This morning I was watching TV when a commercial for the new Proactive Dark Spot Remover showed up. Apparently if you pay the money and use this product it will remove the “appearance” of blemishes and restore your complexion to “perfect skin”. Quite a promise… or is it.
Notice what they are not saying. They are not saying that they will improve your complexion or skin at all, only give the appearance of change. The cosmetics industry, a word that means “to make order out of chaos”, has made millions, even billions, hiding the world from the truth. No wonder many women talk of “putting their face on” in the morning or before a date.
This past week The Chive and various other online rags ran a pictorial called “The Face Of Porn: Porn Stars Before And After Makeup.” To say the pictures were revealing is an understatement. Most of the most famous goddesses are less than perfect without artificial enhancement, to say the least. Some were downright homely, not even attractive. It is a reminder of the power of fantasy, of Photoshop, and of an extreme makeover. Cosmetics sell an illusion, an illusion of beauty, of perfection. Makeup is made to cover, it’s a band-aid that does nothing for us except hide our blemishes and present a false face… literally.
Many of us treat our problems the same way. We have spent years trying to cover up our faults and our past. I often tell people when they come for counseling that they may not really want to dig that deeply into their issues. I have an irritating habit of making people very uncomfortable, of asking them to think about things they have spent years trying to bury. Counseling, when it works, is a very painful and humiliating experience. It is much easier to just throw some Proactive on the problem, apply some makeup to our ugliness and give the impression, even to ourselves, that we have taken care of the problem. This is one of the reasons I rarely do groups on Anger Management. I have this annoying habit of treating anger as a symptom, not a base problem. I keep asking clients and patients ‘why’ they are angry and tend to gloss over anger management techniques.
There is an old maxim in psychology that change usually happens much slower than we imagine and the results are less pronounced than we would like to believe. Transforming oneself from a broken, hurting, violated victim of abuse and trauma into a whole person takes years, not months. The twelve sessions that your counselor signs you up for may be an excellent start but will probably not even begin to address a complex life full of dysfunctional coping mechanisms.
Band-aids are far easier and if you play your cards right, you can even find them with pictures of Spiderman on them.