“It is not the end of the physical body that should worry us. Rather, our concern must be to live while we’re alive – to release our inner selves from the spiritual death that comes with living behind a façade designed to conform to external definitions of who and what we are.”…Elisabeth Kubler-Ross
Have you ever paid heed to the façades that you put on? Ever questioned why they are present, and in whose presence they become the strongest? Ever wondered why others need their façades? Maybe not, or maybe in passing. By its very definition, a façade is something that is used to conceal that which lies within, which is found unpleasant. By this criterion, every one of us wears a face that is artificial at some time or the other.
Though there are a few façades that are put on in order to deliberately deceive and falsify, most façades are driven by the unconscious that judges our intrinsic qualities as weak or ugly. In order to be able to look through such façades of others, we must first recognise and understand our own. To understand a façade is to know why you need it, what it protects you from, and what the inner threat that it springs from is. In the course of this search, you will discover an external catalyst that, through your façades, has held you in its grasp for all these years. The anger/pain/fear/apprehension caused by this catalyst is concealed within the thick layers of the public face.
Yes, every façade is a veneer that helps you to forget the pain that you are resisting. That which you consider ugly within your persona, causes you such acute discomfort that you must conceal it from yourself. This is the primary purpose of the façade; not deception as is commonly believed.
When you judge another or pass a ‘learned criticism’ of another’s behaviour and persona, ask yourself whether you have truly seen the reality or been trapped in your own inner maze. When you recognise and understand your facades, the depth of insight will instantly remove all judgment and criticism. The fact that you find something in another to criticise, is an instant indicator that you are caught in the ‘make-believe’ of your own façades.
Façades often serve the purpose of making us seem wiser, more compassionate, more vivacious, more honest, more anything than we really are. Conversely, they are also used as pretences so that people do not know how vulnerable we are, how critical, how susceptible, how angry, how clueless, how fear- filled. There are as many reasons as there are persons.The more critical you are, the less do you look into the mirror within. That is a truth you cannot escape from. Spirituality is not about religious truths, sacred books and discourses. It is about knowing who you are, and bringing into play this awareness of your pain to help others heal from theirs. If you are still hiding from your own face, how can you even begin to understand ‘discernment’? All else is emptiness and intellectualisation, maybe yet another façade or delusion.
Façades are distinctive from delusions. Delusions are firm beliefs about oneself, others, and the environment, that seem ‘real’ to you, but which your friends and family know to be untrue. The delusion is not a mask like the façade, but an unshakeable belief system that springs from mental and emotional haziness and disorder. Because they spring from such strong beliefs, you are able to convince a large number of people of their ‘truth’ till they see that they are without foundation.
The two commonest delusions are those of persecution and grandiose. The first is a strong belief that people (some or all) are against you, and wish to reject you or harm you. This delusion results in the ‘poor-me’ game, where you are regularly playing victim or martyr. Delusions of grandiose involve an over-inflated sense of your own goodness and importance. Frequently the two delusions go hand in hand. Though they do not involve deliberate masks, delusions also emerge out of the deep pain of the sub-conscious and the unconscious.
Façades are considerably aided by the familial and societal conditioning that we receive from the environment. For e.g. my conditioning made me believe that ‘the strong don’t cry’ and that ‘vulnerability is weakness’. This resulted in my façade of imperviousness, showing the world that ‘I don’t care a damn’. But, what is of primary importance is the fact that I was trying hard to make myself believe this, so that in this way I could deal with the deep hurt of emotional loneliness that threatened to drown me.
The fact that I was always called a ‘tom boy’ was also an important factor that helped me to create this mask. As adults, we must be very careful about the labels we give children, as they invariably squeeze themselves into them. These labels are the precursors of our masks.
At a very, very young age, children learn the ‘tactics’ that help them to manipulate their environment and to gain control over it. A child, who cries and gets attention when he pretends to be ‘lost’, will learn to play the helpless adult. The wilful child, who manipulates the environment by aggressively digging his heels in, will grow into his disguise of the combatant. These control mechanisms also determine the masks we eventually take on.
Now, my dear friend, are you absolutely sure that the person you consider submissive is truly so? Is the belligerent so-and-so really aggressive by nature? Are you certain that your learned friend, whose every word you hang onto, is not concealing his deep-seated need for approval, attention and public acclaim? Is that gentle, compassionate, helpful person doing this because she needs you to believe that she is ‘good’? Can you be sure that the ‘inferiority complex’ is not an astute way of gaining your attention, and that the ‘superiority complex’ not an equally clever way to make you blind to the pain within? Ahh, of course you can’t be positive! Not until you know yourself; not until you have unearthed your own games, your own delusions, your own pretences.
Sometimes we live with our masks and our delusions for so long, that in course of time we begin to forget the real ‘me’ and are acutely distressed when it comes close to discovery by our reflection in the faces of others. In fact, when the truth is presented to us, we will either deny it vigorously or be completely bewildered by its mention. Many times, the denial or the bewilderment is dealt with by putting on yet another façade – that of tears or justification that’s sounds ‘good’ and ‘convincing’.
Just as it takes the force of self-love to en-courage us to acknowledge our ‘veneer’, so also is unconditional love for another required to look through the façades and see the beautiful reality lying beneath. It is only when you have passed through a personal furnace that you can empathise and embrace while another combats the fires that rage within. It is then that you are able to hear the loud, silent cry that shrieks ‘Know me for who I am. Please don’t be fooled by my pretence’. A façade is always, always, always put on for the purpose of approval and self-protection. We are so distressed by what we think is an ugly reality within us, that we disguise it so that others may love us, need us, approve of us. This deep need stems from self-loathing and self- rejection. The stronger the façade, the deeper is the hurt.
To look through the façade of another, is not necessarily to know the actual cause of the inner pain; a heart-felt empathy and embrace is enough. The ‘non-judgmentalism’ of your love and acceptance, will be a soothing salve that will gradually wear away the mask, because you have made the other feel ‘secure’ enough to do this. There can be no greater service than this – to aid another to reveal himself to himself, and to see that all is beautiful, even the flaws.
Let us recall the insightful words of William Shakespeare: “This above all,–to thine own self be true; and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.”