This illustration shows us that wearing a mask allows us to avoid revealing our true feelings. Sometimes this is appropriate if we’re not in a safe environment, but other times it interferes with connection and intimacy. You may have heard ‘intimacy’ described as ‘into-me-you-see’, so operating behind a mask can be detrimental to having healthy and rewarding relationships. If this is the way a person has learned to protect themselves from criticism or abuse, it is a very necessary survival mechanism.
Relationship troubles begin when that protective behaviour is so well entrenched that the choice to say more in an attempt to connect is limited or completely absent. What would it be like for this person to look inside and share what is happening?
And the opposite can be true too. Another person might constantly talk and ‘share’ at a surface level where no space is allowed for the other person to respond and for the connection to deepen. A continuous stream of happy, light conversation helps these people to feel safe. What would it feel like for these people to stop, to be still and quiet, to breathe and listen?
The therapy room is a safe place where you can peek out from behind the mask and have a go at relating in different ways. The work is paced to match what you are comfortable with and you are never pressured to go beyond what you think you can manage. Small steps are better than huge leaps, whether it’s being more vulnerable and open or more assertive and strong. I can work with you to help you develop the inner resources that will help you to feel safe enough to begin to make changes in the outside world.