How many worlds do you live in?

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How many worlds do you live in?

Psychology 0

“I have never been aware before how many faces there are. There are quantities of human beings, but there are many more faces, for each person has several. Rainer Maria Rilke

Rainer Maria Rilke-

A friend of a friend once proposed a toast to his wife on the occasion of her birthday. To the gathered crowd of friends and relatives he said in a regretful tone. “She very rarely allows her real self to be seen. I look forward to the moments when somehow for whichever reason she chooses to show herself in that way…I love that person; I miss that person”.

The crowd became perceptibly uneasy, not raising their wine glasses anywhere near their lips for the toast, not at all sure whether this was a good thing or a bad thing to say; was it loving or was it a betrayal (in public)?

Each person listening was seen to scan her face to gauge her reaction and perhaps get a guide as to how they should receive his words.

Listening to her husband’s words she did not flinch for even a second. She dropped her face slightly to her left side, smiled warmly, her dimples exaggeratedly deep and blew a kiss to her husband.


The motionless guests with furrowed brows raised high heaved a sigh of relief in the guise of laughing and toasting.  Any potential ruction had been averted just as it had at the last birthday celebratory speech!

red wine

A toast to my (real) wife!

Red wine, antioxidants and resveratrol: Good for your heart? –

Red wine compound resveratrol may negate health benefits of exercise – CBS News

When discussing people and how they live their lives the word authentic is sometimes tossed around. It is noted that the antonym of the word authentic is the word fake; not the real thing.

I have never been confident in my understanding of the word fake other than in the instance of my cousin’s R150 Rolex Oyster; there I am certain – it is the real thing…fake!


A real Oyster!

I worked at a middle school (junior high) of kids ranging in age from 13 to 15, so the word fake was used repeatedly. “She’s so fake!” was a common behind the hand refrain; more so from shes’ than hes’. As if the speaker was the carrier of the Holy Grail of “that which is real”.

Each of us is more than capable of being insincere, disingenuous, untruthful duplicitous and any other juicy word that describes our capacity to practice purposeful prestidigitation and other illusory and misleading tricks.

Easy to Do Magic Tricks, Become a Magician

I have known psychopaths who have the capacity to lie and feel no empathy. I have known drug addicts whose capacity for lying is overwhelmingly impressive.

I am not sure if I have met a fake person.

I have met people who have developed ways (without always recognising it) to protect themselves from emotional pain.

I have also met people who present themselves differently from one context to another.

I have also met opportunists who say things that people want to hear and then do what they want anyway.

So I am in accord with Rilke when he writes…”there are many more faces for each person…”


Faces, mask, makeup, disguise, shield, distraction, persona?

What shall we call these many more faces?

We may of course call them masks, we may call these faces makeup (as in cosmetics), we may call these faces skins (as in computer screens), we may call these faces disguises, we may call these faces concealments (concealers as in make-up that covers imperfections and blemishes), we may call these faces facades, we may call these faces protective shields or we may call these faces camouflage or strategic distractions.

In truth it varies from one person to another….there are (at least) 8 million stories in the Naked City.

Naked City (TV Series 1958–1963) – IMDb

A person in therapy once wrote the following.

“There are two things that worry me; if I take off the mask I worry that I will no longer be sure who I am and secondly if I take off the mask I fear I may not survive you seeing me for who I am…. and perhaps…. me seeing me for what I am.

So here I stand amongst you all. You are not fools you can see that I am wearing a mask.  I wear a mask because I do not want you to see who I really am; actually not who I really am because I am not even sure of that, but rather what I feel. I am going to tell you something that is hard for me to tell. This mask prevents you from seeing that I have a soft skin, a soft heart, that I am deeply confused and filled with doubt, I am hurt easily; I cannot help what I am … I wish I could.

So I have said it. The choice is simple; either you live or you don’t live. I must choose between the possible distress of feeling hurt and shamed and the devastating deadness of safely not feeling alive behind the mask, ensconcing me safely from any risk and from any possibility of joy”.

Another kid in guidance spoke of her mask as ‘the world is on my shoulders mask’. “This mask” she said “represents my worrying. I use this mask most of the time e.g. if we have to wear blue to school I worry that we have to wear pink, or if I sleep out I worry that my home will get robbed, when I go out I’m always worried that it is the wrong place, time or day”.

So I was walking to guidance class one day my mind busy with the latest crisis management issue when I abruptly remembered that I had not prepared a lesson for the kids who were waiting for me ready to begin as they languished on the big cushions on the floor; no desks or chairs in my guidance room.

Thinking on my feet as I am wont to do (as it is necessary for someone like me to do being a grasshopper not an inchworm….thanks Barry) I walked in and told the kids to “open your journals and answer this question, how many worlds do I live in?”


Are you an ‘Inchworm’ or ‘Grasshopper’?

Grasshopper or Inchworm

Individual Differences in Learning Strategies and External Representations by Lorraine Cleeton

How many worlds do I live in? Where did that come from? Like so many other out-of-the-hat-popping-rabbits I am not always sure where they come from…but thankfully they come.

As usual the kids were keen to stand in front of the group and share their views on how many worlds they live in.

“We live in three worlds; with our parents, with our teachers and with our friends”.

“Two, we live in a physical world and a spiritual world”.

“Two, one is our imagination and one is reality”.

Kate suggested that at the very least each of us lives in two worlds; “an inner world and an outer world”.


Unsurprisingly this is the one that had resonance for me. This view also ties in with a useful understanding of masks provided by Jolande Jacobi.

She said, “Masks are the tool that mediates experiences between that which is internal and that which is external”. How beautiful is that? Powerful exquisite succinct words … gems of pure delight.

Masks of the Soul, Jolande Jacobi

Jacobi speaks about Carl Jung’s term the ‘persona’… “a complicated system of relations between individual consciousness and society, fittingly enough a kind of mask, designed on the one hand to make a definite impression upon others, and, on the other, to conceal the true nature of the individual”.

Two Essays on Analytical Psychology (collected Works Vol. 7) by Jung, C.G

The persona represents a medium through which people are able to relate to each other including necessary adaptations to social discourse, differing contexts and acceptable forms of expression and disclosure.

Critically significant and worth remembering is that the persona may be found to represent the way in which we relate to ourselves.

Take a look at Johari’s window. It describes four quadrants. What we know we show, what we know we don’t show, what we don’t know we show and what we don’t know we don’t show!

Johari huh!

I remember the exasperation some of the kids experienced when I asked them to fill in the Johari window matrix. “Are you cooked…how can I know what I don’t know I don’t know about me?”

Of Human Interaction – Joseph Luft Abe Books

The Johari window: A graphic model of awareness in interpersonal relations. Joseph Luft.

It seems to me that amongst other elements (safety, strategy) truth is an integral part of understanding masks of any nomenclature. The truth is something that we generally value. Is it possible though to be truthful and if so with whom? Are we truthful to ourselves? Is there such a thing as the truth? Whilst studying at Rhodes visiting Professor Robert Romanyshyn told me that in his view, as a person,  it was impossible to always be honest.

I am certain that each of us realises that we live with the fact that we often are part of a world where we know that we are not giving and getting the truth and yet somehow this has become acceptable, normal and perhaps even desirable.

truth serum sodium pentathol

In case we forget what is true…original prescription needed…no faxes, a schedule 3 controlled substance

BBC NEWS | UK | Magazine | Can truth serum work?

I am concerned about masks in specific ways. We have personas, undoubtedly; it is inconceivable that we could live with each other if we didn’t have ways to filter, screen, measure, interpret and mediate our experience, alone and with each other.

Imagine his id talking to her id directly unencumbered by ego and super-ego.

caller ID

It is the power that the mask carries and conducts that I find significant. The mask carries and conducts the power to soothe, to cajole, to lure, to comfort, to bestow, to fool, to confound, to obscure, to persuade, to obfuscate….

It is clear that people are capable of the most remarkable adaptations to reality; the capacity to get used to both internal and external realities whatever their nature.

In Hebrew there is a verb; lehitragel (הִתְרַגֵּל) meaning to get used to. It is definitely an important aspect of survival, natural selection and social interaction that we each have the capacity to adapt.


Man’s Search for Meaning: Viktor Frankl

Affidavit of Bruno Bettelheim Concerning Patterns of Adaptation of Concentration Camp Inmates

Adaptation though can be distinct from getting used to… there are certain instances and times when it is clearly ill advised to get used to. In the face of unaccepatbel elements if one has the freedom of this luxury, which we don’t always have, we have four options. Accept the situation, try to change the sutation, try to change yourself in light of the situation or refuse to accept the situation and leave.

I have a friend who shows no weakness. She comes across as confident, cocky; a fighter who doesn’t do weak soft shit. I get exhausted just being with her; what must it be like for her? Why do I say that? Once (sadly only once) in a moment of incautiousness she confessed, not necessarily to me perhaps just to the air and the light; “I feel dead inside”.

Our masks and our personas present opportunities that tempt us to not know ourselves, to not love ourselves and dangerously, to lose ourselves by virtue of getting too used to certain things and believing that certain things are true when perhaps they are not necessarily so. How many times do we forget that we are (more often than not) in the midst of playing a game and how easy is it to slip into the drama of the game we are playing;  job, boss, wife, parent, entrepreneur etc

The persona (the mask) offers one the chance to bypass the challenge of being true to oneself by substituting the persona for that which is behind the persona. We work so hard to find, manufacture and hone our persona’s that we inadvertently leave behind us a trail of the remnants of who we authentically and actually are.

certificate of authenticity