What is the psychology behind wearing a mask and how is it affecting us?

Wearing a mask is definitely a new experience. Out with Halloween, and life as an expat in Asia, I have had little experience of the things.

Hang on…foundation, there is foundation. Foundation could definitely be classed as a mask for some-and that seldom graces my face nowadays.

Fast forward to June 2020 and all of a sudden, Donald Trump is the lone ranger, and I am looking indistinguishable. 

In fact, everyone is. The only thing that brings comfort in wearing a mask-the thought it might protect others.

The Thoughts That Lie Behind a Mask

I find the psychology behind a mask interesting. People traditionally wear masks to disguise or to delve into an alter ego. The wearing of a mask is symbolic, mysterious and suspicious. What is behind the mask? A question that may induce wonder and excitement in some, and fear and danger in others.

If I saw someone with a balaclava, it would inflict fear. Why would someone wear a mask for any other reason? The natural inclination would be to run, or hide, or definitely make sure my face was out of context.

The thing about a mask-is that it covers the face...just clarifying, and hides the personality. The face is the focal point of transaction. Cover this, and what do you have left?

Okay, maybe I just need to get over it and grow a pair. It is just a mask. It is there to protect and get us back out into society..

The Mask Don’t Work

But I am suffocating in it. I am trying not to, but there is something not working here. It reminds me of the time in amongst a 10,000 strong Muse crowd, and the stark exit that prevailed my body out. 

What proceeded was a sprint back to the tent, for dear life, for quiet, for safety.

Of course, I was suffering from claustrophobia; and that was the first, and last, major festival I will ever attend. Let’s refrain from what happened next, but you catch my drift.

It is just a little surprising for me to realise I even suffer from claustrophobia. Even now, I almost second guess it. I can appreciate small places, I like the idea of cosy, and can smile at cottages as I pass by.

Yet, I do get claustrophobic and this whole new compulsory obligation to cover the face, is making me feel weird.

Just the other day I went to Glasgow to have a look around the shops. Of course, I had to wear a mask. And so there I was in Levis trying on new jeans, in the smallest changing room, too-ing and fro-ing out the room, donning the mask. It was only about two hours later that I realised I was having a subdued panic attack inside the shop, and I chose to stay. The irony. Truly…let’s not question the power of shopping.

Instead, this time, my beloved dreams of sprinting towards aisles of clothing were dashed. Instead, I now vow to not return to the shops for a long time because the whole experience actually made me feel sick.

Covering the ability to breath with a piece of cloth, does not help claustrophobia. 

The Psychology Behind the Mask

There is actual psychology behind this too, according to Psychology Today. At least in the sense of face coverings providing a disquieted sense of unease, in relation to other people. Apart from the very real common sense that would strike anyone, who has ever had the breath obstructed. 

Psychology Today explains that visualising a face is a safeguard, in terms of scrutinising a threat or not, and goes back to ancient times. If a face was visualised but obscured within the undergrowth (back in the day), it may have been a costly mistake.

Furthermore, Psychology Today explains the importance of facial features within our ability to read emotions. Covering the mouth is particularly alarming for people, because the mouth communicates positive relationships (smiling) and anger.

If this is not present for someone to read, then this could understandably cause discomfort and not too far flung: paranoia .

Even Boris Johnson has been opposed to face coverings. Known to proffer western liberties, Johnson has been quoted referencing the appropriate time to remove the mask:

‘schools and universities should be able to take the same approach if a student, turns up… looking like a bank robber…I would go further and say that it is absolutely ridiculous that people should choose to go around looking like letter boxes.’

(Psycholgy Today)

Boris is not favouring letter box masks, or balaclavas. 

Balaclava as a mask
Balaclava wearer

Who can blame him, the whole thing is ridiculous, when it is not making you laugh..or cry.

Although, looking like a letter box does have some distinct advantages.

Masks are not going anywhere for now, but let’s at least hope next weeks date is akin to removing it.

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