inside art therapy

Putting art therapy ramblings to paper…

Mask work and toilet paper January 7, 2012

Filed under: How art can heal,The Unconscious — insidearttherapy @ 2:05 pm

Ok, so I didn’t get back with a tidbit yesterday. Sorry.  But here’s today’s progress notes.

I am working on different approaches in Art Therapy and have come to the mask work. It’s a whopper topic and again something I’ve had to prune considerably.  Mask work is so wonderfully powerful, but also given to some hysteria regarding the necessity of masks at all.  Granted, plenty of masks do not serve the wearer, but some masks are essential.

  • Mask, in terms of the psychological device is necessary, to some degree, in successful social interaction.  If we were to be always expressing our authenticity, we may be offensive, patronising or just downright insensitive to others.  In a very simplified example, if I am socialising with a friend whose baby has recently died, my joy at the impending birth of another grandchild may need to be masked somewhat to allow my friend the safety in our relationship of not being too confronted by the reality of joy existing when her own world is so bleak.  In the event that I am suffering, I will also mask some of my sadness, when attending a joyous celebration for another.  Our social competence depends upon this ability to moderate and conceal, to escalate and reveal, when the timing and environment is right.  Think for a moment about some of the people you know who “let it all hang out”, or those people whose beliefs and values are constantly on display.  A common term I hear adolescents using is “suck it up”, often accompanied by “princess”, as if whoever is being addressed is acting as if he or she is somehow more entitled to outrage or despair than the average person.  A lack of competence in ‘mask manipulation’ in this simple sense, can be seen often in people who have an Autism Spectrum Disorder. This is often a result of impaired theory of mind, (the ability to view things from another’s perspective) but can also arise from the individual’s unwillingness to be anything other than fully authentic in the moment.

Really, so much in therapy is about masks; what we mask from the world, what we hide from ourselves, what we project to the world, how we protect ourselves. In the act of making the mask we dwell with this aspect of our psyche, give it some time to fully reveal itself, and to understanding the mechanism that keeps it locked in place.

I am now rather urgently in need of fresh air and something other than a screen and keyboard.  I could also do with a good massage!  🙂



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