Imagine that you just had an encounter with your boss who has made a hasty judgment about you. For example, she accuses of purposefully disregarding her order; but in reality you acted with initiative to give a fuller or more expansive answer and/or analysis to a problem. She continues to say or do something that you feel is unjustified. You are reluctant to defend yourself knowing perhaps you’d be digging a deeper hole for yourself. (This reminds me of a quote I saw on someone’s desk – “Don’t argue with a fool”.)
Later, a friend who is aware of your explosive relationship with your boss meets with you. In politeness and care he asks, “How are you?”, and you say, “I’m alright” when in your heart you’re hurt and angry and want to pour it all out. Eventually the truth does spill over in the course of the conversation.
That is a classic situation of words behaving as a mask. We put on the masks to save ourselves and the receiver. We want to save each other from the truth. I don’t know why this happens so often that it seems like it’s a conditioned knee jerk reaction.
In my Imagined Life classes my mentor Faline has encouraged her students to “Look well into the words.” Discover the world behind the words. As writers we purposefully choose the words that is put on paper. I look back to the poem “Trippin’ Across The Bay” and can reword a few bars to be more succinct and precise in what I want to express. When is it ever done? We have all probably revisited an old piece of writing, and our point of view has probably shifted since the point in time that the thought and feelings were captured till eternity in that printed form.
The ARE has one of the largest if not the largest collection of metaphysical writings in its library. I was so overwhelmed with the books I came across in one place and time. The book, “C.G. Jung and Hermann Hesse: A Record of Two Friendships” by Michael Serrano, describes a conversation between the author and Herman Hesse. The topic was the message of the poem “The Raised Finger” written byHesse.
“Words are really a mask, ” said Hesse. “They rarely express the true meaning; in fact they tend to hide it.” excerpt from C.G. Jung and Hermann Hesse: A Record of Two Friendships.
In the story telling realm the most dynamic situations is when the hero says something and does opposite of what they say. Our human nature is to reveal ourselves in our display of actions and artistry, and not in our words. Words do get in the way, because they are open to interpretation based on the filters a person is subject to.
It is more telling to witness the hero tells his lover, “I love you,” before shoots his beloved. If you have not read the short story by Thomas Mann called “Tobias Mindernickel”, it is such a fascinating read. It depicts the Freudian concept of “Reaction Formation and Displacement”.
The hero Tobias mistreats an adopted dog, Esau. In final scene after Tobias had already broken Esau physically (after dropping him from a window) after Esau had disobeyed and escaped. Tobias says to Esau, “You see, you are my only…my only…..”
Clay Sisman, an educator wrote: “He never finishes the sentence. What was he going to say? What would he say that?”
The typical symptoms of Reaction Formation are:
- behaving the opposite of how one feels
- saying things that are opposite to what one believes
The typical symptoms of displacement are:
- anger and hostility toward someone or something that is not the cause of the anger
- a temporary inability to control of one’s rational thinking ability
- a temporary inability to control of one’s behaviors, typically striking out physically from anger
- a temporary inability to discuss things calmly and rationally
Rounding back to the You-Boss situation. The words of the boss who accused you of insubordination is likely masking her feelings of insecurity and fear of losing control.
We are a fascinating species. Our minds are wild with distractions and a wild mind begets unpredictable actions that betray the true nature of what lives in our hearts. Thus I conclude the second series of “The Art of the Heart.”