By Jessica Muñoz, Counselor and IOP Case Manager at EDTC
It’s almost that time of year when we begin planning and preparing for Halloween. Most of the money and time go into the costumes we display at parties and with our children at home, passing out treats. What is it about the costumes that make this holiday so much more fun than others? As a child, I grew up performing in community theater and was blessed with the opportunity to wear costumes year round. There was something about wearing the costumes, especially the masks that built my confidence and silenced the nerves. To this day I get nervous just thinking about performing in front of a large crowd, but give me a mask or costume and I don’t have a worry in the world. It’s a layer of protection, a boundary between me and “them”. Often times, in the world of eating disorders, our eating disorders become a costume, the mask we create as a way to project a barrier between ourselves and “them”. It becomes not only a way to mask us physically, but emotionally and verbally it begins to think, feel, and speak for us. When we externalize this “Eating Disorder” masks through the use of creative art therapies including art, drama, dance, and music, we can began to understand how this mask became a part of us. The colors and shapes that form the mask, the music that plays, the movement it takes, and thought process of its voice all create a way to capture what made the mask so strong, so loud, and so confident.
In recovery, it seems to be easier to tap into this voice. Often, ED is the strongest and loudest voice in the room. When we examine our “Eating Disorder” mask, we must also tap into our healthy side, our compassionate self. Maybe we’ve never had or don’t yet have a Healthy/Compassionate mask, but we can create one with colors, shapes, movement, and voice. By externalizing this side of ourselves, no matter how small it may seem, we can find its purpose, its strengths, and its potential to silence ED. This year, as we prepare for Halloween, collect treats and find our costumes, find some time to think about the kind of masks in your collection. How do they serve you? What is their purpose? Where did they come from? Do they silence or strengthen your compassionate, healthy self? The author, Dorothy Langley, said that the purpose of the mask is to reveal, not to conceal (Warren & Grainger, p. 85). What do your masks reveal about you?
Warren, M., & Grainger, R. (2000). Practical approaches to drama therapy the shield of Perseus (p. 85).