It’s often forgotten that one of the dragons that must be slain on the road to happiness is the cause of sorrow. It seems likely that few of us will clearly see what brings our spirit down, simply because it’s too close to home. It is so close, so subtle and very often so subconscious. It’s those moments when we are trying to be someone we are not, without realising it. Those moments can last from a few minutes to a lifetime! They are not easy to spot because they are events that originate and happen entirely within our consciousness. And unless we have developed a ‘fine’ degree of self awareness we won’t be able to recognise we are not being our self!
The basic principle is: If you try to be anything or anyone other than your self then a loss of happiness and some form of sorrow must result.
A good analogy to describe the origins of such moments of sorrow is the mascarade party. Everyone turns up holding a mask on a stick in front of their face, which makes them almost (but not quite) impossible to recognize. You could say that they are both hiding and attempting to project an unreal image of themselves. Without being fully aware of it we do the same within our consciousness when we create what is known as a ‘subtle self image’. It’s as if we hold the self image like a mask in front of our consciousness and we attempt to ‘wear’ that image/mask. All our thoughts, feelings and behaviours are then ‘shaped by’ and ‘flow from’ that image.
There are of course many ‘gross’ or obvious self images that we have all learned to create and hide ourselves behind. These include images based on what our bodies look like, what we do, the group that we ‘believe’ we belong to or align with (from a football team to a religion!), our family history, our nations etc. We create and use such images to define our sense of identity and depending on the situation and circumstances we will switch between these images, which is like switching masks, as we wander through the party we call life! This is probably one reason why we have an identity crisis in the world in general, and why many people in particular, will at some stage of their life spend time and energy searching for themselves, as they try to find out who they are...exactly! It takes a little while to realise we are all no one! But that’s another seminar!
In the meantime, while we may realise the obvious i.e. that we are not what we do, not what we look like in the mirror and not where we were born, we will probably find it hard to see the more ‘subtle masks’ that we wear and switch between during the course of an average day. There are many. They are all sources of sorrow simply because they block out or distort the light of our natural happiness. Here are seven of many masks, many subtle images that we create and identify with. What you might call the 7 Masks of Zorrow!
Remember everything that we think, feel, decide and do is shaped by our subtle self image. Which of the following do you recognize within your self most strongly?
The Sensible Mask
The creator and wearer of this self image tends to consider themselves to be the person who always does the right thing, the reasonable thing, the common sense thing. They tend to think, “I am the one to bring some grounded sense to you and your/this situation”. They want to be seen by others as balanced, stable, sensibly correct and correctly sensible! They will be quickly on hand to give good advice and guidance the moment they sense something might be ‘going south’! They will allow themselves the feeling of satisfaction once their advice has been dispensed but they will get easily frustrated at the sight of others doing what they consider to be stupid and nonsensical. And then they will worry that others won’t actually follow their advice, which is why they can so easily and regularly lose their happiness.
The Mask of Shame
People wear this mask as soon as they think they have done something wrong, which is frequently. They even watch and identify with others wrong doings and feel guilty on their behalf. Most frequent thoughts include, “I messed up again...I always get this wrong... I am not able to do this without letting someone down”. Seeing oneself as guilty is easy if we had a childhood full of judgemental parents or scolding teachers and the regular insinuations that, “You are wrong again!” The built in sadness that lives at the heart of guilt and shame will always be waiting to prick any bubble of genuine happiness.
The Subserviant Mask
When we wear this mask we bow down to others in our minds. We hold others as greater than us. Thoughts emerge like, “I wish I could do that...I can never be that good...I am just lucky to know them”, are all signs that our self image is always of ‘smallness’ in comparison to others. As we suppress our self in this way we suppress our natural happiness making any lasting contentment impossible.
The Superior Mask
We wear this mask when we think of our self as the one who doesn’t just know but ‘knows everything’ the most clearly and the most deeply. We think of ourselves as the ‘greater one’, the one who has a solution to everything. There will be an air of superiority and an attitude of ‘I know better’. This is a self image that guarantees we will see others as threats to our throne. There will be the fear that maybe we don’t know best/deepest/clearest and that ‘they’ actually do. This will gnaw away at our happiness on the inside but we probably won’t notice it.
The Seductive Mask
This is the mask of the needy, worn when we want others attention so that we can feel valued. We attempt to attract others energy to us. This is not reffering to ‘seductive’ at a physical level. That gross self image based on form has already been transcended (!). Seductive here means the elegent words, the flattering observations, the warmest compliments all expressed in ways that are mentally and emotionally attractive to ‘the other’. We then create and carry a certain pride when others gravitate towards us as a result of what we believe to be our magnetic attractiveness. This becomes a dragon that needs to be fed regularly and when the food is threatened, as it will be every day, the anxiety will dispatch any happiness with clinical efficiency.
The Sensitive Mask
This is a popular mask worn when we see ourselves as the one who cares most and best. We are always on the lookout for opportunities to ‘be there’ for others in their emotional and personal crisis. The ‘sensitive’ will think, “Only I can appreciate what you are going through...only I can help you to deal with your life challenges... only I can sense what’s really going on here.” The arrogance that sits in behind this mask is always swinging between fear and anger. Fear that we may miss something and lose our reputation as the oh so ‘sensitive and caring one’. And anger that others might not allow us to get under their skin in order to fully sense and understand what they are going through so that we can be seen to care for and about them. And so happiness will be a fleeting and dependent on the one for whom we are being so sensitive.
The Mask of Sorrow
Well they are all masks that induce sorrow but the king of all the masks is the self image based on sorrowfulness. It is worn most frequently when we decide to feel sorry for ourselves. Even when we may be shouting at others, “I don’t want your pity”, we are pitying ourselves that we have attracted the pity of others. On the one hand we use others pity to enhance our sorrowful self image, and then we fervently reject it and make ourselves feel isolated with the thought, “Am I the only one who feels sorry for me?”.
These subtle self images, that we create and wear as masks on the inside, are of course the ‘ego at work’. It is just a subtler level of the habit of creating and identifying with something we are not. That something is always an image, or a concept, or an idea, or just a belief. None of these masks is ever the true self. They can never be the ‘real’ I. The true face behind the mask is the creator and wearer of the mask. It is the face that can never be seen. And happiness is only possible when we have no mask. That’s when we are aware of our self as the faceless face...so to speak! But for most of us that can sound a bit…scary! So up pops The Scary Mask!
Question: Which of the seven masks do you think you tend to create and wear most frequently
Reflection: How would you describe the precise nature of your sorrow when you hide behind this mask
Action: Watch for those sorrowful feelings this coming week and as soon as you become aware of them take of your mask and see what difference it makes
The last two Clear Thinking E-Articles were:
How Present Are YOU?
Have YOU Found the Fork in the Road?
Amazon now has e-book versions of The 7 Myths About Love; Don’t Get MAD Get Wise and the 7 AHA!s of Highly Enlightened Souls