Dr. Don Jobe
Essay on "In Defense of Masks"
“In Defense of Masks”, by Kenneth Gergen regards that it is not possible for humans to adequately find a coherent self identity without an aftermath. Gergen states, “to the extent that they do, they many experience severe emotional distress” when trying to do so (172). He refers to Erik Erickson, a psychologist who speaks about how self-alienation can result due to the pressures of society to individuals with various masks of identity. Determined to find exactly what altered masks can do to an identity, an experiment involving 18 female college students and a clinical trainee was conducted. Gergen’s intentions were to “find the factors of an individual’s choice of mask and how outward appearances and inward feelings of personal identity affect masks” (172). The main source of such analysis was the students’ self-evaluations after answering questions regarding their background and about themselves. With the interviewer showing signs of approval or disapproval when answering, led to strong influencing of the young students’ image of themselves. If the student received a positive reaction from the interviewer, she gained confidence while when receiving a negative reaction, they slowly began to change some of their answers to evoke the positive feedback from the interviewer. The overall conclusion of the experiment was “that it was easy to modify the mask of identity, but it says little about underlying feelings” (173). Another experiment was conducted with the connection between a motive and a mask. The common link was the ideal of “approval-seeking”, individuals throughout society are willing to add and drop certain attributes of them, whether its personality traits or physical characteristics in order to, successful achieve others’ acceptance. Carl Rogers, one of Gergen’s colleagues, describes human identity as “We are made of soft plastic, and molded by social circumstances” (173).Individuals have different self-presentations of themselves when they do not seek other’s approval, verses when trying to. This is commonly seen in relationships such as, family, friends, lovers, co-workers, and acquaintances. Gergen’s thesis “I believe we must abandon the assumption that normal development, equips the individual with a coherent sense of identity” (174), signifies how one individual receives different perceptions of themselves by other people. In every relationship encountered, we learn something about ourselves that we did not know before. “The value that society places on a coherent identity is unwarranted and possibly detrimental” (174), this thought is exemplified through various examples of inner struggle when needing to live up to society’s norms. A vegetarian will always worry about meat cravings, and how a spouse contemplates infidelity. Human lives consist of desiring to rebel against set norms of living and love and showing indifference when facing different passions, potentials, or selves. I agree with Gergen that we do have multiple selves and I see how it is that these several identities are evoked throughout our lives. Throughout the course of history, humans still constantly change even today we are still evolving. Whether it is through technology, language, cultural, and society, we embrace the concept of enhancing. I believe just like Gergen that by having multiple selves, it is the only way to reach our full potential as individuals. To reach such potential we must adopt different masks, whether it is actual physical or inward characteristics. Society today has set a pressure to those who “don’t fit” the world we live in today. Especially in teenagers and young adults, the ideology of finding an singular identity is constantly shoved down their throats. As a young adult, I find myself still asking myself that question, “Who am I?” and I have come to understand that throughout the course of my life, I have become many...
Cited: and Michael Heumann. Dubuque, Iowa: Kendall/Hunt Publishing Company, 2014.
Michael Heumann. Dubuque, Iowa: Kendall/Hunt Publishing Company, 2014. 172-
Michael Heumann. Dubuque, Iowa: Kendall/Hunt Publishing Company, 2014. 202-
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