The Ego Mask – Obstacle to Spiritual Growth
“The mask acts like a defensive shroud
to make the inner self invisible
to both the outside world
and to the self.”
– John C. Pierrakos, MD
I have attended in a Carnival that took place in Nice, France – the official capital of the French Riviera that was truly spectacular event.
In the middle of the celebrations, my thoughts have been driven to the deep metaphoric meaning of the mask and the costume and its consequences.
The masks like those I have seen are used as a disguise, a means of hiding the true identity or image behind the mask. A mask is used by millions of children and adults for Halloween, masquerades, parties, festivals such as Mardi Gras and the Chinese New Year celebration, and various productions. These are festive occasions for the purpose of entertainment and excitement, and often bring fun and pleasure to the participants. I’m sure all of you reading this have donned a mask sometime in your life.
These masks are quite visible and are often recognizable as someone who once lived, a cartoon or mythical character, or someone who is well known in our present life.
But let’s talk about different kind of mask.
The unconscious mask that we wear everyday for we identify so closely with it that we believe it to be who we are. Furthermore, we feel we are happiest when this mask is skillfully manifested for our friends, family and society. In such a case, our ego gives us a pat on the back, we feel approved of and we think we’re on track. There is nothing that makes the mask happier than to feel approved of. But such so-called happiness never lasts, and so we need another fix. The mask also loves plotting, planning and scheming, and so it is constantly seeking and striving for something, whatever this may be.
Such mind-activity is hardly noticed for the most part, because, it is our normal day-to-day, moment-by-moment experience. It has become normalized. Without the mask we feel uncertain, needy, frightened, isolated and out of control. This is because without its constant preoccupations we would have to face ourselves, i.e. face what we don’t like about ourselves. So we rarely allow the mask to drop for long. It’s too uncomfortable, too painful.
The mask is very, very clever. It adapts and changes to suit circumstances like a chameleon. The mask is certainly a master showman; each person’s own mask an expert in its own unique and individual way.
The wearing of this mask is a pseudo-automatic response. It can be sad when sympathy for a friend’s grief is required, it can crack a joke just at the right moment to make others laugh, it can be poker-faced on the packed train to work and it can offer great, sound advice to someone who is unhappy. Sometimes the mask may have a dominant trait, a characteristic it loves to be, for example being quiet, funny, serious, dramatic, poised, intellectual, extrovert, distracted, dramatic, dominating, depressed, obedient, respectable, respectful, self-involved or right. There are many other roles the mask can adopt to suit the given moment as it sees it. When it is being this dominant trait, or several, it feels involved, in control, and for a while we’re satisfied. But never for long.
When our behavior and thoughts are determined by our mask, we see only another’s mask. It is two masks act reciprocally, not their real selves. A mask cannot see reality for it itself is unreal. Something that is unreal cannot be aware of something that is real.
The mask is a filter that keeps out everything that doesn’t encourage the ego’s needs and wants. Thus the filter keeps out truth and reality – and God. It keeps out God – Divine Consciousness, Spirit, Source or whatever word you prefer – since inviting the Divine to enter into one’s life is to give up one’s will for the greater good (which includes one’s own good). Since the ego does not wish to be removed from its superior role it will do all it can to convince you as to why you need your needs and wants and why nothing else must take center stage. But there can be no true spiritual growth without the loss of ego.
There are many other words that can be used for this mask such as personality, ego, conditioning, image, filter, mind-identified state, façade body, outer persona, false identity.
There are certain characteristics of the mask that can be stated as follows:
• It is not real
• It gives the illusion of control
• It has many opinions, views and beliefs about oneself and others
• It has you believe your beliefs are real
• It lacks courage and wisdom
• It is self-serving, cunning and calculating
• It is inauthentic
• It makes one gloomy and lacking in vitality
• It desperately seeks love and approval in others and outer things
• It is unable for the most part to think creatively
• It always creates suffering, whether acknowledged or not
• It leads to stress and sickness
• It changes like the wind to suit outer circumstances; it is not stable
• It is often materialistic and success-driven, or abnegates success, but either way, it is never satisfied
• It blames others and does not take responsibility
• It denies buried, painful emotions
• It resists love, freedom, peace, passion, eternity and God
The reasons why we need the ‘mask fix’ is because we fear that if we didn’t have it:
• we would be consumed by our own emotions
• we would not be able to cope with life
• people would not like or accept us
• we would be isolated, embarrassed and ‘found out’
• our world would fall apart
• we would not be able to maintain our jobs or business
• we would not be able to maintain our relationships
It is therefore understandable that most people do not want to give it up. But on the path to becoming who we essentially are in terms of real Self, there is no other way. Eventually all human beings will face themselves as they are, not just face the mask itself (metaphorically-speaking) but also the vastness of their Being, which the ego covers up skillfully.
In staying in the dimension of the real Self in our daily activities, a peace is available that is beyond the stresses of having to buy into the hamster’s wheel of perpetual striving and relentless mind activity. There is no need to go sit on a mountain top to experience inner peace; we can feel it now, in the real world. Like the phoenix rising out of the ashes, the real Self is what will emerge if we allow it to. And allowing it to means simply to drop the mask and just be.
When I took off my mask and became my true self, what a relief. No more self-pity or self-disapproval. I became the same every day without inhibitions and without shame or blame. I shed stress like a winter coat on a warm spring day. I was able to breathe deeply and relax, something I had to learn to do since I had become an expert at shallow breathing and tightly knotted muscles, symptoms of stress. All of this became possible as a result of changing my innermost programming into believing and accepting my true worth; a mask was no longer needed or wanted for there was no longer anything to hide.
Let’s take a look at what the mask hides:
• God / Source
• Real, meaningful relationships
• Energy and vitality
• Emotional freedom
• Fulfillment of life purpose
• And much more
All these lists can be added to further.
My invitation to you is to grab your mask, rip it off, and throw it into the trash. Go inside and find out who you truly are and then live as that person. If you don’t like what you see, and most probably there will be things you will want to change, then get started releasing your old thoughts and beliefs about yourself and begin shifting into the thoughts and beliefs that will drive you into the person you want to be. I can promise that if you truly want to make the changes, you will be able to do it. It begins with a choice, your choice, and with that choice comes an incredible opportunity, the opportunity of creating an extraordinary life as the person you wish to be!
Make the choice today to begin a new direction, one that allows you to be you, just as you are, a wonderful, fantastic, magnificent individual with the power to create the life you want. You don’t need a mask; you only need a mirror to see your true self!
Eventually, The Carnival comes to an end when the king is taken out to sea and burned, accompanied by an elaborate fireworks display. From my point of view it is symbolic to Ego death.