Richard Rohr: Laying Down One’s ‘Stage Mask’

“In the second half of life, we have been in regular unwelcome contact with the shadow self, which gradually detaches us from our not-so-bright personas that we so diligently constructed in the first half of life. Our “stage mask” (persona in Greek) is not bad, evil, or necessarily egocentric; it is just not “true.” It is manufactured and sustained unconsciously by our mind; but it can and will die, as all fictions must die.

Person and shadow are correlative terms. Your shadow is what you refuse to see about yourself, and what you do not want others to see. The more you have cultivated and protected a chosen persona, the more shadow work you will need to do. Be especially careful therefore of any idealized role or self-image, like that of minister, mother, doctor, nice person, professor, moral believer, or president of this or that. These are huge personas to live up to, and they trap many people in lifelong delusion. The more we are attached to and unaware of such a protected self-image, the more shadow self we will likely have. Conversely, the more we live out of our shadow self, the less capable we are of recognizing the persona we are trying to protect and project. It is like a double blindness keeping you from seeing—and being—your best and deepest self. As Jesus put it: “If the lamp within you is, in fact, darkness, what darkness there will be” (Matthew 6:23).” —Richard Rohr, ofm

From Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life, pp. 127-128, pp. 127-128

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