By Michael Kimmel | Life Beyond Therapy
Now that it is Halloween, have you ever wondered why people like it so much?
We get to dress up in costumes.
We get to try on other personalities.
We get to be playful and creative.
Why not do this every day? Why be so creative only once a year?
You don’t have to make it as dramatic as Halloween – when you are in an “obvious” costume – you can dress up in a subtler costume any time.
When I was a personal shopper in New York City in the 1980s, part of my job was helping people find the right clothes for all the “personalities” they wanted to express. It was really fun: I got to encourage people to take risks, try new things and experiment with their lives.
Now, 30 years later, as a psychotherapist, I am doing a lot of the same things.
The costumes you choose for Halloween can tell you a lot about yourself: do you want to be heroic? Playful? A fantasy character? Sexy? Goofy?
When you put on a costume, how does your personality change? When I put on different costumes, I feel like a slightly different person. As a superhero, I felt powerful. As a clown, I let myself act silly and free. One year, a friend lent me a burlesque dancer costume that he couldn’t fit into, and, when I wore it, I felt free to be very flirtatious and provocative. What changed in me when I simply changed what I was wearing?
You may not enjoy dressing up at Halloween. That alone is an interesting piece of information. Does putting on a costume make you uncomfortable? Would it open up a door in your mind that you don’t want to experience? It’s not right or wrong to enjoy wearing a costume, but it does tell you something useful about yourself.
This is why, as a psychotherapist, Halloween is fascinating to me. We walk around trying on new personalities. I invite you to consider bringing this creative, playful energy into your life every day.
How to do that?
Start by thinking about all the Halloween costumes you’ve worn in the past: which ones did you really like? Write down how they made you feel (powerful, happy, carefree…). Perhaps you’d like to feel more of these feelings on a daily basis, if so, let’s go to the next step.
Pick one or more of the feelings you’d like to feel on a daily basis. Let’s say you pick happy and carefree. Go through the clothes in your closet and see which ones make you feel more happy and carefree. Try wearing these more often and — consciously — decide how you want to feel as you wear them. You can act as if you’re wearing a Halloween costume. Let the “costume” take you where you want to go.
Let’s say that none of your clothes give you happy or carefree vibes. What to do? Never fear! The former personal shopper is here! Find some magazines (or go online) and identify pictures of the kinds of clothes that would give you the feeling(s) you want. If you can, tear out (or print out) these pictures and put them in a pile. Go through the pile and notice the common thread. This is what you’re looking for.
What’s next? Buy some clothes like this and see how you feel in them. Do you feel happy and carefree? If not, take/send them back. Remember that this is an experiment and have fun with it. If you’re buying clothes online, notice what you’re drawn to. This is your intuition giving you guidance. If you’re in an actual brick-and-mortar store, walk around and see what catches your eye. Let yourself try on a few things and see how they feel. Buy a few things and take them home — you can always return them if they don’t help to evoke the feelings you want more of.
Remember: the whole point is to use your costume — clothing — to give you more of the feelings you wanted. When you do this, you can have a little bit of Halloween every day!
—Michael Kimmel is a licensed psychotherapist who specializes in helping LGBT clients achieve their goals and deal with anxiety, depression, grief, sexually addictive behavior, coming out, relationship challenges and homophobia. Contact him at 619-955-3311 or visit lifebeyondtherapy.com.