The Mask That Wore the Man
"We sell ourselves by the way we appear. Our eventual defense and buffer zone against the world's cruelties is the persona, a mask that hides our intimate inner self, protecting us from hurt."
"The mask is usually in place at the end of adolescence, but sometimes not, accounting in part for the large number of teenage suicides. When we feel that no one understands us at all, particularly our parents and peers at school, then life may seem too painful to go on." Sometimes teens select antiheroes to identify with in order to adopt a persona that works for them like gangs.
"The persona also serves us as our personality, the social adaptation that we as individuals must make to society as a whole." Some say we have a persona in our teens when we work to satisfy the expectations of others. In our late 20's we develop a persona to suit ourselves. We eventually outgrow that one in mid-life and another emerges.
"When we play at being someone else, that is all right if we do not forget the real self within. If we do, we have sold ourselves in a way that betrays our highest purpose and responsibility. We have sold out to acceptability. The persona no longer serves us, but we must serve the mask! There is a psychic danger, a potential trap for the ego consciousness because the persona is created to serve the ego. If the persona is especially successful in its effect upon the world, then the ego may so identify with it that it winds up serving the persona, master become slave." At that point we may actually believe that the mask or persona is who we really are with a resultant loss of the authentic self.
I am fond of this artwork piece as it shows that the outward persona is the potential evil or dangerous element rather than the beautiful, unsullied, authentic face underneath the mask. We should protect ourselves from the cruelties of the world's judgment, but can never lose sight of our authentic feelings. WHAT we are is more important than WHO we are.
"The Mask That Wore the Man" is an adult fairy tale in a collection by Richard Roberts called Tales for Jung Folk available now at Amazon.com.