Halloween Masks Can Reveal Secrets About Ourselves
Halloween is almost here. It’s got me thinking about the masks that we wear on this holiday as well as those we wear all year long. We choose to wear a disguise on Halloween but often, without realizing it, our choice of masks reveals more about us than we might realize. It could be making a statement about who we are or who we want to be.
If we wear a mask that represents a political figure, we’re often telling others that we wish we were like them or that we had their power. Sometimes, it’s to spoof the politician by wearing a caricature mask of their face. We’re behaving in a goofy manner to make them look bad.
If we’re wearing the mask of a comic book or video game character, we might be revealing who we wish we could be. We’re saying that we want to be more heroic or have special abilities.
If we’re dressed provocatively, we might be expressing our sexuality in an indirect way. We can always blame the costume for being overly sexy, as opposed to outright owning it.
Whether we realize it or not, the unconscious part of our psyche is always trying to express itself. It will sometimes manifest in the choice of mask we wear on Halloween.
There’s a part of the psyche called the “shadow.” It contains all of the darker or wilder wishes, urges and impulses that we’re extremely uncomfortable expressing directly.
Most of the shadow content is unconscious because on a conscious level, we’d be embarrassed to face these desires and urges. Our mind does its best to keep this content under wraps. Sometimes, though, the shadow has a way of showing itself; for example, when we’re intoxicated. Alcohol or cannabis can lower our inhibitions and allow the shadow to leak out.
Actors are lucky because they get to explore the shadow parts of their psyche. Whenever they play someone nasty or evil, they get to express the ugly, dirty parts of their own psyche without having to take responsibility for them. It can be extremely cathartic to be able to pretend in this way.
For us non-actors, Halloween is a great time to let our shadow out because we get to experiment with a different persona and no-one can tell if the mask we’ve chosen to wear on this night is hiding our true nature or revealing it.
Masks can be objects of great power. They’ve been used in ceremonies and rituals all over the world since the beginning of time. It’s clear that across cultures, there’s an understanding that what we’re showing on the surface is not the whole of who we are. Masks give us an opportunity to reveal the darker or more embarrassing parts of ourselves in a safe way.
Some masks we wear unconsciously. These are used for self-protection, to deflect judgment or to avoid rejection. If we’re at a party, for example, and we’re feeling vulnerable we might adopt a mask of coolness or aloofness in order to feel less uncomfortable. Or, we could be starting at a new school and adopt a mask of bravura to hide how nervous we’re feeling in this new environment.
These types of masks can be helpful, but at some point we’ll want to let down the mask in order to show the people around us who we really are. Otherwise, we’ll never be able to connect.
It’s up to each of us in our day-to-day interactions to look beyond the masks to see into the real person behind them. Sometimes this is easier said than done; especially when the other person really doesn’t want to be seen. Some people are too insecure to reveal who they really are. Some people are bad guys and don’t want the rest of us to figure out who they really are.
Intimacy is defined as “seeing and being seen.” If our masks are always up, we can’t ever be close to others or enjoy genuine relationships.
It’s exhausting constantly having to keep up our masks and it can even be off-putting. There has to be a balance between how much we cover up and how much we reveal. Masks may misrepresent who we are or show us in a negative light. An unwillingness to drop the mask might be interpreted as having secrets to hide.
This Halloween, we can think about the mask we want to wear. Is there a part of our psyche that we’ve been embarrassed to express? This can be the ideal time to let it out in the form of a mask. We can decide how much we want to reveal and how much we want to keep private. We can reveal a little sliver of our shadow self and it can all be in good fun. Happy Halloween, everyone.
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