the way you act is the way you see

Who you think you are, has a profound effect on the way you perceive things, including yourself. This leads to a self amplifying circle, difficult to break.

But breakpoints do come, most often unannounced …

There are times in life that you don’t recognize any more who you are. Times of turmoil, chaos (inside or outside) can have this effect. Little changes can become a last drop. Beautiful changes, like the birth of your child, can be a trigger too.

Those moments of not knowing can be revealing. In such times, we forget to wear our daily masks, and strangely, we become open minded and start seeing things from different angles.

(The opposite reaction, panic, extreme fear and being nailed to the ground are also possible, … cause when we keep our masks too tightly, unfit for the situation we find ourselves in, we drown in that self created narrow perspective of the mask.)

The new and different perspectives are often not welcomed in our brain that contains the old conceptual world. We try to go back to ‘normal’ as soon as possible, forgetting the chaotic situation and its different views. We react to change, or better, mind reacts to change. It is not ‘self’ that has changed, but our image of ‘self’. And we often quickly collect the broken shards of our old mirror and glue them together more or less the same way as it used to be.

broken glass

broken glass

And WHAM! gone is the new perspective. There is some doubt about the old mirror not having been completely correct, and we make some minor adjustments, continuing life as usual.

Life as it used to be, means wearing masks, all the time.

Jung and others called them persona.
I wear a mask at work, I wear a mask in the train, in my car, at home. A different mask for the parents, and a different mask for the children and for the spouse.

For the children, my mask is quite light and sometimes gone, except when I have to ‘correct’ them. Then I become the often narrow minded reprimander. For my father the mask is a thick wall and always there. When I teach at work, and when I am in the teaching, there is no mask. But more often, there is a different kind of communication, trying to convince students to use their head, and then I need a mask.

Even when I am home alone, I wear a minimal mask.

That is the mask that I’m wearing all the time. The acting of ‘me’. I don’t see that minimal mask myself, but it is there, even when I’m home alone. It might not even be minimal.

And that mask is always filtering. It is biased, prejudiced, judgemental, boasting, fashionable, joking, teaching, (you fill this in yourself for your own situation) … but there is always some acting going on.

And the mask(s) I’m wearing have an effect on the things I experience … because I filter information through them.

The invisible mask does the things, and filters according, to how somebody would act, would do or would see, when that somebody would be, the way I think I am. (read this sentence again a couple of times 🙂 )

A permanent filter

So my sense of self is a filter, invisible to me, but filtering and censoring nevertheless and all of the time. You provide your own coloured opinion about yourself, all of the time.

How do you feel about that?
And which colours is your filter tuned to?

35 thoughts on “the way you act is the way you see

  1. I have to agree that we all wear masks all of the time and that they are different in different situations. I think we even wear them to fool ourselves.
    I know that my stroke changed my brain chemistry and my masks. I still have them but they are smaller and thinner and more real than before. I can’t keep them up as well. The filters were removed and, though some are back up, they are different than before. I am more open, honest, and tell-the-truth kind of person.

  2. Thanks, Bert! Intruguing – as usual! Would you say that the existence of such a mask is probably essential in creating or definining consciousness? I am not too well-versed in using notions as mind, self and consciousness “correctly” but I think that a conscious being is separated from the rest of the world by some sort of active interface – filtering bi-directional. So the mask is not only a passive separation between The Self and The World, but the the self is sort of re-created or re-enforced at any point of time based on this filtering process.

    • Very, VERY, interesting comment. With a computer background, seeing layers in consciousness, I also see interfaces between the layers. Our interaction with the physical world is INPUT from the senses and OUTPUT by expression and movement.

      [Now it already becomes tricky, because eastern psychology sees the mental activity also as one of the 6 senses. And somehow, they are correct when they talk about the sports reporter and opinionator in our head that gives us real time comment all the time.
      But when that brain is operating on data, I would not see it as a sense.
      Then brain is a process. But the senses are also processes. And so is expression.
      This is OK, in a UNIX computer the processes are all peers considering memory and cpu time, but from the point of view of operation, there is a hierarchy.]

      If we focus on visual information, there is already a physical filter, that enables only pass through of a small amount of frequencies of EMR to be seen. There is 3D angle, we don’t have vision on our back. The eye is far from perfect, we don’t count photons. They are signalled through a nerve into the backside of our brain where low level interpretation is already taking place. Next the parallel computing power tries to see objects and features of objects. Only now the mental activity will take over (in my definitions mind={reason-logic,memory,thoughts, opinions} ).

      The mask you talk about is the interface of reality, combined with memory of past and anticipated expectation of the future.

      This is my invisible mask. Something I’m wearing all the time. I can undress this mask by actively watching the process (what i’m doing right now) and try to unlearn the undesirable networks (what i’m not doing right now). But the only way to really get rid of this mask is to eliminate long term memory. Long term memory is the basis of our interpretation of the present. It is our personal google onto the world.

      To come back to your question about consciousness …

      Let me start with saying that I don’t know.

      I see ‘self’ as a combination of body, emotional brain, mental activity and silence.
      Science knows a lot about the body, little about emotions, close to nothing about mental activity and nothing at all about silence. There exist a lot of models about mental activity, and part of that activity can be traced with tomographic scanners, but it is like a hardware course: (there is memory, there is hearing, … there is DMA) but how it all works together, the protocols are unknown, the software is completely unknown.

      In between two thoughts, there is a silence. If we broaden that silence, our physical senses become clearer. Then things like intuition and telepathy come forward. These could be quantum related or completely different and not of the physical world at all. Nobody knows. I only know that sometimes I wait a minute longer in my office because I ‘know’ that someone is going to phone. And then they do.

      So this is ‘self’, me connected to the world.
      Is this ‘self’ = consciousness ? Probably, but I’m not sure.

      Mystical experiences point to Self or Silence or Thought, all with capital letters, signifying there is a grand interconnection between a lot of ‘self’, pointing to Consciousness with a capital C.

      And here I’m not sure at all.

      If there is consciousness beyond the material world, there is indeed a metaphysics.
      And if there is no consciousness beyond the material world, then, a lot – if not all – of metaphysics belongs to the recycler bin.

      I have come to the conclusion last year, that I will never know one or the other with my mental brain. It is impossible to ‘know’.

      • Wow – a full blog post as a comment – overloading my interfaces, need to filter 😉 It’s interesting that you also compare with computers. I had read sometimes the “computer metaphor” is not appropriate as “mind is not a machine” but I think I never buyed into this. If we could probably build a machine complex enough it might exhibit the same so-called emergent phenomena that are sometimes said to be characteristic for “mind” or “consciousness”.

        • Mind looks more like the internet … a lot of parallel microcontrollers and many routes to the same but slightly different information.
          Whether the internet is conscious, I don’t know, I don’t think so, but it sure has sped up my thinking/learning process by a factor 10.

    • Turning it around: if you can get rid of the interface, there comes the mystical experience of oneness … no?

      “All the time that K was in India until the end of January 1980 every night he would wake up with this sense of the absolute. It is not a state, a thing that is static, fixed, immovable. The whole universe is in it, measureless to man. … a sense of vast emptiness with fathomless energy … one night in the strange stillness of that part of the world, the movement had reached the source of all energy. This must in no way be confused with, or even thought of, as god or the highest principle, the Brahman, which are the projections of the human mind out of fear and longing, the unyielding desire for total security. It is none of those things. Desire cannot possibly reach it, words cannot fathom it nor can the string of thought wind itself around it. One may ask with what assurance do you state that it is the source of all energy? One can only reply with complete humility that it is so ” (Krishnamurti, the years of fulfilment – last page)

  3. Bert… this is a fantastic post. I can relate to most everything you have said. I also have difficulty with being sensitive to sound…. I’m also sensitive to temperature and light as well. Good stuff here about the masks… such a true analysis.

    • Thank you for you interesting comment. Temperature is indeed a strong influence. Short term and long term. Light is a long term influence for me. Although winter’s light is diminished from November till mid-February (at least here at 51N), I only feel the darkness just before Xmas, and I don’t feel relieved before Easter.

  4. Although it valuable, pleasurable and productive to “be” without mask temporarily, to live without any mask at all is sheer hell. Perhaps I am misunderstanding what you mean by “mask”– I am thinking you are talking about the walls we put up around ourselves, our defenses. To let down these walls, to take off these masks and to experience “flow,” creativity and openness to the world, is a wonderful place to be and great things can result, like the person you became with the birth of your children or the person you are when what you are teaching flows out of you.

    But we need our defenses to function. For example, if we did not have the walls of defense and the cloak of a mask and if we were to go into a supermarket to buy food, we would be so bombarded by colors, textures, shapes, sounds and be so stimulated by the surrounding sights and sounds as to be unable to buy the foods we came in to buy. To be totally open means it feels as if everyone can see inside you. You become paranoid. No place is safe or familiar. Everything is new and there are no guiding landmarks. It is exhausting and terrifying at once.

    True it is good to let our defenses down but we need to have our filters. When you temporarily let them down while playing with your kids or while teaching, it is exhilirating, enriching and benefiical– the experience of flow. This is what artists, musicians, writers do, as well as, parents, teachers and, in some way, what everyone does. But the crucial thing is to have those masks/walls/defenses to come back to if one wants to function in life.

    Sometimes the personality totally disintegrates and the shards of glass cannot be put back together. This happened to me at age 28 and I had to start from scratch to build a new personality and go through the developmental stages all over again. I had no walls and was put on medication. The medication provided a filtering system so I could function. While it was definitely a profound learning experience and I came out of it years later a better person, it was a painful and arduous process.

    A very interesting and provocative post!

    • Does on need defences in the unknown?
      I don’t know that. I have been brought up as most people, experiencing abuse of my openness, so I’m careful not to let that happen again. So meeting people for the first time is a slowly give and take process. I don’t want to show more of myself as they would like to show. In that case, I’m mirroring them.

      I know that I can be overstimulated too, but I have found a balance in this a long time ago. So my A-factor has never been extreme. So I actually enjoyed Delhi airport, even when it was the first time I arrived there, not knowing what to expect. Especially after hearing all the stories of corruption and crazy taxi-drivers ripping people off. Having been quite open, I only encountered less closed people. Even the immigration officer told us a joke.

      Being overstimulated still happens – then I don’t know where to start, and what to do first. After the initial meltdown, I make a list, and then order it by importance. Making the list calms me down.

      I can overstimulated by noise. I have no defences against it. I can only put my hands over my ears, and find a way out as soon as possible.

      Starting rebuilding your ‘house’ of self from scratch must have been very difficult. At the same time you must have learned a lot about it, most of us are unconscious when we built our self-image. Many even have no idea that their image is different from themselves altogether.

      • Interesting that you become overstimulated and have meltdowns and have to escape noise. Yes, lists do help, sometimes are crucial. Writing helps. Going on the computer helps. Exercise helps. Each person with these senstivities has to find their own calming-down mechanisms. Sounds like you have.

        Your experience in India is also interesting. It does confirm what Pema Chodron talks about as finding people’s “soft spot” by being open to them oneself. That has taken me years to learn how to do.
        Somehow you dealt with the noise of India. Perhaps because you were open in a new experience. Trying to block out sensation like noise makes the overstimulation worse. Sometimes one must ride the wave. Much easier said than done!!

        • Noise … I can sit in a noisy commuter train (or even stand in it) and still be able to keep to my ‘story’, but loud tv-sets fragment my mind. My mind wants to listen to the spoken voice, no matter what. In Surinam, people like to put their tv sets as loud as possible. That is hard. In Nigeria some people wanted to inaugurate a new mosk with night prayers through speakers. That was devastating. A party of students in a hotel room next to mine in Curaçao – i took measures and used my laptop as a source of white noise overpowering them, I slept well. I sleep through MD11 cargo-aircrafts taking off above the house. They don’t disturb me when I read either. But I’m programmed to listen … 🙂 And even worse: two conversations at the same time make me crazy. Horning cars in India are like crows, they don’t ask me to listen. My father hates the crows in the morning, his hate makes me smile.

          • I have noise, crowd, smell sensitivities. Like you say some things disturb– others don’t. Living in New York City I try to walk everywhere so as not to be on a bus or subway crammed in with smells and noise, etc. etc. New York is a challenge. But it is not New York alone. Two conversations at once drives me to a near meltdown. So does any noise competing with a conversation. There is a good post on what it is like for an Aspie to meet somewhere and have a conversation– see half-way down the post at:
            I guess despite all the overstimulation of places like Cairo and the many places you have been, you like to travel and I also surmise you have problems with your father. I would love to wake up to the sound of crows.
            P.S. A white-noise machine does help drown out ambient noise although I find the noise annoying. My husband likes it.

            • Crowd, yes, don’t like festivals, jam packed, can’t move, fell claustrophobic, but i like markets, crowded markets, where you can still move but it will take at lot longer as usual. (pedestrian traffic jam). I need space around me. When two children and a dog are competing for my attention, I also feel crowded 🙂
              Smells, no, except the smell of rotten flesh, the smell of death is something that triggers my body into full emergency. We had a dead cow once, not far from here in a meadow. It took them 2 days before they took it away. And that vehicle from the rendering plant .. I can smell it from more than 1km away.
              I like to travel, although I have only travelled once in the past 10 years, and blogged a lot about it. My father …. the old man is a narcissist, often very annoying, small mind, inconsiderate most of the time, cannot put himself in the shoes of another.
              I will prefer silence to white noise. But I don’t feel jittered by it,

  5. Great points…you’re right, during times of stress and turmoil it seems all we want is to get back to “normal.” Well, normal is the present, not some glorified memory of that past. Thanks for this reminder to accept what is and do away with the filters.

    • When in a disaster situation, when you panic, you will die or lose. So you will see your own self as it is (hopefully). But we don’t like the full monty. There are a lot of aspects about ourselves that we would like to be hidden, even to ourselves.

  6. And yet how liberating it is to let our authentic selves free and loose in the world. If even for a moment, we leave the masks behind and act as if we’re children again. The miracle of a lifetime is to give oneself the room to do this. The second miracle is to find a partner who allows oneself the room to do this. And every person we show our authentic self to, from then on, becomes a part of the miracle that is our authentic existence ❤

    • I notice that people who come into my life right now, usually get a very translucent mask. But the ones for whom I created a mask in the past, will probably never see the authentic me. That is a pity, but it goes both ways. They were probably responsible for those masks in the first place.

      • I know how you feel. I feel like we’re both responsible. We get what we put out. When we put out a mask, people with masks come around. When we put out authenticity, authentic people come around. It really is strange to be around someone as your authentic self and have them tell you that you’re being “weird” and then be around someone you’re authentic around, put on a mask for a moment, and have THEM tell you that you’re being “weird”.

        • It is like you say. Society tries to model us, and we create masks as a model. Remove the mask, and you are a weirdo, but from the other prespective, it is indeed the other one who is the weirdo. 🙂

  7. Good points. I think some people are too hung up on the various masks you mention. Some of us truly are “What you see is what you get” masks for everybody. Others may not appreciate that perspective in us, but it sure is much easier to be the same all the time. Rather than try to understand the various masks to be carried, focus on one mask for all!

    • In a conformist society, we are supposed to play our roles all of the time. Wearing no masks at all is challenging for me. It’s a protection against people using what they know about me against me. This can lead to awkward situations when confronted with two of them out of different environments at the same time – like bringing family to a party at work … 🙂

  8. “The invisible mask does the things, and filters according, to how somebody would act, would do or would see, when that somebody would be, the way I think I am.”

    I read it over three times and though I got it on the first reading I found deeper layers existed when I repeated the process. When in the observer state I’m not wearing a mask. Then I am aware of my internal censors and filters behind the masks I don when in and everyday ie. unconscious state of mind. Sadly, I’m not always in that state of mindfulness and have to forgive myself for wearing boastful, callous, prideful and/or judgmental masks and filtering everything I hear and see and feel and do through them. One of the most self revealing weekends I ever spent was in a mask making workshop. I made 4 masks and still have them as reminders of hidden aspects of my “self”.

    • There is some contradiction here. When you are awareness, you see the filters and the censors, but in that state you can circumvent them, isn’t it? Perhaps there is something wrong with the concept of mindfulness too. Perhaps we think we are aware or mindful, when actually our mind is fooling us. This is very tricky, because it is mind itself that is looking at itself, and when it does that, there is no doubt about it that it does that in a preconditioned state. I remember when being triggered by an angry person who behaved badly with a computer to provoke me, that I was aware of this happening, and hence no reaction. So when I am really aware, the filters are gone, and I see reality as it is. When I’m aware that there is a filter, then either it should disappear at the moment I catch it, or I’m just fooling myself. Don’t take this too seriously. The mind is a very tricky instrument, and I’m using it right now, so I might as well be using incorrectly filtered logic. 🙂
      Great to hear you made some mask of your hidden shadows. So are these aspects still hidden or have you been able to give let the come out?

  9. Oh, I’m in the midst of this right now…noticing the filters and censors, but not able to let them go… lots of colors too, changing all the time,it seems. Thank you for these helpful ideas…much appreciated today!

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