I hurt for a long time because of childhood sexual abuse. Now I want to provide a safe place for hurting men to connect with other survivors of sexual abuse. Talk to us. You don't have to use your real name to share your experiences or ask questions.

Wearing Masks (Part 2 of 2)

"I feel like I'm so many different people," Albert said. It was the second meeting of a state-sponsored group of men who had survived sexual abuse in childhood. He went on to explain that he behaved a certain way with close friends, differently with casual acquaintances. "At work I don't act like I do when I'm with friends."

"Maybe you have a handful of masks to choose from," one man said.

We discussed Albert's situation and we finally realized that all of us wear masks. Like Albert, we relate to people in a social setting differently than we do to people who don't know us well.

"So who is the real me?" Albert asked. "I don't know."

"Probably all of them," I said. Not everyone agreed with me, but I believe we show only parts of ourselves at any one time. Another way to say it is that we wear safe masks when we need to do so. That is, we may be friendly, even outgoing, but we choose how much we want to self-reveal.

I also admitted that sometimes our masks show who we'd like to be—that may be a form of hypocrisy, but it's also a mask to hide behind.

The less we trust, the more we feel the need to wear masks and convince people we're who we purport to be. It's safe. And it's actually not difficult.

But it's not freedom. We have to size up the situation and the safe side of us breaks out. For me, it's not whether to wear masks—because we all do at certain times—but we need to be aware that they are masks. Or better still, why don't we get rid of the masks and decide to show select parts of ourselves?

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