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Social Masks

Intentionally or not we walk through our lives wearing masks to avoid fully sharing ourselves with people.  Its partly a byproduct of our transient, nuclear family society in which conditions us to be independent.

We are constantly moving, and so are the people in our lives. Few of us are born, raised, work, live and die in the same small community or family groups any longer.  We leave our families and communities to go to school, to work, play, marry and travel.  Our lives ricochet off other lives, in a cosmic pinball game, rarely dropping into the  winners circle where we have a chance of developing a real relationship.

The upshot of this is that we have developed a situational shorthand called the social mask.  We generally don’t intend to hide who we are, but the threads of the stories of our lives are too long and complex to reweave for everyone we encounter.  Social masks are like personal samplers.  People experience, and come to know who we are based upon the small snippet of time they interact with us, and tend to assume that the whole bolt of fabric is exactly the same as the small swatch they have seen.

Social masks are a protective mechanism that makes it possible to deal with the relationship overload of living in a large and mobile society.  One of the advantages being privacy, however the other side of that coin is distance.

Social masks distance us from one another.  When we are accustomed to concealing information about ourselves, it becomes difficult to decide which information to reveal and when it is appropriate.  As a result, we risk ending up in relationships with cardboard cut out figures, limited by our social masks.   And therein lies the challenge.  How, when and can you go from a cardboard relationship to a real one?

If we are not careful, social masks lock us away from having enough rich, involved and unconditional relationships. We need people. We need the intimacy of a community of people that know us, understand who we are without having to tell them, accept us and will rally around without asking when we need it.

For that to happen we have to consciously drop our masks sooner.  We have to take the risk of exposing our soft underbellies, and revealing who we are at the core.  We have to communicate and consciously choose to create community.

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