Masking Tips

Well, there I was on the shoreline, as I described in my last post. In a place I didn’t know, in a mild state of panic, with nowhere to stay and no way of leaving. I had a vocabulary of about twenty Croatian words. I was starting to freeze both physically and mentally.

In Maslow terms, I was back to basics – my physiological needs of warmth, shelter and food were not being met. My only option was to talk my way into someone’s home. As there was only one place with a light on – the shop – I had one opportunity within my one option. Not a strong position. I also felt pretty foolish for having got myself into the position, and have never liked imposing myself on others. Could my position have been any weaker?

I wasn’t confident I could pull it off. In NLP terms, this was me in “First Position”. As I thought about going into the shop, I considered how I would come across to anyone I met – “Second Position”.  I thought of Acres, from Sheridan’s ‘The Rivals’, when he says before the duel “My valour is certainly going, it is sneaking off! I feel it oozing out as it were, at the palms of my hands!”’

Finally, I took “Third Position” or the “Meta Position” – I looked at the situation from an outsider’s perspective. I then I realised what I needed to do. I needed to become someone who would always manage to succeed in such a situation – and that person was Michael Palin! He travels the world meeting new people, has a lovely way with people and gets himself into people’s homes and premises whenever he wants.

So I became Michael Palin – initially in my mental approach, and then in terms of my physical behaviours and all aspects of my rapport building. To cut a long story short, it worked like a dream! Anna, the shopkeeper – who also had rooms she let out in the summer – let me to stay and fed me for the next two days.

It is a technique I have used on several occasions since, and one that I have encouraged and enabled others to use - it can bring about strikingly beneficial results.

It obviously had more of an emotional attachment for me than Anna. I went back two years later (this time in the summer!) and stayed with her again – and even though I reminded her of my previous visit she couldn’t remember me. Perhaps it happened every week? The Tourist Information Office in Dubrovnik having a competition to see how many unsuspecting tourists they could get to visit a closed Mljet! …

Which brings me to last December, when I wrote a blog about “Being Santa”. Having got changed from being Santa, I went back to my colleagues and they were talking about how people are different when they are somebody else. It made me think more about Masquerades and being Santa – or being anyone else to be more precise (and so reminded me of Michael Palin).

Whilst I acquired my Santa outfit for fun (£2.50 in a Homebase sale!), I did by accident find an additional use for it. The office Christmas Party. I find Christmas a lovely time of the year, but office parties are not part of Christmas for me – I have never really enjoyed them.

There was one particular year when I really didn’t want to go, so I decided to go as Santa. And it was a very interesting experience. I discovered that I was able to go to it and enjoy it more than I had done previously. On reflection, I realised that I was attending as Santa and not as Paul, and so had a different outlook. Consequently I used a whole different set of behaviours. As a result, every year from then on I went as Santa – and enjoyed them far more.

The main reason for the invention and subsequent popularity of Masquerade Balls in Fifteenth Century Venice was so that people could conceal their identity and hide who they really were. The anonymity they provided to an upper class that was governed by the strictest etiquette was irresistible. They didn’t have to be themselves; they were able to be different people. Oscar Wilde once said, “Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth”.

This leads me to the questions I want to pose.  Which is the real person? Paul or Santa (or Michael Palin)?

The person when they are wearing or not wearing the mask?

When is a person closest to being their innate self?

I have thought about it many times over the years since my visit to Mljet. What are your thoughts?


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2 Responses to “Masking Tips”

  1. Adrian Nixon says:

    Hi Paul,

    Thanks for the posts, I was wondering how you got out of that one.

    My initial thoughts fall into 2 categories:

    1) When we fall through that trapdoor in society and get in a fix we end up relying on other people’s good will.

    When people refer to society being atomised and “get on yer bike” being the solution to all problems I often wonder if they are saying this from the comfort of a complacent financial and social position.

    Yes, there is the notion of personal responsibility, but we are diminished as a society if we close the door on those genuinely in need.

    2) Who are we? Paul, Santa or Michael? The answer, it seems to me is all three and maybe many more.

    In short we have evolved to be adaptable, in management speak we are situational.

    Scientists and philosophers have been struggling with this concept for millennia. It gets to the heart of what makes us who we are.

    It is linked to one of the great questions in science “What is Consciousness?”

    There is no credible answer.

    For example: Is Spot a Dog or a Man? You’ve told me that he doesn’t see himself as a Dog, but can we ever truly know?

    We live in a world where there is a lot of information out there and most things have clear answers. Not knowing is uncomfortable.

    Wouldn’t it be a boring world if we knew absolutely everything?

    Maybe the real challenge is to be comfortable with a certain amount of mystery. This is analogous to your quest to work with less structure.

  2. Paul says:

    Hi Adrian,

    I’m not sure what the answer is – along with all those others thinking about it – but I am guessing there is more of the real me displayed in Santa than in Paul.

    That might not be the same for everyone, I accept, but I let go a lot more in that situation. Others do it when they have had a few drinks – which is the real them then? ….


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