Revisiting and familiarizing myself with this level of rage was an inextricable part of reclaiming my spirit and vitality. It didn't make me into an angrier person, as I might have feared; rather, it allowed me to unravel the forbidden feelings, to let them breathe. Accepting my anger was like leaning back in the chair at my therapist's office. The benefit didn't come from the memories per se but from the removal of the fear of anger in my adult life. With a sturdier base of emotions—including my anger—to rely on, I no longer felt that I was teetering on the edge of reality.

I was reminded of this insight the other morning in my weekly yoga class. Our teacher asked us to stand, choose a partner and lean forward at the waist, touching the tops of our heads together. She then asked us to push with the crowns of our heads, so that we had to work hard to keep each other balanced. I could hardly feel my partner's head; her touch seemed very light. I soon discovered why.

"I'm scared I'm going to push you over," she suddenly called out, laughing but sounding genuinely concerned. It- was as though she felt I couldn't handle her aggression, even in the mild and benign form of pressing on my head. This is the feeling that creates the mask: the belief that another person can't handle the full weight of-your self, anger and-all.

It is no accident that dream interpretation, bodywork, yoga and meditation hold so much appeal for people who are struggling to feel real, to come out from behind the mask. Each practice, in its own way, makes space in the false self's life for a ray of the real to shine through. That this ray is not always one of light does not deny its life-giving properties. Plants need soil and fertilizer as much as-they need sun; the whole, healthy and happy person is made of anger as well as more pleasant emotions.

Next: Real women talk about their own masks


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