Masking Emotions, Suppressing Stress

by | Jun 2, 2022 | Identity and Heartflow, Meditation

An emotional mask can look like a smile or a snarl, depending on your personal emotional journey. These emotional masks evolve as unconscious personas we use to protect ourselves. The development of a persona can help you distance yourself from yourself, and/ or protect your relationships keeping the authentic you hidden.

Many clients will reflexively say “I’m fine!” when asked how they are, even when they know that I am aware they are very stressed out. They will blurt out, “I’m fine!” with a head tilt or a generous smile even when they know I’m aware of how stressed out they are. Others are more stoic and removed. Stilted and unsmiling.

When you are a master of masking, you have many ways you direct attention away from yourself. Clients often downplay how they feel, making reference to other people having it worse, or expressing confusion about why they are not feeling very good despite high stress and trauma often being present.

Minimising your feelings and masking what you are really feeling can also manifest as people-pleasing behaviours, at times accompanied by a highly activated nervous system already in fight, flight and freeze. People pleasing and a mask of happiness is sometimes called a “fawn” response, also a nervous system response. The fawn response is surprisingly successful in deflecting further questions about how you feel. People are reassured when you show them a mask of happiness. Our society is biased to want people to be happy and feels uncomfortable with the expression of emotion.

Managing feelings of anger, fear and grief can be hard work and it is understandable that we create masks to manage our daily life of work, family, relationships and education environments, but when denied or pushed down it is hard to stay connected to the body and we feel disconnected from ourselves. Presencing our emotions helps to give space for understanding and insight to arise, emotions to process and release, and supports you to move on from stuck feelings that at times have been denied and suppressed for a long time.

Strategy:

The Love Bubble Meditation is helpful as a neutral non-judgmental space to connect back to the body and bring awareness to our boundaries. This creates containment for our feelings, and heart connection to balance the vulnerability of looking at how we feel.

Presencing your masks: During the meditation a gentle noticing of the type of mask you are adopting can be integrated into the love bubble meditation, with non-judgment and acceptance. Bringing compassion to the mask that has been adopted, presencing the emotions that are hidden and need space to breathe. Using the Love Bubble Meditation can create a defined space to witness hidden feelings without feeling overwhelmed.

NOTE: If you have feelings of overwhelm when working in this way, seek help or support from a professional to support emotional processing. This is not designed to replace professional support often needed to safely work with emotions and trauma.