Kierkegaard explained the sense of being masked, the use of disguise as something closely linked to the awareness of original sin. The experience of shame, according to him, led to the desire to dress, to hide nakedness. In this sense, for him, the mask was the shame of sin extended to the face itself.
Not accepting sin, not accepting to have failed results from illusion, from pretending not to have failed, not to have fallen, not to have being corrupted by desires and temptations. For Kierkegaard, this “vertigo of freedom” causes man, in an inauthentic way, to deny the temptation, the dialogue, and the seduction of the serpent that had victimized him. For the author, the man states, guilty, his will to achieve, to be autonomous, and believes that through the mask, the disguise, he/she can make it flawless. It is salvation by lie, by disguise.
Feeling guilty usually forces you to seek absolution. From confessionals to habeas corpuses, from divine mercies to legal protection, individuals seek to turn lead into gold, to turn errors into paths to success. Making sacrifices, giving alms are, for some people, ways to atone for guilt. These masks are images from which structures of power, kindness, sufficiency, and autonomy are built.
Psychologically, building acceptable masks and images is a way of hiding what you cannot live with. It is a way of hiding and denying one's own non-acceptance. In this moment, arises a division that can be summarized by the conflict between authenticity and inauthenticity, between freedom and imprisonment, between truth and lies. The deceiver is also the accomplice of his/her own servitude, as Kierkegaard explains.
When one makes or use masks, when images are used as a disguise, it is to conceal, to deny a shame, a non-acceptance, a demerit. In behavioral sequences, this implies the denial of the very person who embeds the mask, who creates the image. By denying being a person, he/she affirms to be an artifice, ceases to be a subject and becomes an object. He or she denies himself or herself as being-in-the-world, affirming to be an object, a referential, valued by circumstances. Undergoing these contingencies, these facticities, he/she is destroyed regarding autonomy. Then, human bondage begins: either by seeking absolution from guilts and fears, by being held hostage to beliefs that rescue, or by accumulating wealth, power, which distantiates from what it is believed to be being lowered, diminished, rendered worthless, meaningless. Moreover, there can be the feeling of being just a representative of what brings shame and devaluation, such as poverty for example.
Non-acceptance, the attempt to escape from self, manifests itself continuously, which reinforces the sense of mask, the need for image. As Kierkegaard says in his diary:
This is the disgrace in me: my whole life is an interjection, nothing is fixed there (everything is moving - nothing immobile, no immobility).
Circumstantializations exist only in function of the demands of survival, or of shame and fear, for example, which structure non-acceptance expressed in the form of incapacity, guilt, greed, malice, dependence.
The construction of masks, of images, always implies guilt, overwhelming surprises, hence the constant need to be rescued, redeemed, relieved of this burden. The expectation of eternal life, of redemption of acts, of heavenly havens where guilts, fears, lies are neutralized is very attractive. Being saved from sin is an outlet in the labyrinth of lies, wickedness, and guilt. Every unresolved problem, tortuously circumvented, creates infinite displacements. They are the constant daily delusions; it is the inauthenticity, the non-legitimacy generated by buckled images that deceive and manipulate. Political associations, schools, religious communities, and families are factories of masks. They are often places that are considered sacred, which need to be questioned and, finally, unmasked.
The more image, the more shame, the more non-acceptance, the more hidden problems and, consequently, the more human fragmentation, the more desperation, the more evil, or as Kierkegaard said, the more fear and trembling. Fear and trembling, for Kierkegaard, is the resource of appearance, it is the fear and expectation of being able to undergo demonic action. For him, the mask, with the aid of which one lies and deceives, is one of the devil's favorite tools.