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Heiné de Waal
 
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The masks we wear

07 July 2014, 13:52

The Oscar Pistorius trial started this week again. I was reminded again how he was a hero in the world of Paralympics, but in his private life he really struggled with severe anxiety and paranoia. He masked his fears by carrying a firearm and always made sure he was in control of his environment. He showed symptoms for obsessive control and aggressive behaviour, typical of someone who lives in a constant state of fear. This made me think about people in general and how we mask or fears.

Often people create addictions to mask these feelings of powerlessness. Sometimes these masks become addictions which are not that easily recognised when it is not mind-altering drugs. Smoking tobacco is probably the most common example and a beautiful metaphor of how people can create a “smoke screen” to hide behind. In addition, there are many others such as alcohol, marijuana, food, sports, sex, gambling, shopping, work, religion and even drama. The behaviour might be different but the cause is the same. It is our insecurities and vulnerabilities that we want to mask so that the world cannot see our true fearful selves. All of us have moments where we feel insecure or powerless. This is natural. However, how we feel about it, think about it and react to it can create a great deal of unhappiness and even sometimes cause harm.

Often people with addictions - big or small - are in denial about it. How do we know that we have a problem or maybe need some help? Here are a few simple questions to ask our self:

  1. Have I ever thought that I should stop this behaviour, but I just can’t?
  2. Have I ever felt annoyed when people spoke about or criticized my behaviour?
  3. Have I ever felt bad or guilty about this behaviour?
  4. Have I ever bargained with yourself why you need to engage in this behaviour?
  5. Do I engage in this addictive behaviour despite significant negative consequences of this behaviour on my health, my relationships, my finances, or with the law?

 
If you answered, “yes” to two or more of these questions, then you may benefit from treatment sooner than later.

Addictions or compulsive behaviours are just a way to distract us from completing our spiritual journey here on earth. Anything we willingly do to shorten our life span send a message to the cells in our body that we do not expect to live a full life. In other words, our cells get a message that ‘this being’ is willing to perish before they can reach their full potential. The result will be that so many people are not going to benefit from the special gifts and talents we can share with others…gifts and talents which are absolutely unique and special to each person. How sad is that?

What will be the reason that we feel insecure or powerless?

It is due to fear which often originates from irrational beliefs, e.g. something that happened in our past that gave us the impression it will threaten our existence. Often this happens during our childhood when we still lack the full emotional development, understanding or verbal expression. Luckily we can wake up to this reality when we are adults and change this.

When we do not investigate these thoughts and blindly accept it as the absolute truth, then it becomes an irrational belief. Irrational beliefs are thoughts, feelings and actions which cause us to feel unhealthy and behave ineffectively. Irrational beliefs interfere with the natural flow of life, preventing us from getting more of what we want and less of what we don’t want. Rational beliefs do exactly the opposite.

What can we do to change this behaviour?

  1. The first step is to acknowledge that there is a problem, that we feel insecure or even powerless at times.
  2. Next, become aware of how we mask these feelings, how often we do this and the irrational justifications we use to support our destructive behaviour.
  3. Then make the commitment to change this behaviour or addiction. Depending on the severity of the behaviour or addiction there are plenty of options to choose from. It is important to find one that will support us in a way that will make us feel safe and supported.

   That what we fear the most will challenge us the most.

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