The darkness beneath the mask

Originally published on Linkedin.

Is the juice worth the squeeze?

The consultant asked us to answer this question regarding choices to make in the system implementation.

So, is the effort put into something justified by the outcome?

I’m educated in economics and public policy, trained in program management, and we make decisions based on Return on Investment (ROI).

I’m about to complete my third year of doing therapy, healing the wounds, and developing myself. Here’s some of the maths:

  1. Weekly therapy sessions at $150 per session
  2. Group work weekends, including travel
  3. Opportunity cost in time spent doing this work
  4. Countless books bought
  5. Neurofeedback equipment

I won’t add up the numbers here, but it’s a lot. It takes a certain privilege in this world to even be able to do this at all. That’s not lost on me.

But tradeoffs.

So give me the TLDR;

My overall stress and anxiety level has dropped from a constant 8/10 to 2/10. My HRV and heart rate measurements, sleep quality all have gone 180 since doing this work. My quality of life is worth 10X the dollar amounts I invested.

Behind the darkness and bad stuff, is all the good stuff I left behind.

So yeah, it was worth it.

Can you close up the can of worms?

I asked every one of my therapists this.

What if we do this work, and I find out something I don’t like?

Will I cause irreparable harm to myself?

Can I put the worms back into the can and bury it again?

Early on in this journey, the issues I dug up were reasonable. It all made sense. They’re surface-level things. No judgment, those things are worth addressing, and even working on the surface-level stuff is life-changing.

I was always worried about finding something that was hidden, buried away, so deep that it was never meant to be uncovered.

It took more than two years to keep digging. I was curious. I tinker. I wanna keep poking at it.

What I found along the way was that my masks were powerful.

They want me to focus on the surface-level things.

That’s why my first 10-year attempt failed. Each time, my mask would tell my therapist that I was healed, great job, you did it. Let’s take the W and go home.

As I dug deeper, and as I gained more self-awareness, I was able to zoom out and see the big picture. My mask wanted me to stay at the surface, what was beneath was too painful, too shameful to find. Keep it buried.

Further down the rabbit hole

Wanna know the insidiousness of it all?

The darkness, the title of my post too is the mask.

Society has put value judgment on everything.

That darkness is bad, and light is good.

The force in Star Wars, dark side vs light.

Good vs bad.

What is good, what is bad?

The mask I wear blends into a world where value judgments are made.

After peeling off the layers of trauma, I was left with the icky stuff (this is what I tell my kid). But I’m looking at it with my judgy mask.

This is the stuff that should be locked away.

It’s the parts of society we sweep up and hide.

It’s the clutter that gets thrown into the closet before guests come.

From the words of one of my mentors, it’s the ugly underbelly.

I got stuck in the mud here. After a couple of years of breakthroughs, I found myself stuck here. This was the stuff I wanted to put back into the can and keep it buried. These are all the things that society deems unworthy, unclean, dirty, dark, and shameful.

These are my shadows.

What lies beneath

Doing work here is dangerous because you can get lost. You can let these parts control you. Only stay here when you have mastered self-awareness, and know yourself more than you thought possible.

It was a tough day for me.

Some bad news came in.

I was struggling with it.

The usual get yourself together and man up voice came up, and I said thank you for helping, but I got this. Why don’t you sit here with me, and we’ll see where this goes.

Beneath that discomfort was sadness.



I sat there. I felt it. Wave after wave crashing into me.

In that ocean of discomfort, I found my soul. The sadness was joy. I didn’t turn my sadness into happiness. My sadness IS my happiness. It is the soup of all emotions, and you can’t pick and choose which ingredients you want in there.

For that moment, I sat there and experienced the waves. It fluttered between phases of different feelings. Tears started to come.

I never lost my soul.

I didn’t send it away.

It was always there, beneath all the layers I built up.

My shield, my armor.

I let go.

The weight off feels relieving.

I don’t need this armor anymore.

Because you are not a threat.

I am home.

Next steps

I wouldn’t be a program manager if I didn’t touch on next steps. Putting myself out there on a professional platform is my armor removed. Thank you for all the support, the DMs that come in, the reach outs IRL.

First off, I am okay. I’ve always been, and I’m better now.

Secondly, I don’t have a plan for this other than to keep putting this out into the world, and trusting the universe will show me the way.

Published by Daniel Hoang

Daniel Hoang is a visual leader, storyteller, and creative thinker. As an experienced management consultant, he believes in a big picture approach that includes strong project leadership, creative methods, change management, and strategic visioning. He uses a range of visual tools to communicate business challenges, solutions, and goals. His change strategy is to build "tribes" of supporters and evangelists to drive change in culture and organization. Daniel is an avid technologist and futurist and early adopter.