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Now that mask mandates are lifting, what was their effect on us?

At the beginning of the Pandemic, the sight of masked faces – our own and other’s – was a danger signal, pumping anxiety.  There was suddenly a barrier to casual social interaction, and the simple act of talking to people became emotionally inhibited.  So now what?  We have a mixture of excitement and unease as the situation changes.

When clients came to my office with masks on, at first I was concerned that it would inhibit our work together.  But, to my surprise I saw feelings still being expressed, from the warm “good to see you” to the range of fears, sadness, anger, joy, humor, and all the emotions which are part of life and of therapy.

It seems that with our typical human ability to adapt, people learned to use their eyes more deliberately and intensely for communication. I could see in my clients’ eyes all the emotions I had seen before, even though we missed seeing our whole faces.

There is a quality of intimacy in the act of seeing of each other, hence phrases like “their eyes met” or “eye to eye.”  There is also its opposite – the opportunity to hide, as in “avert the gaze.”  The way we connect with other people throughout our day influences our mood, our general sense of well-being, and place in the world.  Masks definitely made the chance to hide a lot easier for those who wanted to, but for some it became an intimacy challenge.

Could a silver lining of the Pandemic be a greater appreciation for connection? Hopefully, in our attempt to avoid contact with the virus, there has been an increase in our willingness – and intention – to make more meaningful contact with each other.  ‘The eyes have it!’

If you are feeling anxiety about the ‘re-entry’ process, consider therapy.You can read about what it’s like in my book, SOMEONE TO TALK TO; What Really happens in Therapy and How It Can Work for You.  Find it here: