Peeking from behind the mask


March 24th, 2012

Two articles in today’s Melbourne Age newspaper stood out. This one and this one.

“Tell the story – the more times you tell it, the better off you’ll be.” This was the advice given to ¬†Brant Webb and Todd Russell, survivors of the Beaconsfield goldmine disaster. ¬†They were trapped underground in a small wire cage for 15 days after an explosion on 25 April 2006. Webb says that advice was absolutely true, and he only wishes more trauma survivors would take the same advice.

Steven Amsterdam, writer and palliative care nurse, writes about the pervasive use of a military metaphor to describe illness and death, (e.g., he lost the battle) and how this contributes an added burden to families and friends coping with grief.

“Fear must be made to look like fearlessness. This is not a cure. All of the masking hides feelings and leads to isolation. Instead of a close, supportive connection among family and friends, it steers everyone towards bravado and inauthentic cheer,” he writes.

There seems to me to be a common thread in these two stories – sharing our real emotions. So often I see people hiding behind the mask of how they think others want to see them. Oh yes, I’m guilty too. Leaders in particular in organisations seem to struggle to maintain the mask of invincibility, of knowing what is unknowable, and presenting a positive face to the world in the midst of uncertainty, confusion, even sadness.

How can we support each other to more often reveal the real person behind the mask, with all of our vulnerabilities and emotions? How can we be more compassionate listeners of other people’s stories and more willing to share our own?

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