Be yourself, everyone else is taken. ~ Oscar Wilde
It’s interesting interacting with people when most of their faces are covered by a mask. So much non-verbal communication takes place via the face and I feel like I’m missing out on so much not being able to see people’s faces. Certainly people-watching (a favourite past-time of mine) is a thing of the past. For now.
“Humans are experts at interpreting faces. We constantly, over the course of a lifetime, develop this expertise,” says Alexander Toderov, a psychologist and neuroscientist from Princeton University. His research shows that people respond nearly instantaneously to new faces, forming judgments about other people’s character, emotions and attitudes in less than a hundred milliseconds. “Different parts of the face signal different emotions. The mouth is where most anger is expressed, disgust is signalled largely from wrinkling around the eyebrows and nose,” explains Toderov. That said, we use the whole face to interpret other people’s emotional states, which is why wearing masks can present some social and cultural obstacles.
Behind cloth masks
Generally, we can read subtle facial cues well in people we know and love, such as friends and family. But we’re not as good at reading strangers’ faces. When covered with a mask, we may not notice a person’s smile and may easily attribute negative emotions to the smiler. Smiling eyes are not that easy to interpret, I’ve realised, they’re only evident with a wide grin.
Behind emotional masks
Most of us wear emotional masks, which started way back in pre-historic times when it was necessary for survival. Wearing emotional masks continues today, despite it not being necessary for survival. For example, insecure people often hide behind the mask of name-dropping. People who feel powerless may hide behind the mask of being a bully. People who don’t feel loved, often hide behind a mask of anger. We may mask our debt to pay for lifestyles we can’t afford. We pretend things are fine at work when our jobs are on the line. We pretend things are okay in our relationships when there is distance.
Why hide the truth?
One of the most common reasons for wearing emotional masks is fear that the world is going to find out our truth. Or worse, that we are going to have to confront our emotions of not belonging or not being good enough.
Self-study is one of the themes I visit frequently in Found and Lost, book one of the GREAT WAY SERIES. The protagonist, Lucy Lewis, spends more than a decade trapped in a cave with a renowned Buddhist monk. With nothing to do but meditate, she realises her true self and is able to understand and heal from the trauma and emotional wounds she experiences as a baby. With that comes powerful transformation. We can learn a lot from Lucy.
Three reasons to shed our masks
And I don’t mean our COVID masks.
What I’ve learned about myself from behind the cloth mask
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