Day 3

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    Leanne Matton

    What Lies Beneath?

    She had blue skin, and so did he
    he kept it hid and so did she
    they searched for blue
    their whole life through
    then passed right by
    and never knew.

    Shel Silverstein

    Often when we experience a traumatic loss that goes unrecognised, our identities are compromised. We may know who we are, or maybe we’re still unclear, but it’s certain that those around us won’t see us in ways that reflect how we see ourselves.

    While most personality tests show that I’m a thrill seeker by nature, and I long to do all sorts of physical activity such as skiing, skating, scuba diving, etc, my experience of these activities has always been impacted by an overactive nervous system sounding an alarm so loudly that I can’t override it and enjoy learning something new.

    Consequently I have been characterised even among close friends as someone who is risk averse and anxious, even timid, about these things. I don’t experience myself this way internally.

    I know deep down I have an adventurer’s heart, one that wants to experience as much as possible in this lifetime. That’s why I’ve tried all these activities instead of avoiding them. But my shattered nervous system has other ideas.

    Without acknowledgement from those around us of our grief, loss and trauma, we are viewed out of context and judged accordingly. When this is projected on to us, we can begin to feel like strangers in our own skin.

    Often we begin to behave in ways that we think will correct the way others see us. When you’ve been told you’re someone you know you’re not – aloof, shy, impulsive, reckless, etc – you can become focused on correcting these judgements, rather than making choices that are in your best interests.

    This dynamic keeps us stuck in relationships, jobs, and other situations that are not what we would choose for ourselves if we were feeling ok with who we are, and if we felt accepted by others just as we are.

    A useful way of exploring our identity is through mask-making. This is a helpful way to unravel confusion about ourselves and become more self-aware. Exploring our identities using masks allows us to decide whether the way we’re responding in the world reflects who we really are.

    Below are two of my own masks – the first one is one I made from scratch, molded to my face, which represents my shame at not feeling lovable, my tendency to camouflage to fit in and be acceptable, my inability to speak what is true for me.

    The second one represents the way I saw my true but hidden identity – one that is bright and colourful, and ok just as it is.

    Let’s make some masks to explore YOUR identities. You’ll need some materials (see list below) and at least an hour to spend on each one.

    Start with using mindful reflection to get clear and explore how you see yourself, and how you feel you are seen.

    -What are your strengths, values and beliefs?
    -In what ways do you feel at different from others?
    -What makes you feel sad or frustrated?
    -What do you do when these feelings come up? Do you acknowledge them or fight them?
    -When do you feel great about yourself?
    -What or who makes you laugh?
    -What do you hold as important for the future?
    -What do you need to let go of?

    Our identity or sense of self is not fixed, it is dynamic and changing. We have the choice to accept who we are being in the world, or to change it.


    -Paper or plastic masks (available in any art supply store)
    -Magazines for collage
    -Water containers
    -Something to cover the floor or table
    -An apron to cover your clothes

    Once you’ve completed your masks, write about what came up for you, what you notice about them, what they show you about yourself. My own reflection is below.

    I try to imagine my face on a wanted poster but it’s the face of a stranger.

    I lived an imposter’s life, the child you have when you can’t have your own, the child that reminds you always of your infertility and your differences and your lack and your failure and your unresolved grief.

    The child who pays the price for this and is handicapped and burdened with the poison from another generation, handed down undiluted.

    These people who were supposed to save me from the boogeyman who turned out to be the boogeymen.

    I fought to resist this role and finding no support, I left, changed my name, lived overseas, clawed my way into a decent life, alone. Still I fight to recognise the person I could’ve been if I’d entered the world as a wanted person, a member of a real family, someone who belonged.

    When the trauma bubbled up inside me, I was caught in an identity that was seen as frightened, anxious, timid, ‘weak’. But my heart was a warrior caught in a prison of adrenaline and shock.

    There’s another version of my story, one where I’m supposed to be here and I have important things to do and a difference to make.

    I am letting go the story of a life that was thrust on to me, I am tearing off the mask and finding my true identity. I am discovering that I am ok.

    • This topic was modified 3 years, 6 months ago by Leanne Matton.
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    Masks. SO different responding to this prompt now in 2020. Masks, masks everywhere. Literally. They’re hot and uncomfortable, I can’t see properly and I can’t breathe easily. But I sorta like them. Hiding behind something material.

    Leanne Matton

    Oh my goodness I never even thought of that – masks 2020 version – a whole new meaning!

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