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Adults should consider removing their 'mask'

Halloween is the day children choose a mask to wear, while adults often wear them year-round.

An adult "mask" is not a scary ghost, a character from a television show or a caricature of someone in real life; rather it may be a sarcastic remark to keep people at a distance, or a bored face to make someone think we don’t care. We can even hide behind a designer label, the latest mobile phone or the kind of car we drive.

Words and behaviors are effective masks, too. Someone asks, “How are you doing?” and even in the midst of a difficult time we will answer with a smiling face “I’m doing fine.” We say, “I don’t care,” when the truth is, we care a great deal. We act helpless when we’ve discovered it can be a way to get attention.

Don’t misunderstand, I am not finding fault with occasionally wearing masks. Sometimes they are for fun. Sometimes they serve a purpose. We put them on as coping skills, because we have learned to be cautious when telling the truth about ourselves, especially when our truth has been met with an awkward silence or an inane remark. We may feel hiding behind them protects us.

But then there are those masks worn out of habit — ones we no longer need, serve no useful purpose and keep us from experiencing intimacy with someone we can trust.

As we celebrate Halloween, instead of choosing a mask to wear, perhaps we as adults might consider removing one.

Charlotte Lankard is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice. Contact her at clankard@cox.net.

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