I've been listening to a fascinating audiobook by Dr. Gabor Mate, a Hungarian-Canadian medical doctor who is researching the relationship between disease, trauma and emotions (to put it simply). The book is called the Myth of Normal, and it frames the human condition of suffering so elegantly. He questions celebrated societal norms and dissects them in detail to reveal how many of these revered attributes are the underlying causes and bedrock of chronic illness and disease.
Characteristics like always being agreeable and never getting angry. Or the person that's out there hustling, juggling a million things at once, is hyper-productive and never seems to need sleep. Or what about the individual that's selfless and bends over backward to cater to everyone else's needs to the neglect of their own? Or the person who never has a bad day - everything is rainbows, glitter and butterflies in their life all the time. And what about the men that rarely exhibit sadness, hurt, disappointment or affection - the tough guy who can roll with the punches? (These are just a few examples; there are many others.)
We all know people that might fit these categories, and we see how these traits are praised on social and mainstream media time and time again - setting the bar unachievably high. But here's the rub...these beautiful, beloved characteristics have distinct patterns of disease and illness when they are not in harmony and alignment with our soul and deeper inner-knowing.
They are often masks worn to protect wounds, and the discomfort of facing the origination of trauma. At some point, these personality characteristics and behaviors (masks) were probably useful & necessary adaptations for survival. But what happens when they go rogue and take on a life of their own? Literally they have taken over a person's life. The behavior is synonymous with the person, and they have no idea who they are if they aren't this perfectly molded and sculpted version of themself.
An unchecked behavior and reinforcing belief system such as this probably began innocently enough, but over time it can form a distinct pattern in the subconscious and a corresponding biochemical signature in the body which ultimately leads to instability and dissonance. When repeated over the course of a lifetime, the person's choice to maintain the false identity creates the right environment for certain genes to express or cellular malfunction to take hold.
Given this information, what mask(s) do you wear that need to be investigated more thoroughly?
Knowing now what I have briefly described above (and would highly encourage you to research further), in what ways are you being inauthentic or incongruent with your heart and soul? Where do you feel you hold back as a preservation skill? Can you compassionately question the beliefs and origins tied to the mask?
Here are a few of my former masks. Some still come back from time to time, and that's when I know I am truly out of balance and need to get grounded. But for the most part, I've been able to recognize and acknowledge their usefulness , as well as their need to be retired. More on that in part 2 of this blog.
The Victim Mask: why does all the bad stuff happen to me
The Unworthy, Unloveable Mask: everyone always leaves me fear of abandonment thing, so I'll remain aloof, guarded and unengaged
The Workaholic Mask: I get a lot of praise and recognition here so I'll do more of it ALL THE TIME!
The Overachiever Mask: If I'm perfect and achieve a million goals that are unusually lofty, I'll finally be seen, heard, and loved .
The People-pleaser Mask: Sure... walk all over me like a carpet with your muddy boots. My needs aren't validated, important or worthy of acknowledgement.
The "I Don't Give a Flying F*ck" Mask: Nothing I do really matters anyway, so why bother. I'll just eat, drink and be miserable over here while you people figure it out.
The Resenter Mask: This is the passive-aggressive, silently brooding martyr that comes out when my inner-child wants to go play but can't because there are chores to do. She often uses the phrase, "well if I don't do it, it won't get done" while she's huffily doing the dishes or laundry.
Do any of these resonate with you? It takes a lot of courage to look in the mirror and see the real you. I'll tell you more about my unmasking process later. For now, I'm just trying to give them a name and some compassion so I can continue to transform them into something better suited for me at this time in my life.
I damn well know I'm not going to allow them to trap me in a mindset that will manifest into bodily tissue damage or disease. TOWANDA!
I showed you mine, now you show me yours.