Our Many Faces

“We try to find those people or at least one person who we can share ourselves with and how to open up our ‘little weird worlds’ to them without being judged or criticized or made fun of.”

There is a touching scene in one of my favorite movies, ‘Good Will Hunting’, which focuses on Sean (played by Robin Williams), a former prodigious mathematician turned psychologist, who is mentoring Will Hunting (played by Matt Damon) but also providing guidance to a young man going through a tough time. Will is gifted but also has suffered physical abuse and mental trauma having lived with different foster families who did not treat him well. Sean notices Will not really sharing who he is fully and that is not just the case with Sean at first in their sessions but also with Will’s new girlfriend, Skylar.

Will is afraid to let his guard down and shows there are different levels or facets to he is but given his personal history, is afraid to let others into his world because he is worried that he’ll be hurt or abandoned again like his foster parents did to him. Sean tries to get through to Will on multiple occasions and so does Jerry, Sean’s old friend, who believes Will has great mathematical talent but is unwilling to work with him on his personal issues, which came to a forefront when Will got into a street fight with his friends and ended up assaulting a police officer.

In order to get Will to open up to him more, Sean attempts to tell Will why it is so important to show our true self or as I would like to call it here, our true face when we can because deep down that’s who we really are and it’s special to let someone in when we are vulnerable to get to know our full personality and who we are as individuals. Sean, in his personal anecdote, relays the story of how his dearly departed wife would fart when she was nervous and that only he as her husband would know that about her. Sean would sometimes hide the truth from her by saying it was him who farted even when it was so loud that it would wake the dog up when they were all sleeping in bed together.

“It’s the little things like that, that I miss the most.” Sean doesn’t reminisce primarily about their wedding, how they met perhaps, or about what they would do together on a date night. He would think about the things that made her his wife that no other person would know. In other words, Sean would see his wife’s true face or self because of how intimate of a relationship they had as husband and wife. Those little ‘idiosyncrasies or tics or habits that Sean knew about his wife is what made it such a special relationship even when she had passed away. Sean was encouraging Will to open up more to Skylar because it’s no use going through life without showing somebody you love your true self or face, which you likely hide from other people.

Will has friends, has his Mathematician mentor, Jerry, and his psychologist turned confidant, Sean, but these are different faces he presents to all of them, and the one true face Sean is encouraging him to show is with his girlfriend, Skylar. While Will can drink, talk construction, and reminisce with his buddies, he can’t show him his whole personality or face. In addition, Will can solve complicated Math problems and challenge himself intellectually with Jerry, he can’t do that with his friends. While Sean is a friend to Will and they can talk about sports and relationships and life, Will has a hard time confiding in Sean about his past and what he wants from himself.

I think all of us can relate to a movie like Good Will Hunting and a Character like Will Hunting. We try to find those people or at least one person who we can share ourselves with and how to open up our ‘little weird worlds’ to them without being judged or criticized or made fun of. It’s why we show different faces to our loved ones and our friends than we would with our work colleagues or a stranger. It’s hard to open up but we must do our best to be vulnerable with those we trust and whose relationship matters to us most. We can go days, weeks, months, or even longer without connecting with someone on a deep level, which is why it becomes even more special when we can share our peculiarities, our oddities, or the ‘good stuff’ as Sean would call it with someone we truly love and care about.

Similar to the character of Will Hunting, each of us can be hardened by life and find it difficult especially as we age to be vulnerable, to let people in to see the real ‘you’ without holding back, and to be accepted for it. A lot of times, we may be pretending with our other faces to please our boss, to support a colleague, to crack jokes with a friend, and even help a stranger out. It’s good to have those faces in public but it’s who we are in private with someone we care about or love that is our true face.

Thinking of the expression, ‘to put on a good face’, we often must withhold part of who we are at school, at an office, or at the local restaurant or bar, to hold back from showing 100% of what makes ‘you’ you. It’s not easy as Will and Sean illustrate in scenes from ‘Good Will Hunting’ how to show your real face and real personality to someone fully, especially if you have been burned before in the past and been hurt physically or mentally as a result.

We strive to be perfect and to not make mistakes in our daily dealings with others in both professional and personal interactions. However, it can be easy to forget in our lives to not be afraid to let our true face or our true self shine through as we each have our own flaws and our own ‘peccadillos’ that we set us apart from one another. The key challenge or opportunity in life, depending on how you look at it, is finding someone that we can be truly open and vulnerable with without putting on a different face.

Being able to let your guard down, share yourself fully with another person without fear, doubt, or anxiety, that can lead to some of the deepest joy or happiness in life as Sean had explained to Will in the film. While we may not be able to fully express ourselves day in and day out to most people we meet or interact with, hopefully, we can find the right person to spend as much time with as possible and for whom we can be 100% of who we are and what we are deep down inside.

Don’t Look Back In Anger

“Instead of spreading that anger and letting it spread elsewhere, the anger you feel should instead be reversed to acting out in happiness and caring to keep that specific ‘ripple effect’ of anger from spreading.”

Anger is an emotion that we all experience at one point or another in our lives. While it’s inevitable to experience this emotion, but what is especially important is how we use that emotion and how we deal with it. Instead of letting it stir within us or to lash out to that person who angered us or for those close to us who we vent to, I believe it’s best to take that anger and channel it into something positive. Instead of spreading that anger and letting it spread elsewhere, the anger you feel should instead be reversed to acting out in happiness and caring to keep that specific ‘ripple effect’ of anger from spreading.

Instead of taking that anger you receive as a reflection of who you are as a person and letting it bring you down, try to let it reflect not on you but on the person doling it out to make you angry. The anger that they give out is more likely than not about you but about how they are feeling or what’s happened to them before. Anger is not often personal but often about how that person is being treated and instead of breaking the cycle, they continue to take their anger they received and spreading it to other people.

Perhaps in other cases, that person’s anger at you is justified if you did something wrong or erred in some way but their anger is not likely to change your behavior and may backfire if you take offense at their tone. When receiving someone’s anger, it’s important to respond rationally that you understand their frustrations at see what their criticism is about but that you don’t appreciate the way they are going about airing their grievances with you in that manner. It is important to explain that if they are angry about you, they can voice it in a measured tone without yelling or being contemptuous as that will prevent you from taking their anger seriously.

When receiving someone’s anger, do your best to hear them out and to apologize if you were in the wrong but don’t get angry if you can and don’t redirect that anger back or to hold it in you that it affects your mood for days, weeks, or months. As you go through life, you are going to be likely on both ends of anger as an emotion but it’s best to realize that anger is not a good emotion to experience and it’s best to avoid even if you’re frustrated or disappointed or annoyed with someone or something. It’s likely that you will experience anger on your own but to not let that anger grow or linger or eat you up inside. On top of that, if you receive anger whether you feel you deserve it or not, you cannot take that anger from someone else and let it stay with you for very long.

As one of my favorite sayings in English goes, you should not ‘look back in anger’ and to let it consume you. Any anger you’ve had or received needs to fade away and you must let go of it or else it will worsen your life on top of your present and future relationships with other people. Letting go of grudges, not dwelling on past blowups, or forgiving people from wrongful words or actions is a key part of maintaining a healthy attitude towards anger. Part of that attitude towards anger is forgiving yourself for past transgressions related to your anger and then forgiving others as much as possible for their anger towards you, deserved or otherwise. Often, you will have to give people the benefit of the doubt and realize that some people don’t control their anger well or lash out at you or others because they don’t have a healthy attitude towards that emotion.

However, instead of letting others have their anger spiral out of control or to let yourself get angry in response, it’s best to not be angry in response or to just breathe, take time to think it through, and respond in a way that does not let your emotions take control of your words. You should try to prevent yourself from letting your anger get the best of you and to say something to somebody that you cannot take back and ruin your relationship or friendship with them. Noticing that you’re angry with them is enough to at least have a conversation with the person in a mature and measured way without letting that anger boil to the surface.

Quite simply, the anger needs to dissipate, or it will infect other parts of your life and cause you to lash out at other people who don’t deserve your anger or are unrelated to what caused that anger in the first place. You would be better off when you stop holding on to that anger or looking back on it. If you can let it go, let it go completely but if you can’t, try not to think about it and remember that all emotions come and go and that is the way it should be. Anger can be channeled into more productive uses of your life like going to the gym to release the tension, writing your thoughts down and working through your emotions and reflecting why and how your anger came to be, or just talking through your anger with a trusted friend or a family member who you feel comfortable sharing that emotion with.            

Being able to channel your anger into something positive or something worthwhile is a key test of being a mature individual. Anger is a negative emotion but that doesn’t mean it has to go on forever or cause you to be a negative person. Knowing how to deal with it at first, react to it in a measured manner, and then eventually letting it go to leave it in the past where it should remain will help you to not look back on anger and to keep it from reaching the surface of your emotions again. As the famous Oasis song goes for which this blog article was inconspicuously titled regarding how to deal with anger at someone close to you whom you’ve grown apart from, “Don’t look back in anger, I heard you say…, at least not today.”

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