“We are more apt to feel depressed by the perpetually smiling individual than the one who is honestly sad. If we admit our depression openly and freely, those around us get from it an experience of freedom rather than the depression itself.” -Rollo May
I often have conversations with my patients about their masks, the smiling personas which hide away their true selves, the ones who long to be seen and accepted. They’re convinced that the world would shun them if they knew of their disgrace, and the shame which, they believe, exemplified their true characters. And thus, they hide, as we all do, desperately seeking solace in the comfort of solitude, while pushing away the world around them. To me, this is the perfect representation of the alienated and isolated world in which we live. We do and say what’s expected, while our inner-selves claw away at the steel bars in which we enclose them. And I ask, what for? Why do we damage ourselves the way we do? Are we inherently masochistic, punishing ourselves for some unknown crime, perhaps for being human?
Today, I had a phenomenal breakthrough with a client of mine, one in which he realized the insignificance of how he was perceived by others. Rollo May, the famous existential psychiatrist once said, “Every human being must have a point at which he stands against the culture, where he says, “This is me and the world be damned!” Leaders have always been the ones to stand against the society — Socrates, Christ, Freud, all the way down the line.” And on this day, my patient was bestowed with that unique and perspective-altering revelation, gaining insight into the importance of accepting himself, while realizing that it was up to others to attempt to understand him, not his duty to make them. It was in that moment that I experienced a part of him which I wished others could perceive in themselves, hell, that I wished I could see in myself. I bore witness to a calmness that’s seldom replicated, and knew that I was a part of something special: a mystical reveling that rivaled that of the great St. Paul. In that one brief moment, it felt as though time had arrived at a permanent halt, as I experienced the vastness of eternity, a euphoria which entailed the authenticity which I was, humbly, granted the privilege of seeing.
I hoped that I could someday help my other clients share in, what was, a pivotal point in a life-long struggle for self-acceptance. And, I wished that I could someday share in it, too. I’ve argued elsewhere about how closed off we were from our world and each other, fearing judgment as we hid away the children within. We’ve been reared with this ugly belief that we have to be something or someone in order to be loved and accepted. I have to be good at this or that; I have to be polite and friendly; I have to be sane: all myths which pervade a culture that deeply yearns for the divulgence of its soul, and yet unceasingly fears to do so.
For as long as clinical psychology has dominated the treatment of mental ailments, we’ve known of the deep tragedies of repression, but never has it been more obvious than in today’s age of loneliness: sad people with smiling faces, pretending to be happy. Rather than genuine, creative expression, we’ve become obsessed with taking selfies and gathering likes, convinced that both could fill the voids which beg for human connection. And, we’ve successfully perpetuated a culture of small-talk and social media, deluding ourselves into believing that they can, in any way, provide some semblance of the depth all of us seek. So, where does all of this lead us? On a continuation of our collective quest, still searching for intimacy.
Intimacy is love, and love is made possible only through revelation; but, revelation requires courage, the courage which says, I am who I am and to hell with you if you don’t accept me! It’s the courage which stems from love of oneself, a love which can only be created by the one whom it’s directed to. And, in that self-love, the creator says, I deserve it from those around me, because I deserve it from myself. I am worthy, and I am lovable because I am who I am, because I am me. In my own search for intimacy, I continue to long for the day, for a world, where sadness and fear, and anger (mostly from women, as they’re only allowed to be kind), and insecurity are easily expressed, where I can say, “See, this is who I am; it isn’t always me, but it’s me nonetheless.” I want to, someday, rid myself of my mask, and like my client, I just want to be known; to hell with you if you don’t like me, not the me you see, but the real me.
“If you do not express your own original ideas, if you do not listen to your own being, you will have betrayed yourself. Also, you will have betrayed your community in failing to make your contribution.” -Rollo May