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Addiction & Mind
Posted by: Michael
Reading time: 6.5 minutes
The Masks are the faces that addicts show to the world. They can take any form that you give them. Addicts are afraid, and you use drugs, alcohol, money, porn, and junk food to put your minds into oblivion or kill the pain of fear. You want to feel like you belong, like you have value and purpose, and so you choose your clothes, your hair, your words, and your facial expressions to convey an image. You spend months, years, and even decades crafting your personas for the world to see you in the way you want to be seen.
It’s not wrong to choose who you are. When your outer appearance and actions are aligned with your inner self, with your heart and soul within, you will likely be having a joyous and fulfilling experience of life. But when addicts craft outer shells that camoflage the way they feel inside, their experience of life is suffering.
As children, we all felt fear. We all had to learn how to deal with it. Some of us faced the fear of being inferior, or inadequate, or insignificant, and walked through it until we weren’t afraid anymore. Some of us learned that pain could happen, and we would still end up okay. Addicts bury fear and avoid pain. Yet you still want to feel confident, accepted, and liked. So the Masks give the appearance that you’re okay, that you understand.
Meanwhile, the pain and confusion and fear inside are festering.
Addicts do not feel comfortable in their own skin. You may be aware that you are phony, that you put on a show, and try to impress others. You believe that you have the power to make others think a certain way about you. But you rarely have any idea how deeply fractured you are, and how destructive you are to your families. In most cases, you are completely deluded, and work to create the perception of love and security around your families, yet underneath that surface layer of reality, the darkness builds like a malignant tumor.
When your inner worlds and outer worlds are not aligned, when you lead a double life, the day will come when you cannot bear that weight any longer. The masks have been your faces to the world, and you let yourselves believe that they were you. You turned away from your inner selves, away from truth, and put your energy into your outer selves, into complete delusion. This way of life is flimsy, fragile, and held together with a balancing act, by any means necessary, by any lies necessary, to avoid facing fears that are a lifetime old.
If you look in a mirror, and you see you, but others are only seeing an appearance of you, then you are severed from reality. You are deluded.
But don’t panic. The way back to reality is a path that anyone can find. It will take some work to walk it. And you will need to gain some knowledge. You must learn about the split between your inner world and outer world. About how you have created personas that bury and block your true self. You must learn that thoughts and feelings and fears will happen everyday, but you are more than that. Your true self is more than just thoughts, or feelings, or fears, or ideas, or personas.
These are the 6 Masks of Addiction, and how they are distorting who you really are.
1. The Mask of Armor. Like a suit of invulnerability, this mask protects you from being hurt. It guards against people piercing into your core of fear and causing pain. In your imagination this mask could even be beautiful and sexy, and it’s really effective at keeping pain out. But it also keeps pain in, and so instead of letting pain happen, experiencing it, and learning from it, the invulnerability keeps you rigid, stagnant, and stuck.
2. The Mask of Cage. You learned something early in life that led to heartbreak and rejection, and now this mask protects you from the danger of feeling it again. You can hide up here and feel safe, with a measure of certainty that because there is no risk, there can be no pain. You might be very comfortable in your cage, maybe even like it there, but the reality is that life is risk and nothing is certain.
You hide to avoid risks that lead to pain
and along the way
You miss the risks that lead to joy.
3. The Mask of Persona. The way that you interact with people and experience the world is with a voice and tone that is uniquely you. This is your way of being. The words we speak, the clothes we pick, the way we move our bodies — we can choose a different persona every day, if we want to. It’s only fake when your way of being rises up from a place of fear about what might happen, of doubt in yourself, of worry about how you look. Rise up from a place of love and trust, and you can be whoever you want.
4. The Mask of Uniform. We all want to feel like part of a crew. For most of human history, being cast out from the group could mean starving to death alone. It’s hard to go against biology. We need to feel accepted by others, and might even adopt similar behaviors or beliefs as the group to ensure we don’t make any waves. When you were excluded from the crew, it hurt, so now you wear a uniform to fit in. Rejection can hurt a lot, but what about the pain of squashing and stuffing your true self? When you stand up and speak up for how you really feel, when you announce yourself, declare yourself, you will learn how to find the right group. And you make it easier for them to find you. Also, they won’t care about what you look like.
5. The Mask of Habit. The traits and aspects that got rewards are the bricks that you used to build your identity. Whatever your method for getting acceptance or security or affection, it worked, and it shaped your brain to work in a particular way. In a conditioned way. The dopamine and oxytocin that you earned for acting a certain way dug deep grooves into your grey matter. This brain-shaping means that your mask is entrenched. Letting old habits go, or taking off a mask, is not as fast as changing your mind. The old grooves were carved from thousands of moments. New grooves will need just as many.
6. The Mask of Ego. Your mind builds an idea of who you are, of what’s happening, of how it all makes sense. These ideas, these thoughts, give us the structures to go forth in life. To succeed and to fail. Ego tells us what we are, based on the peak of that success, or the pit of that failure. Ego is a structure, it’s a city, it’s a carnival of ideas. Ego is a mask, and is not who you really are. Beyond that structure of ego is truth, that all people share the same basic humanity, each of us with our own set of circumstances, successes, and failures. Attachment to this mask disconnects us from that reality.
It’s easy to dress up in a costume and go to a party, then pop off the mask at the end of the night. But what if the mask is an identity that you have spent years building up and entrenching it into your life? What if the personality that you have created is not who you really are? Even if you reach a point and say, “This is not who I am”, the mask does not just pop off.
Yet the Masks can be broken. It is not easy, and it is not fast. Start with a willingness to try. Move up to a willingness to learn. Then stand into a willingness to do whatever it takes, and it’s not a question of if the Masks will be broken, but rather when.
Michael is the Lead Sobriety Coach and Head Blogger of Addiction Reality.