Dear Claire,
I had this dream the other night, and I think that I know what it means, but I would like to know what you think. In the dream, my mom is helping me to put on this face mask like one you’d use for a facial. I worry that I look bad because there are people around, but she is telling me how good I look with the face mask on and to keep it on. I still really want to wipe it off but I don’t because I know that my mother doesn’t want me to. But I am in this sort of public place and I really don’t want the face mask on. But my mom keeps telling me not to worry, that I look fine, and that it will be good for me. I think that I dreamed about this because my mom gives me a lot of advice and helps me a lot. But sometimes I don’t want her help with everything. What do you think that it means? What is your opinion?

The appearance of masks in a dream, whether costume masks, protective masks, or facial/beauty masks, can have multiple meanings—however, the customary meanings are, for the most part, closely related and highly significant. Masks usually serve as dream symbols for protection, deception, internal conflict, and hiding one’s true self from the world—hiding who we truly are or what we truly think, feel, and believe. Masks can also represent the duality of our personalities and the contrasts in our personal behavior under various circumstances—for example, our public vs. our private personas—and can symbolize different aspects of our personalities which are all valid, but which are selectively presented to the world depending upon the situation or mood which we are currently in at the time.

Masks can also symbolize the diverse roles that we play in our everyday lives and the different behaviors that we display while performing these roles—for example, if the dreamer is a teacher, she may wear a certain “mask” for that aspect of her life but wear an entirely different “mask” or persona in her role as a mother, lover, friend, or co-worker. Because masks in a dream are, for the most part, representations of the “face” that we show to the world—as opposed to who we are when we are alone with ourselves or with those who are close to us—they can serve as powerful symbols in the dreaming world and so must be given close attention and a thorough analysis.

For this reason, whenever there is a dream where a mask figures prominently—whether that mask is a protective facial covering, a holiday mask, or, as in the above dream, a salon-type facial mask—certain questions need to be posed in order to unlock the meaning and significance of the mask’s symbolism. And like any journalistic or investigative endeavor, the classic “Five W’s and an H” of who, what, when, where, why, and how can assist in the analysis. For example, who is wearing the mask—and who (or what) is responsible for the wearing of the mask? Is someone other than the wearer applying or putting the mask on—and at whose initiative? In addition, the dreamer needs to note what type of mask is being worn, what time of day the mask is being worn, and what type of situation and/or location the mask-wearer is in throughout the course of the dream. Furthermore, questions about why the mask is being worn or applied should be asked—as well as whether there are any emotions associated with the mask-wearing. For example, is the mask-wearer angry about having to wear it? Pleased? Conflicted? Being coerced?

In the above submitted dream, the dreamer is the mask-wearer—and she indicates that she “really doesn’t want the face mask on”, but she is being persuaded to wear the mask by her mother. While the dreamer does have concern for how she is being presented publicly it appears that, in the end, the dreamer is more concerned about the wishes of her mother than she is with the opinion of the outside world. The dreamer’s reluctant compliance appears to be due to the close bond and trusting relationship that she has with her mother—however, there are troubling issues with this relationship as well, because the dreamer appears to be continually negating her own feelings in order to please her mother. Furthermore, it appears that the mask that the dreamer is being asked to put on by the mother is for the purpose of deception—for creating a deceptive appearance—and not the dreamer’s true “face” or self, because the dreamer is not at all comfortable wearing the mask and opposes it, while the mother desires that the dreamer keep the mask on, believing that keeping it on will be more beneficial.

The mother uses strong persuasive methods in order to coerce the dreamer to keep the mask on, telling the dreamer “not to worry”, that she “looks fine”, and that the mask “will be good for her”—as well as telling her “how good she looks with the face mask on”. Dream statements like these would most likely indicate that, in the dreamer’s waking world, the mother may be pressuring the dreamer to think, behave, act, or present herself to the world in a manner to which the dreamer is opposed—or in a manner which is not true to the dreamer—and is asking the dreamer to hide her true “face”/true self from others in order to project an image which the mother believes is more pleasing to the outside world. Furthermore, the mother is attempting to convince the dreamer that wearing the mask will bring about a more desirable and positive outcome—but the mother does not consider the fact this outcome may not be at all positive or desirable to her daughter.

Quite simply, the dreamer’s mother appears to be encouraging the dreamer to be someone who she is not—and the dreamer does not feel comfortable presenting herself to the world in this persona. However, when the dreamer expresses concern about wearing this “mask”, the mother ignores her concerns and continues to attempt to convince the dreamer to “keep it on” and sustain the facade—the image—thereby negating the feelings and wishes of her daughter. Overall, it appears that this dream is a reflection of the dreamer’s angst over being unable to be her true self—and it appears that the subconscious mind is sending this dream as a message, hoping that the dreamer will take the steps necessary to solve her inner conflict by living authentically and doing what makes her feel good in her own skin. Her dreaming world is telling her, “Yes, love and respect your mother; but love and respect your inner self, as well—and don’t defer your life to others!”

As always, however, the final interpretation is for the dreamer to decide—but it would be advisable for the dreamer to ask the following questions of herself when doing so in order to accurately unlock the meaning of the dream: Have you been presenting yourself as someone who you are not—suppressing your true self at the behest of another? Have you been living a life untrue to yourself—a life that goes against your values, character, wishes, and dreams—only because someone else wants you to live that life? Have you been forced into a situation where you have to hide how you truly think, feel, or believe—keeping your emotions hidden and under control—in order to please others or “stay safe”? Are you afraid to reveal your true “face”—your true self—to the world? Once the dreamer has fully answered these questions, she will, most likely, have an accurate understanding of her dream.

**End note: After reading this response, someone close to me commented, “It could just be that she dreamt this because her mother kept nagging at her to wear a mask due to the pandemic!”—and it could truly be that simple. That could definitely be the reason for this dream. Either way, it is a good reminder for all of us to continue to wear protective facial coverings at this time.

***Please submit your dreams for analysis to: . All shared information will stay anonymous.

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