A fancy hotel, refreshments lining the conference tables, this was a place of business. And gathered together were 150 of some of the sharpest consultants you could put together. They buzzed around the room, mingling with big words and breathy digressions. Everyone was so attentive and charismatic, a well-oiled machine of social elegance without the least bit slip of faux pas from their demeanor.
It was my annual company gathering, but as I observed this hive of activity, I suddenly felt out of touch with this sophisticated economy of social graces. My quick wit and saccharine charm had always been my guiding compass to this world. But now I felt like a castaway looking upon the distant glint of civilization. Knowing that even if he were to return, he could never fit in quite the same. For now he was a wild man at heart.
And though my path is taking me deeper into the wild, I would not forbid anyone I meet out there to avoid their journey into the machine. For these people were not slaves, like I once wanted to believe. Yes, they bowed and curtsied – silly little games of society. But behind each of their carefully curated masks were wild men. Blending in not to lose themselves, but to bring others along.
What is a mask
What does a consultant do exactly? They help you accomplish a goal.
Sure, they bring good ideas and proven strategies to the table, but at the end of the day their craft takes place within your psychology as you adopt them. In our case, we consult managers on how to better lead. And not only did all 150 of these consultants know a ton about being leaders, they knew a ton about influencing you to be a leader.
So it’s influence that is their true craft. The ability to plant seeds and change minds. It’s not enough for them to show up and be knowledgable. They have to somehow transfer that knowledge to you. And they do through their mask, a charade that allows them to present themselves in a form you will recognize. A ritual where they embody you (at least on the surface), so that you may understand how to embody them.
Why do we wear masks
But sometimes it can be hard to listen to people, even when they have valuable information. Winston Churchill famously said, “I am always ready to learn, but I do not always like being taught”. We fear that acknowledging someone else’s truth is like admitting our own is less worthy.
However, in the right setting, like a classroom from our school days or the first day on the job. our minds can be hard-wired to receive. This is because we perceive no threat. When people present themselves as foreigners, we feel threatened, we need a token of similarity to make us feel safe.
Masks provide us the ability to create safety for each other. It is a learned behavior. A charade of mimicry we do in the wild to cajole new relationships.
When we utilize a mask we send a subliminal message to our listener, “I am like you”. and create an invitation to safely explore the space between us.
Perfecting your mask helps you get people to do what you want, helps you prepare a listener to hear certain messages. Playing with masks is like playing an instrument. We get to serenade others into the melody of our ideas. The only drawback is we have to transpose our melody to a key familiar to their ears.
We tend to think of masks as a bad thing, that it inhibits our authenticity and constrains our autonomy. But here before us was a room of people who had built good lives upon this principle. Learning to work with the mask instead of rejecting it.
When to take the mask off
If we want to learn how to wear good masks, we need to know when is appropriate to take them off.
I found myself having to face one of my peers and facing a values conflict. He was saying some things about me that I did not quite agree with, in fact they were downright hurtful. It triggered me to feel misunderstood in this way, and I wanted to rip off my mask and reveal all the fierce authenticity held in my battle-scared face and bloodshot eyes.
Im thinking of my conversation with Mike, and I even clarified to make sure he still loved me. Because he was so harsh on me, and held that position: “I have limited patience for your spiritual journey”.
Then I remembered the words of my healer, “some relationships can’t hold all of you, and you have to accept that this person may have their limitations. You have to decide if that tradeoff is worth it. Whether the benefit is worth the cost.
At the end of the day, I didn’t need this person’s approval. It’s easier said than done and I was fortunate enough to be at a point in life where new and better friends were being introduced to me.
Part of being in relationship is respecting the other’s autonomy and not forcing yourself upon people. This took me a while to accept, but it actually comes as a relief having found the few close friends I can be truly and totally seen with. He can’t accept all of me, but I can.
Masks out in the wild
This concept of Dual Awareness I have found immensely valuable. It’s the idea of being aware of the situation and being aware of myself. I can respect the space between me and my coworker and also be aware that my truth differs.
Treating these two truths as separate points draws such a clear line for how to travel freely between them. It allows me to facilitate the space with him and be aware of my truth over there, reaching for it when necessary. As long as I’m aware of where I truly stand, and knowing when I need to retreat back into it, I can travel between worlds and learn new pieces to integrate back into myself.
That’s earth school, baby. On this material plane we configure our mask to serve our spiritual project. There’s a delicate balance – I think the mask is necessary to move things in the material plane, but as we use this tool to manipulate physical space, we dangerously take on “energy leaks” in the materials / people we are working with.
So after the work is done, and the physical resources necessary to build our temple are collected (traded for and bartered), we must learn how to release our masks, and all the foreign energies it took on. Then, we can retreat back to our inner sanctuary, standing in the center of our temple completely pure and aligned to our spiritual intent.
Life is a fun little dance. Stepping back with our objectivity (“what will their reaction be if I say this”?) and stepping forward with our personal truth (“Maybe nobody will like what I say, but I need to say it anyway”)
Pursuing Perspective – Manifest
- Chapter I – Purpose
- Chapter II – Wisdom
- Chapter III – Clarity