons–pros and cons of dropping the mask and pros and cons of keeping the mask.
Dropping the mask will not be easy and recognizing the difficulty of this task will help you succeed. Remember taking one step at a time may work best. For example, speaking up about which restaurant you’d prefer for dinner might be one initial step.
2. Focus on Awareness:  If you’ve lost touch with your own preferences and feelings, spend some time asking yourself what you really think and feel.  Keep asking and keep experimenting–it will come back to you. Consider keeping a journal, writing down what you liked and didn’t like each day. Accept your feelings and trust that they will pass.
3.  Be Visible:  Notice if you have the posture of someone who is trying to hide. If you do, stand up straight and let yourself be visible. Begin to express your opinion and thoughts gently, with kindness.
4. Develop New Coping Skills:  Before you drop the mask, it’s important to have alternative, more effective  ways to cope with emotional pain.  More about that in future posts.
5.  Face Whatever You’ve Been Avoiding:  Whatever your thoughts and feelings, they are your thoughts and feelings. Everyone has their own internal experience and yours is likely different from that of your friends’.
Accepting your internal experience instead of avoiding it will allow you to check to see if your feelings have any base in external reality and to choose healthier, more effective ways of coping. Facing the external fears will help you overcome those as well. Being rejected or criticized by others is not pleasant, but you will find out you can survive it. Take small steps, have support, and use alternative coping skills.

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