Bijgewerkt: jan 7
What’s in a mask?
As you have or haven’t seen: we have a masterclass coming up with Steve Jarand about mask play. It gives me the perfect excuse to write about my own fascination with masks.
Because, wether we realise it or not, the concept of a mask, is one that’s very alive in our society. It always has been.
It has been part of many rituals, if you think about indian of african tribe, you can’t exclude some facepaint and masks in your imagination, can you?
In our society today, our fascination with masks has changed, but not as much as we think… Many woman were make-up, we’ve all seen some erotic pictures in the media of people in masks. We like the mystery behind it.
But even in psychology, in gossip, masks are well discussed. How often do we discribe people as someone who puts on two faces, someone who wears a mask.
We all know “the mask” for sure! The movie and comic. A shy, scared person, puts on a mask and transform to an entire new version of himself. The mask brings out the traits he’s afraid to show. Maybe even a bit to much.
If we proces this for a bit, than the fascination with mask can be summerized into two important functions:
1) We can use it to hide ourselfs. We were a mask to show ourselfs the way we want to be seen. To hide the essence of our being, so we don’t get judged by it. Adapting to the mask we put on (fysicaly or mentaly), it gets easier to hide “our true nature”. Why? Because we learn as a child, that certain parts of our body or our personality or thougts are ugly, bad or wrong. Or we think it might be.
2) The second function is the other way around. We use the mask for anonimity, so we can do whathever we want, be the way we want to be, without anybody knowing our identity. The mask gives a free pass, to escape from the consequences. Like Hannah Montana, she feels confident in her ‘stage outfit’, were she can be extraverted, because the anonimity creates safety to be selfsecure. If she would be denied for who she is up there, she can always fall back on the safe enviroment of her introverted, unknown persona. The internet is a mask just as much.
Both functions are, in my opionion neither good or bad. The intention we use them with might be good or bad. I do hope to talk about the good they can bring is this article. Because beside the fascination, masks scare us just as much.
Whether you are a child playing dress up, a tribe-member preparing for a ritual, an actor getting into character or a woman putting on her daily make-up, putting on a mask isn’t a fleeting nugatory. It is a moment of transformation.
Many childeren (and even adults) gasp or startle their breaths a tiny bit befor putting on a mask. For some reason my dramakids always sniff a mask and inspect it closely before they put it on. Some close their eyes. We often take a ritual or moment to let the mask sink in. To decide who we’re going to be once we put it on.
It’s not always a grand transformation. Our daily make-up might not change us much. Sometimes it’s just a tadd of extra self-assurance that helps us through the day.
But it’s a ritual nontheless. Without it, we’d feel a bit incomplete, a bit restless or confused.
Now we’ve got that covered, I’d like to tell you how masks help me in my job.
For regular drama, teambuildings and therapy, masks are an amazing tool.
I believe that the most important part of my job, is about exploration. Through improv and theater lessons, as much as through therapy, my main concern is to get people to explore themselves, their bodies, their minds, their environment, there connections,…
It sounds simple and fun, but people are terrified to explorer, they’re terrief to reveal more than they want to. The closer they become to what’s important for them, the harder they clutter.
And that’s were mask might come in.
In theater, a mask seems to give the actors permission to let go of themselves. It helps them to transform completely in their character. Therefor, they are less responsible for what’s happend. If anything goes wrong, they can blame it on the character. So their own personal image stays clean. They have permission t put asside their worries, theirs thoughts, and it allows them to become one with their character. So they can transform. With a mask, they can rise above theirselves.
Of course, in many plays there are no masks involved, but it’s a great starting point to get beyond the first akwardness.
The same thing with teambuildings, when everybody is hidding behind masks and they have premission to become the mask, it’s way easier to get them to loosen up. I truely believe it can help to bring a team closer together.
In therapy with, by example, teenagers, masks have real strong effects. Teens are terrified tot open up to each other. A mask gives them a character where they can hide. To let them interact on certain topics, they can be honest, and check the feedback of others. When the feedback makes them feel uncomfortable, or they want comfort for a moment, but they want to ‘forget it’ afterwards, they can blame the statements on the character. So when the mask comes of, they’re free from the consequences. I’ve witnessed magical moments through these techniques!
But mask play isn’t my best game yet. There’s still a lot for me to learn out there, and a lot to get comfortable with! That’s why I look forward to Steve Jarands masterclass at the end of this month.