Which Mask Should One Wear?

bigstock-Surreal-Cubist-Eyes-And-Faces-7736887 (1)We are told to be strong, to keep a stiff upper lip to grieve a loss for a prescribed amount of time, to keep our problems to ourselves, to put on a happy face while simultaneously being told to be open and authentic.

With the myriad of mixed messages about how one should be, which mask one should wear on any given day, it is indeed nothing short of heroic that more of us are not psychotic.

As a result of our genetic makeup, our innate temperament, brain chemistry, i.e. attractors, parental and societal influences, there is much about the construction of our humanness that is beyond our control.


Roles Are Inseparable from our Identity


bigstock-Surreal-Cubist-Eyes-And-Faces-7736887 (1)One’s “role” plays a central place in the social sciences because it is a medium for how and what an individual internalizes in terms of human behavior. It provides a way of “being.” The late Ernest Becker observed that “Identity is inseparable from the role one is assigned … and that “The social environment remains to his death the only source for validating that identity”.[i]

Unfortunately, we become attached to our roles as if they were our core identity instead of realizing that we merely have roles like mother, father, daughter, son, male, female, banker, teacher, student, etc.  Ultimately, at our core we are much, much more than the role that we endure.



bigstock-Surreal-Cubist-Eyes-And-Faces-7736887 (1)If roles within any given culture are what mediates our understanding of and construction of our identity, then roles may be understood functionally as a container or compass for each person to orientate their current position.


The Emotional Life and Cognitive Dissonance



“Emotional life can be influenced, but it cannot be commanded.”[i]




In 1986, Dr. Robert Ornstein, then professor at the University Of California Medical Center in San Francisco as well as at Stanford University, conducted extensive research on the human brain; he concluded that “our illusion is that each of us is somehow unified, with a single coherent purpose and action …But that our mind is really a coalition made up of competing entities, we do not always, even often, know what we think or believe … when these different pieces of the mind are not in harmony, a condition called cognitive dissonance results. …”[ii]


The Complexity of our lifelong “self-states” (part two)



The limbic imprints of the infant brain come from facial expressions, tone of voice and touch etc. that can start in-utero and come from a myriad of social interchanges with whoever has contact with the child.  Touch, voice, tone, and facial expressions “… become emotional “Attractors” which come to fore and “play out our unconscious knowledge in every unthinking move we make in the dance of loving”.[iv]

These imbedded emotional inscriptions do not occur without social interchange. The Attractors remain camouflaged in our limbic brain and emerge to create our attractions for some circumstances (danger, serenity), environments (sounds, smells, tastes), people (male, female, tall, thin), and relationships and our rejection of others.


The Complexity of our lifelong “self-states”

bigstock-Surreal-Cubist-Eyes-And-Faces-7736887_resizeOur personal relationship histories and how we make meaning is fundamental. Daniel J. Siegel is a clinical professor of psychiatry at the UCLA school of medicine and says that “…in these ways, history and present context shape whichever “self” is organized in the moment. As relationship experiences are repeated, these “self-states” become repeatedly engrained and develop their own histories and patterns of activity across time.”[i] It is our contention that all of our “self-states” (parts) plus a Self (the internal spark of the Divine) are what ultimately constitutes a human being.


Like particle systems, The Faces We Live are Systems Too

bigstock-Surreal-Cubist-Eyes-And-Faces-7736887 (1) “Like particle systems, our selves are partially integrated systems of subselves that still from time to time assert their own identities.” Danah Zohar

What would it look like to have a ‘subself” or ‘part’ assert its own identity?

For an example, you have a part of yourself that is fiercely independent and loves privacy. Unexpectedly, you are faced with a failing elderly parent who needs you to care for them.

Having exhausted all possible alternatives, the situation falls solely on your shoulders alone.


The Quantum Self


“Faith” is a fine invention When Gentlemen can see, But Microscopes are prudent In an Emergency.” — Emily Dickinson


A variety of social, psychological and theological disciplines attempt to describe human nature and/or the fundamental consciousness of individuals.

In these next few blogs, as I struggle to find alternative ways to describe The Many Faces We Live and the importance of knowing our internal selves, I will address this topic from features as seen through the lens of quantum physics. In particular, insights gleaned from the work of The Quantum Self by Danah Zohar.

First, however, a disclaimer; it’s not so much that I understand quantum physics-are you kidding me-as it is that I sort of intuit some of its overall purposed landscape.

For example, in describing matter, some theories in quantum physics, point to the wave-particle duality, which states, “…that both the wavelike and the particlelike aspects of being must be considered when trying to understand the nature of things…”[1]



Storyteller gourd art

When Jeanette and I first saw the Storyteller Gourd while attending a conference in Santa Fe, New Mexico we knew it was the perfect image to depict the vast internal family or parts that make up each and every human being. The following Blog Series will incorporate excerpts from our unpublished book entitled THE STORY TELLERWITHIN: with FASTFEET and LITTLE FINGERS .

In the last decade there is confirmation of a movement toward understanding and appreciating cultural and epistemological diversity. This movement and appreciation for diversity is increasing in our educational, health, and religious institutions. Ecologically we are becoming aware of the necessity to understand and protect bio/ecological diversity. Have we researchers, however, spent enough time reflecting on the diversity of the human being itself, psychically, intrapsychically and interpersonally? This diversity lends itself not only to a multiplicity of being and of relating, but also is a fertile source of creativity and insight.


“I don’t know what got into me”



There is no such thing as a single human being, pure and simple, unmixed with other human beings. Personality is a world in himself, a company of many. That self … is a composite structure … formed out of countless, never-ending influences and exchanges between others and ourselves. These other persons are in fact, therefore, part of ourselves … we are members of one another.” Dr. Joan Riviere

Have you ever had the experience of doing or saying something then found yourself saying, “I don’t know what got into me?”
Most everyone I know has answered this question in the affirmative. This kind of common experiences is precisely what this blog site, The Faces We Live, is about.
We humans are not made up of one singular self, but many selves, which change according to the person and/or circumstances which they face.