THE HUNCHBACK IN EACH OF US
“Pray that you may learn to accept the will of God,
In Victor Hugo’s classic novel, “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” Quasimodo has a clearly apparent physical deformity. He’s a hunchback who is sequestered from public view, where he is at least in part saved from heart-less ridicule. Our compassionate understanding goes out easily to what some would ignorantly label a hideous creature, a disgraceful one who ought to be hidden from public sight. But how many of us, in one way or another, harbor and suffer secretly from an inward disability that is outwardly invisible?
I, for one, have spent almost half of my life, mostly covertly, struggling with a disability that at times has been every bit as crippling and shame-creating as Quasi’s hunched back. Mine started not at birth, but rather “out of the blue” when I was 20 years old—my first terrifying panic attack. It was so frightening, so debilitating that I was sure I was going crazy. My nerves gradually spiraled out of control over the next few months until—to my abject humiliation—I ended up in the psychiatric ward of the hospital for tests to determine whether there was something physically out-of-whack. Thereafter, I spent many years basically hiding as an observer behind the curtains of life. My confidence totally shattered.
In America alone, anxiety disorders affect almost 19 million people each year between the ages of 18 to 54, or 1 out of 7 people, whose lives and happiness become diminished. Of those that suffer, twenty-three percent are considered serious cases (e.g., 4.1% of the U.S. adult population). It is now being called the “No. 1 mental health problem in the United States,” according to the National Institute of Mental Health.2
Over the course of a lifetime, a staggering 29% of the adult population in the U.S. alone will be challenged at some point with an episode of one of the anxiety disorders (such as post-traumatic stress disorder or obsessive-compulsive disorder, to name just two of the wide variety possible). A study by the World Health Organization shows that the odds of developing an anxiety disorder have doubled in the past four decades. In September 2010, the World Health Organization reported that more than 450 million people suffer from a mental disorder, and countless more individuals have mental problems.3
In today’s hard-driving, achievement-oriented outer world, one’s disability (whether physical, mental, or emotional) is seldom seen as containing the gold of one’s uniqueness and gifts. So most of us, left with potential ridicule and rejection and our own shame and guilt, bury the pain of our brokenness in the deep, secreted, darkest places within, which psychoanalyst C. G. Jung called our “shadow.” But according to White Eagle’s wise counsel, “Know yourself as you are; know your failings and your weaknesses, but have courage, for every effort that you put forth is a spark of light.” How true it is that often we have to traverse the darkest places in order to find the faithful Light. Thus, a limitation on one level, if thought of creatively rather than negatively, can be the freedom on another to soar into the heights; to express the fuller, richer qualities of the heart, such as gentleness, kindness, sensitivity, acceptance, patience, and humility.
Often, however, our trials and frustrations will test us to the ends of endurance. And though the valley of darkness seems never-ending as we stumble along our self-chosen Path, that little beacon of light up ahead is worth every faltering step. White Eagle might describe this as transmuting a restriction on the physical plane into becoming conscious of the Universal Divine Love. He would say, “The real you, the soul which is stirring, awakening, and searching has asked that you may be tested, that all manner of difficulties should fall across your path. Always remember, in the trials that beset you, that your higher consciousness has asked for the light, is seeking initiation.” Further, he would encourage us to accept our karma, not in any negative light, but constructively as part of the learning and lessons our spiritual unfoldment in this lifetime.
The offsetting grace of any type of disability is to accept that a wise and merciful purpose is being served to strengthen our souls through this particular limitation or restriction—tests that are most often brought by the disciplining, maturing influence of Saturn. As Joan Hodgson wrote, “as soon as the soul strives to rise above resentment at the difficulties of its karma, and to forgive and accept, it begins to feel a heavenly sweetness, the grace of God lightening its lot.” When once the lesson is learned, then the soul’s freedom and joy is unlimited.
The harshness of having undergone a soul crucifixion is softened, and what remains is grace. Heart laughter rings out. Lightness of spirit and boundless energy become available and the disabling condition is henceforth looked upon as a Jupiterian gateway into expansion and growth, as well as deep quietness of mind and heart, because any kind of a disability has the two-fold purpose of teaching us patience and acceptance. With Jupiter’s encouragement, our life is broadened and illumined. Our spiritual rewards are earned and lasting as we kept on keeping on.
Additionally, by recognizing our own human fragilities, our hearts awaken to a greater capacity for compassion, forgiveness, and lack of judgment, both towards our self and others. Through overcoming our own shadows and inner demons, we become exemplars of the way of compassionate mercy and love—love being “a dynamic force, a creative power, a constructive element.” Unconditional Love is truly the great solvent of all disharmony and disturbances, troubles and problems.
“When your heart is full of love and compassion,” as White Eagle affirms, “you are sending out from your own heart centre the light which God has implanted in you as a tiny seed, a seed which is growing all the time.” Let us remember, as we each carry our own cross of suffering and soul crucifixion (whether visible and not), that the circle of God’s love surrounds and enfolds us. In its own good time, the fragrant rose of Divine Love blooms gently in our hearts.
Disability and pain, in whatever form, whether physically hunchbacked or in attacks of panic, includes the corresponding opportunity to attain deep peace of heart and wholeness. Looking back, it was a long road of recovery for me. I have infrequent moments of anxiety now. I haven’t had a panic attack for years. My heart has greatly softened through the emotional ordeals. Above all, what my secreted, hunchbacked condition taught me was not to judge any person in anyway. The surface appearance is just that—an appearance. At any given moment, each of us is doing the best we are capable of—at that given moment. If it happens to be temporarily lousy, then in the next moment I pray I can do better.
Text © by Zane Maser, 2011. All rights reserved worldwide.
My editorial guru and technological wizard is Chris Maser, my delightful husband.
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