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What’s Behind the Mask?

Esther Rabi

We wear masks not just on Purim, but all through the year. Some masks show what we want to be, or what someone else wants us to be; some masks simply hide what’s underneath. The trouble with masks is that the longer we wear them, the harder they are to remove.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Nobody wears a mask when they’re alone — a mask is meant to communicate something. What does a mask tell others about us? “Costumes are about wish-fulfillment,” says clinical psychologistJoshHooberman. Putting on a fireman’s hat or a doctor’s scrubs, for example, lets you live out a fantasy of saving people’s lives, just for a little while. Dressing up may also give you “permission to let your dark side come out,” according to psychology professorDennisRains of Kutztown University in Pennsylvania. It’s not nice to be an evil villain, but when it’s just a costume, it makes everyone smile. Another factor in costume choice: by dressing up as something we fear, we diminish its power — if we become “it,” we can’t be hurt by “it.” On Purim, it’s all done in fun. But most people wear figurative masks all year, concealing their real selves under the image they choose to show or are expected to show. How does this affect us? And how can we get to know the person underneath?

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