Trick or Treat
By: Christy Aloisio
October 2, 2011

When you look into a child’s eyes when they are all dressed up in their Halloween costumes, all you see is joy, fun, excitement. Dressing up and pretending to be someone they are not is something they look forward too; a scary monster, a favorite character from television, or a football player. It is fun for a night. Wearing a mask and having to pretend to be someone you are not is not fun as an adult. It’s painful; it’s irritating; and it creates a lot of adults walking around that have no idea who they are underneath of their mask. They have had the mask on to long.

It is the woman who cannot be herself around anyone. She dresses up simply to come to my office even though she openly admits she would rather be wearing comfortable clothes. She dresses in certain brand name clothes and orders certain food for dinner when she goes out to eat with her mother, to keep from being criticized over her weight or not being pretty enough. It’s the man who tries to say everything “right” to prevent his wife from being critical. He overanalyzes his every move because he is trying to do what he thinks she will want him to do. It is exhausting and he continues to get criticized regardless of what he does. He can never really be who “he is.” He doesn’t even know who “he is.” It’s a woman who has a job that makes a lot of money that she hates with a passion. She cannot quit, because her father helped her get into this line of work and he continually tells her how much money and what kind of lifestyle she should have. It is easier to put on the smile and pretend to enjoy her job then to hear the criticism she would receive from her father if she were to quit for a lesser paying job she would enjoy.

It’s shocking the number of adults that walk into my office with their “mask on.” They dress the way others want them to dress, have jobs their parents want them to have, or hold back what they want to say in fear that others will not like what they have to say. It’s fun to dress up and be someone different for a day when we are kids, but having to be someone we are not day in and day out is exhausting. We learn when we are young, if we can be who others want us to be it decreases the pain we are really feeling inside.

Therapy is taking off the mask. Trying to find and remember who the person under the mask really is. It is about seeing our spouses with their masks off and being vunerable enough to allow them to see our true self as well. The good, bad, and the ugly. Therapy is learning to walk out the door and leave the mask behind.