Thursday, October 31, 2013

If I Only Had a Brain. Memo: We Have One.

October 31, 2013

"You don't call. You don't write."

Actually, that's partially true.

I haven't called yet I have written. Just not to you. I apologize.

This is a heads up that I have been heads down. My husband, Geoff, and I are writing our book, 1 Billion Seconds. We have a wizard of an editor and have been writing and editing nonstop.

Since the last blog I have been inspired at least 63 times, yet, although well-intentioned, have not transcribed those inspirations. With the arrival of Halloween and merry masking, today seemed a good time to pause and share.

This week in my Psychology classes at Ringling College of Art and Design, I posed the question to my students:

"Why do so many of us love to dress up at Halloween?"

Bright, animated faces emerged from behind their laptops. A myriad of answers came bursting through.

        "Because it is takes you back to simple times."

        " is one day when you don't have to feel responsible,"

        "You get to be playful...nostalgic...good memories.

        "Halloween is a perfect occasion to become someone else."

None of their answers surprised me, really. I just wondered if they recognized their motivations for wanting to "be someone else."

At the end of the year, I assign a final that asks the simple question: "Who am I?" This both intrigues and confounds the students. They are intrigued initially, but when they have to peek behind the masks that… well…we all wear…they become a little frazzled. It is uncomfortable to remove the masks, to look beneath, to scrutinize the different masks of defensiveness that we sometimes mindlessly choose to reveal to the world.

Why do we wear masks?

I believe the answer lies in evolution. The human species is here for two reasons.

To survive and reproduce.

The fear center in the brain, specifically the amygdale, is prepped and ready it seems, at all times. It serves as a 360 degree beacon, a scanner on a 24/7 lookout for all possible threats and dangers. The woolly mammoth and other dangerous beasts could take out our ancestors at any moment. The amygdale had to be alert, to defend against the enemy that would eliminate the human species.

Survival of the fittest was alive and well a gazillion years ago.

But that was then.

We have evolved as a species... we have the most complex and most evolved organ of all the species. A brain. Scarecrow did have it, after all.

The Cowardly Lion had a highly activated amygdale. He had perceived threats run amok. We also perceive danger when we ought not to. Our ancestors were very concerned about their physical survival. We have taken that same intense focus for physical survival and transcribed it to our emotional arenas.

Hence, we put on masks. A ton of them.

I acknowledge that we perceive emotional threats and dangers. It is others who impose their thoughts and opinions on us that we take to heart. I am boldly suggesting that others perceive us exactly as we want them to. Whatever mask we put on, others serve as a mirror and shine it back to us.

I politely disagree with Doug Coupland who was quoted in Psychology Today as saying: "If human beings had genuine courage, they'd wear their costumes every day of the year, not just on Halloween."

Why wear them at all, I wonder.

Why not mindfully access the other parts of our brain, that highly functional organ and consciously choose to be real…to be genuine…to be vulnerable and humble…to act with the Tin Man's true heart?

Why not trust as Dorothy finally did, that we have the answers all along? Why not expand upon the wisdom of our ancestors with our really great brain that we have today, to bag the masks, the false personas and fake selves, and showcase instead, the true us?

A what-you-see-is-what-you-get-self?

We can still dress up as Dorothy, Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Lion, yet we do so with a purely playful intent. We are the real deal underneath the costume and mask. We have authentic grounding with our glittery red slippers.

Consider being mindful of the days before and after today, when we, in our lack of self-awareness, put on a mask that really doesn't need to be worn.

The smoky wizards behind the curtains, the emotional wooly mammoths and vampires are also wearing masks. Don't let them undermine us by placing their fears in our laps. Instead we stand in compassion and with an art of detachment, where we can lovingly and empathically acknowledge the fears of others, without taking them on ourselves.

They are not real for the mindfully evolved us, right? Boo yah to them.

Happy Halloween!

Mindfully Yours,


P.S. We are transitioning the Coach Poppy Newsletter to a new site in the next month. I'll let you know so you can come along ☺

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