Are We the Masked Species? What Can Wearing a Mask Teach Us About Ourselves?

What can wearing a COVID-mask teach us about ourselves and how we look at others? After almost two years of living in a pandemic, we could benefit by thinking not only about how wearing a mask can protect others from us, or us from a deadly disease, but about what mask wearing can teach us about ourselves, and relating to others.

 

We use the word person to refer to what we are and say we have a personality. The root word here is Latin, persona, meaning a social role, image, or a theatrical mask or appearance we wear in public. Psychologist Carl Jung used the term to mean the social face we present to others, a mask or image we create, or way to hide elements of ourselves. So, in a way we were the masked species even before the pandemic.

 

From antiquity, masks have been an important element of possibly all cultures. Most staged dramas began with performers wearing masks. In Ancient Greece, for example, the legendary poet, Thespis, was supposedly the first to put an actor on a stage and turn choral recitation into drama. He created larger than life masks that also acted like a megaphone. The first written stories were myths with existential and religious themes, about creation, life and death, heroes, and heroines. The first dramas were enacted myths, so drama emerged from religious ceremonies. But what happens when we wear an actual medical mask in public while doing everyday tasks?

 

Of course, politics also enters the picture, as the right-wing in the US and elsewhere have turned a medical necessity into a political statement, thus undermining the effectiveness of masks as simply a practical way to prevent the spread of a deadly disease. This influences how we respond to masks and perceive those who wear them, as well as undermines the value of rational, factual based decision-making. It purposefully turns the social sphere, the public commons into a stage for enacting a political and possibly even a religious drama.

 

Other people are no longer perceived as persons very much like us, but as characters in a drama. And when political leaders of one party threaten and call for violence against another party or against anyone who disagrees with them, that drama can too easily become deadly.

 

According to a research article by Frontiers in Psychology, COVID masks cover about 60-70% of the area of the face responsible for emotional expression. This makes identification of others or any social interaction more difficult. It limits the ability of other people to read our emotions and hear what we say, as the sound of our words is usually augmented by the sight of our lips moving and changes in facing expression. Consciously reading subtle emotional cues as well as the trustworthiness or honesty of others can be difficult enough for many of us without a mask. A mask obviously diminishes this ability.

 

How much does a mask become a blank slate for us to project our own personal dramas? We all know how deeply important how our face looks is to most of us. Especially today, with so many suffering from anxiety and trauma, we can feel extremely sensitive, self-judgmental about how we look, afraid of the tiniest “imperfections.” …

 

**To read the whole article, please click on this link to The Good Men Project.

Being Gentle with Ourselves When the World is Being Harsh

 

It was such a relief back in June when the numbers of people sick from COVID were winding down and the promise of a degree of safety, thanks to the vaccine, was rising up. We had (and have) a rational political administration and summer was approaching. But now, due to the Delta and other variants, and due to the fear and ignorance caused by the GOP and others spreading misinformation or disinformation about the vaccine as they earlier did about COVID-19 itself, it is difficult to know how safe we are or what is safe to do.

 

Thanks to the vaccine, I can consider visiting relatives and friends in other states, people I haven’t seen in person since the pandemic began. But in some sense, this adds more confusion. What variants might lie between here and there? Will I infect or be infected? I am vaccinated, but since I could still carry the virus, do I have to be tested first?

 

And I don’t know if what I am feeling is the psychological effect, the trauma of the pandemic combined with the trauma of four years of DT. Or, since what I feel is probably from a mixture of causes, I wonder what degree of what I’m feeling is simply fear. After hunkering down and making safety my primary concern for so long, it is difficult to take risks or step out.

 

But what I do know is the importance of being real to myself, and gentle when the world is being harsh. If I can find the patience and clarity to be gentle with myself, I can be gentler and clearer with others.

 

And I can take this moment as an opportunity to learn new things about myself. When I’m open to it, I discover new things about where and who I am. I feel even more at home with whatever and whomever I am with. So, when I do venture out, I am going from home to home.

 

And we can use our imagination and empathy to see and feel ourselves in the home with whomever we’d like to visit. One purpose of the imagination is to help us think. When I stopped what I was doing and imagined being in the living room of a friend or family member, talking, looking eye to eye, feeling what I felt for this person. I overcame the physical distance with imagination and the emotional distance disappeared. The situation was simplified a bit and I was able to think more directly and clearly.

 

Of course, the imagination can also be detrimental. We can get caught up in images of hurt and disaster, especially when we’re stressed. Another reason we have an imagination is to help protect us from harm….

 

*To read the whole piece, please go to The Good Men Project.

Vaccination Frustration: Holding Accountable Those Who Deserve It

Do you want to be vaccinated but can’t even get an appointment?

 

As we hear about friends or neighbors who are the same age as we are and in the same priority group getting vaccinated before us, it can feel like we’re in a competition and losing, or we’re repeatedly doing something wrong.  Because potential relief is so close, we can feel the threats of the virus even more strongly.

 

We had grown almost used to wearing a mask. It had become weirdly “normal” to stay home or stay at a distance from anyone not in our pod, and to think of other humans as potential carriers of an infection that might kill us if we didn’t take precautions, including washing immediately after leaving their presence. For many of us, a compulsion to wash our hands has become a life-saving aptitude.

 

But now there’s a vaccine. Not a cure, but a preventive measure that could protect us from getting sick or dying. Or protect us from some of the strains of the virus. We had grown accustomed to the restraints. Now, the wounds are raw once again.

 

And the new strains add another level to the threat, another unknown. Who knows if the preventive measures we have used in the past will protect us in the future?

 

Last week, I spent hours trying to get a reservation for an appointment. I have spent more time on getting a reservation for a vaccine than I would have, in pre-COVID days, spent on planning a vacation.

 

I was on the website for a local pharmacy for hours and was so excited when I finally found an open appointment. I had just finished filling out the online form and had pressed submit, only to then be informed that the time slot was no longer available.

 

Then my wife and I were able to reserve a time slot at a state-run venue. After doing so, my wife received a recorded message on her phone saying she wasn’t eligible for the vaccine. We are the same age and in the same priority group. We answered all their eligibility questions to their satisfaction⎼ or so it seemed. Now, we will have to call to object or keep on searching for new appointments.

 

How many of us are experiencing the same frustration?

 

It would be easy to try to blame someone. But who do we blame? Biden has been president for less than two weeks. DT and his administration totally mismanaged the pandemic for a year. They put our lives at risk, often refused to take any responsibility for the pandemic. They  undermined this nation in a great variety of ways as well as undermining the incoming administration, so it is DT and his followers who we would blame.

 

To read the whole piece, please click on the link to The Good Men Project who first published it.