So I have this old friend who is rather quiet. Some might say “reserved.” Others might even call him “nerdy.”
Many years ago, a group of us were going to attend a Halloween party. For reasons I never fully understood, my friend decided to rent a gorilla suit as his outfit for the evening. At the agreed to time, I swung by his place so that we could walk over to the event together. He greeted me in full costume, gorilla head already in place.
Strolling the few blocks to our friend’s apartment, my gorilla companion was seen dancing with abandon, greeting passers-by with grunts and high fives and generally being a wild ape-man. It’s probably important to note at this point that he had NOT been drinking.
At the party, he was instantly the center of attention. Women flirted with him, guys wanted to borrow the costume. Whatever inhibitions he once had were gone. His pre-frontal cortex had apparently taken a several hour vacation. My friend basked in his faux monkey glory.
The next day, of course, he was back to his good old controlled and cautious self.
I’m sure those of you who are more educated about psychology than I–not a tough standard–will offer up erudite theories and explanations for his behavior.
All I know is that the gorilla suit didn’t make my friend a different person. The idea of it, the ego protection it afforded, simply helped unleash his potential. It freed his mind to take some risks, to consider new possibilities, to not be so afraid to look silly or vulnerable.
Maybe we all should have a gorilla suit in our closets to throw on when we need to push through our fear?
Or maybe we should just accept that what holds us back is all in our heads?