The world is a stage: on masking

Shakespeare said it the best: “All the world’s a stage“.

Masking is a topic that comes up often in regards with autism, I want to show you with this small article that not only autistics mask, but everybody. Everyone. Most of the time.

I mask unconciously. When I walk out the door, you don’t see the person whom I was when I stepped out of that door, you see a watered down version of the real me. The real me is neatly tucked away, so you can’t touch it. You get a more verbal, more vibrant me. You get a version of me that you like to go out with whom is talkative, can talk to you about any topic and generally won’t shut up (it says in my diagnosis that I talk excessively much…), when I am at home, I can go hours without saying a word. My girlfriend really has to engage me to prompt me to say a thing, to say out loud what I am thinking. I can spend hours reading or watching tv shows, without uttering one phrase.

In Japan, or I don’t know where it was they identified that we wear different masks depending on the situation, I can’t find it right now, but it happens.

What comes to mind as well, is the Stanford Prison experiment or how donning a different costume can change your whole way of thinking. Can change the whole way you behave and even see yourself and how you see and treat fellow human beings. This experiment had to be stopped because the guards were to cruel to the inmates, although they only got the roles arbitraterely and random.

Masking is not only something autistics do, but we are most confronted by it. We know it hurts our real selves and it brings a real psychological tole to us. Most autistics suffer from depression and even commit suicide because of the presures of masking. Imagine that.

I think most people have a problem with the masks they need to wear. Conforming to societal pressure is a way of masking as well, because you don’t want to show the real you. The real you is neatly tucked away somewhere so society wouldn’t see all your weird thoughts and fantasies.

I believe in a more honest society, one were a judge isn’t chastised because he has a different preference in his own time qua sexuality (in Belgium there was a judge whom liked bdsm and was punished for it, even a movie was made about him, one I refused to watch, because it is his own personal choice how he likes to perform his sexuality and not something I or anyone should judge).

I broke down a few years ago when during a simple arts and crafts session we were asked to craft our own mask. I got a shutdown, I started crying and I didn’t know what to do. I think my mind saw the vastness of the question and to put my whole crafted persona in one mask would be to huge of a task. Everything you see about me is crafted. I don’t think I know the real me anymore, although I am learning me more and more. I am still chiselling away to find the real me, a journey I have been on since I said “no fucking way” to societal pressure and conforming to the group when I was 16.

Autistics, I think, are more prone to self-reflection and do more introspection than the average human being. We know more what we like and what we want to be, what we dislike and why. We know more about filosophy and psychology because we are so used to looking up information (I speak for myself now), to know how others behave and why. The why for me is very important, although it is filtered through the subjective lense of the researcher, it is still valuable because I get to ask those questions of people and I can talk about the researches I read with people.

Jung was one of the most in depth to describing the mask society uses by formulating his archetypes. Archetypes in my view are the masks society uses to act certain roles that one needs to perform. Jean Shinoda Bolen has rewritten these archetypes into Gods and Godesses and is a must read for everyone.

You can read a small treatise on masks (and archetypes) in this huffington post article here.

Walk in any trainstation and view a mob passing by (a staircase works best) and you will see how many different masks or archetypes there are. You will see people dressing similarly, behaving similarly. These are the roles society expects of us. The roles we need to play to surive the acts it puts us through. To survive this play.

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