Don’t Mask Your Feelings

Mind & Spirit : NST Life & Times 20/7/2010


The Mask
Always a mask
Held in the slim hand whitely
Always she had a mask before her face

Truly the wrist
Holding it lightly
Fitted the task
Sometimes, however,
Was there a shiver
Fingertip quiver
Every so slightly
Holding the mask?

For years and years and years I wondered
But dared not ask
And then —
I blundered
Looked behind the mask
To find
Nothing —
She had no face

She had become
Merely a hand
Holding a mask
With grace

— Author unknown

HOW do you feel at this moment? Is it easy for you to identify your feelings or have you become like the lady with the mask?
Psychoanalyst Rollo May suggests that “the mature person becomes able to differentiate feelings into as many nuances, strong and passionate experiences, or delicate and sensitive ones as in the different passages of music in a symphony”.
Most of us have a limited vocabulary to clearly describe our emotional state.

Our feelings are simply considered not important, which eventually could led to emotional or mental illness.

Society has taught us that being in touch with our feelings makes us weak and that big boys don’t cry.

We learn to be detached from our feelings and live in our head.

We compensate by thinking our way through life, constantly wondering, “What is it that others think is right for me to say and do?”, because we are out of touch with ourselves. We are not complete as we haven’t acknowledged a vital part of ourselves, our emotional body.

We have not been taught how to become aware of our feelings, let alone express them.

Difficulty with identifying and expressing feelings is more common among those whose professional codes discourage them from manifesting emotion such as lawyers, police officers, doctors and corporate managers.
Feelings are universal connectors as they reveal our inner dispositions without any words required.

People have the capacity to connect with each other through shared feelings, regardless of language or culture.

Learning to name them is crucial to knowing who we are.

When we respect our emotions, we encourage self-growth.

When we ignore them, we overlook our true potential.
Our feelings are clues from our intuitive self, messages about what we need to know to guide us through life.

Sometimes, our feelings can give us a message which is contrary to what we see and hear.

It lets us know who cannot be trusted, even if they seem harmless.
First of all, we need to separate our feelings from our thoughts.

Sometimes, we think we are expressing our feelings when we are really expressing our thoughts.

Here are examples of thoughts masked as feelings:
 ~ I feel like my son is ill.
 ~ I feel like my boss is not giving me enough credit for my work.
 ~ I feel like hitting you.
Even though the sentences above begin with “I feel”, they are not completed by expressions of feelings.

Examples of words describing feelings are happy, sad, angry, jealous and excited.

By distinguishing our thoughts from our feelings, we become clear about ourselves and learn to express our feelings constructively.
Emotional intelligence, which is the ability to understand, honour and respond to our feelings, is vital to maintaining personal wellness, valuable friendships and loving partnerships.

In relationships, people relate better with one another and bond stronger when both parties are savvy emotional communicators.

Can you imagine being married to someone who doesn’t express any feelings at all? It would be like living with a wall — unresponsive and flat.
Expressing feelings at work can benefit everyone there as it allows our humanness to shine through.

We don’t have to behave like robots devoid of feelings at work because we think we seem efficient this way and so get that promotion we are eyeing.

Many people think that it is necessary to put on a false front at work to appear professional, but this is detrimental as it doesn’t give them space to be authentic with each other and of course, with themselves.

Our feelings result from how we choose to receive what others say and do, as well as our particular needs and expectations at that moment.

We must accept responsibility for our feelings.

What others say and do may be the stimuli but never the cause of our feelings.
For emotional liberation, we need to shine the light of consciousness on our feelings and needs.

Any feeling of hurt is derived from an unfulfilled need.

Criticisms and judgments of others are merely unhealthy expressions of our unmet needs.

When someone says, “You are never there for me”, what they are really saying is their unfulfilled need for support and intimacy.

But expressing our needs indirectly in this manner will only bring about a counter-attack or a self-defence action from the other party.
We stand a better chance of getting our needs met when we express them in a positive manner without blaming or hurting anyone.

Try using the template below to communicate effectively to yourself and others.
I feel _____A_______ because I need _______B__________.
A: Your feeling (angry, sad, happy, excited, joyful, afraid)
B: Your unmet need (assurance, understanding, acceptance, support, fun, respect, harmony)

The more you practise, the more connected you will be with your emotions and the healthier your relationship with yourself and others.

Enjoy feeling your way to self-empowerment!

• The writer is co-founder of The Violet Flame Holistic Shop and Therapy Centre, Bangsar. Check out her website at

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