image by: Hikaru Cho
When interviewed recently, the man releasing to the media private tapes of his conversations with a princess said, “It’s not about the money.”
Have you noticed we say that to cover our tracks when, in reality, that very statement means invariably it really is about exactly that.
“It’s not about me” means “It’s all about me.”
Just as “It’s not about being right.” means “You’re wrong.”
Of course if it’s really not about something, we don’t need to mention it. Why would we?
I don’t sit down to a meal and say, “It’s not about being hungry.” Nor do I get in my car, start the engine and pronounce, “It’s not about going somewhere.”
Reality is often best hidden in plain sight.
I had the pleasure of attending The Lab recently, where in the midst of some great experiments into being human, we explored working with masks.
If you have seen the excellent ventriloquist comedian Nina Conti you will know part of her act involves applying a partial mask to an audience member. Nina then controls the mouth parts with a remote, so that the individual seems to be agreeing to do something outrageous, or says something inappropriate, even though their body language suggests horror, or disagreement, at the prospect.
It is a clever representation of the power of a mask. The act demonstrates a freedom and what can be possible if we don’t feel seen, whilst juxtaposing the obvious visibility of the individual’s body squirming at what they are saying, through Nina. Simultaneously, the act allows Nina, as the ventriloquist, to say and do things she might never do herself.
In our Lab experiment we saw people assuming the whole character, mannerisms, language, opinions of their ‘character behind the mask’.
A mask, in a sense, gives us permission to be someone else. To reveal a part of ourselves we may normally keep subdued or hidden. It also gives us permission to conceal ourselves behind the mask. Be it gender, ethnicity, geographic origin. We sometimes use non-visual masks too. Hiding behind our organisational or societal status or role.
I wonder what we are capable of if we could wear a mask at will?
What truth would we be able to speak?
What feeling could we emote?
How much more ourselves we might be?
How much might we conceal?
In recent months I have spoken to a number of people with dyslexia.
One common aspect of our conversations has intrigued me. The tension that is created between a need for some support, balanced with a desire not to be marked out as different. I want some help, but I don’t want to be seen to want help.
Those I have spoken to have talked of their shame. A sense that in some way they are inadequate. Unable to do things that others find straightforward. Many hide their dyslexia for this reason. Preferring to find their own coping mechanisms. Choosing roles and work where the challenges arising from their dyslexia aren’t exposed.
Whilst my dyslexic confidants have shared their fear of judgement, their desire to hide their ‘condition’, they have also shared heart wrenching stories of the efforts required to cope. To stay afloat. Many are desperate for some simple supports.
The reality here of course is that these dyslexic individuals have other strengths, other capabilities which are more developed and stronger than their non-dyslexic colleagues. Just as with any human being, we are all different. All unique.
We all hide too.
Sometimes we hide a part of ourselves from those around us. Often we hide a part of ourselves from ourselves. Yet we think that the hiding is hidden.
Honesty and truth seldom bring blame, judgement, criticism. When they do, it is those criticising, judging, blaming who are the individuals who are really hiding. Hiding behind judgement, criticism and blame.
We need to come out of the shadows.
To learn to be, in all our unique glory.
To stop hiding.
image by: Sally Green