I awoke in the early hours this morn from a very strange dream that was reasonably unsettling. Now what in the world did that mean!!! Dreams, the messages of the night, are like a foreign mystery—most often in some weird, unknown language—until we decode the meaning that arises from the deeper layers beneath outer consciousness. It’s marvelous how our subconscious works—always at the right time, with the most appropriate symbols, with the right compass heading. It’s the original, 24-hour-guidance system that’s always accurate and in our best interest, when we honor its messages!
Here’s the segment of my dream I still recall: “I’m in a room with several other people. There are two sofas. I’m on one facing three people who are sitting on the other one opposite me. The person in the middle is highly distraught, incurably crying, and mumbling non-coherently. I look down to my right and notice a rubber-looking facemask with wild long hair going every which way (similar to those Halloween-type masks that you pull down over your head and face, the Medusa-like ones that hide your identity). I look up, startled, to see the person sitting in the center on the sofa is a woman—her face is virtually featureless and all but eaten away. Leprosy has taken its gradual toll. She had wanted to take her mask off for a long time and is relieved to finally be rid of it, even though what she once looked like is indistinguishable.”
I had no idea what this scene was about, but right away it reminded me of the poignant image in director Ridley Scott’s movie, “The Kingdom of Heaven.” The movie documents, though as a heavily fictionalized depiction of the principal character Balian of Ibelin, the second wave of Crusades to Jerusalem during the 12th century. Part of the political center of the movie concerns the young King Baldwin IV, the wise and deeply conscious ruler who, stricken by leprosy, wears a golden mask, which includes a beautiful cloth that drapes over his head and down his shoulders. His hands are gloved. No part of his flesh is for public display. At his death, while lying in state, his sister comes to say goodbye. Tears streaming down her cheeks, she removes his golden disguise and stares aghast at the hideous caverns left by the ravage of leprosy.
All of a sudden, still in bed, I knew precisely what my dream meant! Two days ago in my post, “Sudden Deaths Come Calling,” I took off my own mask for world viewing! In posting this “biographical” history (specifically about my own struggle with loss, death, and grief), I had “come out” of the closet of shame to a greater degree than ever before.
The personal mask we choose as an adornment is the persona. It’s a self-protective device that prevents us from becoming emotionally “naked” before someone we hardly know or whom we don’t want to know us in a more familiar way. In addition, our persona is a highly functional disguise in situations that require public discretion and professionalism. Like a two-way mirror, it filters how we see the world and how we allow the world to see us, especially in terms of the first impression. My age-old persona became defunct when I posted my biographical piece!
To those “globalites” who read “Zane’s SunnyCat Blog,” my past humiliation from suffering the severe anxiety, panic attacks, and emotional breakdown had suddenly become very public—a stark contrast to the decades of my 20’s, 30’s, and beyond. At the initial onset of the first extreme panic attack when I was 21 and after some months of suffering from ruthless anxiety and panic, I ended up in our family doctor’s office at the end of my nervous rope. Due to the severity of my symptoms, he put me in the hospital—the Psych Ward—to make sure there were no physical or physiological factors at work. I remember sitting on the bed in the room with my three other psych roommates one morning when a nurse came in to take my blood. She had been a close friend in junior high, and I was mortified that she now saw me—the nervous wreck reduced to such a pitiful state.
In that lonely week, only my first husband and a cousin visited me. No other family member came to support me in my terrified condition. A few years later, when my sister remarried, I was suppose to be her maid of honor, but still overflowing with shame and not fully understanding what was wrong with me, I lied to get out of having to walk down the aisle and face a much larger cast of family and friends. I finally confessed my lie to my sister some years back. I missed participating in one of the happiest moments of my sister and family’s life because I thought I was defective and crazy. To this day, fortunately, my only other stay in a hospital was due to my birth!
For the majority of us, self-acceptance is a life-long process. Otherwise, there’d be no need for the professional expertise of psychologists, counselors, and the many varieties of healers! Self-acceptance comes in stages when we’re ready to take the next step in growth and let go another piece of severe self-judgment—the debilitating inner voice of nagging criticism, the one that continually compares and makes us feel lesser than others. “You’re not perfect,” exclaims the stinging voice! These parts of ourselves are the ones we label as the most distasteful, backward, stupid, ugly, despicable, and unacceptable, to describe a few.
Are you getting the picture? Moreover, I’m sure your own inner saboteur can add to your list of explicit, self-recriminating descriptors.
Our saboteurs arose during our earliest-childhood programming, the tender time during which we were most readily influenced and molded by our families, peers, teachers, other outer authorities, and societal norms. Unconditional love and acceptance is what each child yearns for most and requires for a healthy self-image, but nearly all of us are not allowed as children to punch our own scorecards. We are, instead, told how we must perform in order to enter and remain in the narrowly defined box titled “superior,” which is acceptable to all those who initially keep our score for us.
“You want to find your highest potential,” wrote Carolyn Myss, “and enough strength of soul to free yourself from the need to have others recognize, approve of, and applaud who you are and what you do.”1 This suggests arriving at the stage of psychological maturity wherein the shift is finally away from external determiners to rest in the hands of our internal authority.
The derivation of “authority,” explains the Online Etymology Dictionary, comes from the French word auctor “master, leader, author.”2 Henceforth, we are the author of our story line! We are the master of our destiny! And for each one of us who finally arrives at inner peace and unconditional self-acceptance, we have the ability to heal the world by that portion and raise the level of human consciousness worldwide.
• A Test of Tooth (more on the stinging voice)
Text and Photos © by Zane Maser, 2010. All rights reserved.
My editorial guru and technological wizard is Chris Maser, my delightful husband.
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