Weekly Questions and Answers about A Course in Miracles: 01/11/2006
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This week's questions/topics:
Q #865 Do we create our "insecurities" and "conflicts" to keep ourselves separate?
Q #866 My wife is separating from me and I feel scared.
Q #867 Could I be spending too much time bringing my problems to The Holy Spirit?
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Q #865: In Question #608 you responded to the questioner by saying that if their weight was keeping them separate from other people, then that was indeed the ego's underlying purpose for the extra weight. Can that principle be used as a general rule for other bodily insecurities or conflicts? For example, if someone avoids dating with the opposite sex because of self-consciousness about or self-hatred of their height, eye color, hair color, etc., can it then be said that they actually may have chosen, on some level, to be born with these qualities to keep them separate from the opposite sex? Am I understanding this correctly?
A: Generally speaking, our experience in the present reflects the goal we have chosen to pursue on another level in our minds. Note that we are talking about our experience -- an internal state, not behavior . We need to be very cautious about using the form a person's life has taken as a direct indicator of the content in that person's mind. We cannot judge content using form as the criterion. Crucifixion is a normally thought of as a hideous form; but Jesus' mind was never not in a state of total peace; no one was ever excluded from his love.
If your internal experience is that you feel alienated and separate from others, then that has to be what you first desired in your mind, otherwise you could not feel that way, whatever your bodily characteristics happen to be. A two-fold strategy (the ego's of course) unfolds from that decision to ensure that you will not be held responsible for the separation and punished as a result (all of this being part of the ego's tale of separation, sin, guilt, and fear), and that you will totally forget that you have a mind that is deliberately upholding the thought system of separation and rejecting the thought system of unity and oneness. So once you make the choice in your mind to reinforce your underlying belief in separation, you would then use the world and your body for that very purpose. You would be intent on showing that separation is reality and that you are an autonomous individual, subject to victimization by others and/or by your own body. We all do this.
There are many ways of demonstrating this, but bodily insecurities and conflicts would be high on the list, for you would be preoccupied with your body -- keeping you from remembering that the real source of insecurity and conflict is in your mind -- and you would have a reason to keep yourself separate from others and be able to blame your problem on your genes, your hormones, your dysfunctional family, society, Hollywood, etc., etc. It is quite possible, thus, that you (as a mind) would produce a body with the kinds of characteristics that could be used to achieve that purpose. Always remember, though, that the purpose chosen in the mind is the critical factor, for another person could have the same height, hair color, eye color etc., and not be self-conscious about it at all. There are plenty of examples of that, just as there are examples of people who have the “ideal body” but are still plagued with insecurities and conflict.
The solution to the insecurities and conflicts is to shift from focusing on the body to the purpose being upheld in the mind. And that means shifting from the ego as your teacher to Jesus or the Holy Spirit. Whenever there is shame, conflict, and separation, it means that you are following the ego's guidance. So you would just step back from that and ask for help to now use your body to learn the exact opposite of what the ego wants you to learn. With Jesus or the Holy Spirit guiding you, you can learn to perceive yourself and everyone else as sharing the same interests -- all having the same wrong mind, right mind, and decision-making ability. Eventually, what you look like would diminish in importance, as you would recognize your preoccupation with the body as a defense against realizing you are a mind, as is everyone else. That may or may not improve your dating life, but even that would cease to matter as you progress, for you would know that your self-worth has nothing to do with your life in the body.
The major lesson Jesus would help you learn is that you can peaceful regardless of your bodily condition or your dating life. That is what we are all trying to learn -- that the peace of God is always shining in us (W.pI.188) , and, without falling into denial or blissninnyhood, nothing of the world or the body can change that. We have to un learn what the ego taught us, which is that our inner peace is conditional on external circumstances meeting our needs as we have perceived and defined them.
Finally, if the self-loathing does not abate, then the kind and loving thing to do for yourself might be to turn to a professional therapist for help.
Q #866: I have been married for ten years and we have four boys under ten. My wife is separating from me, with a view to divorce. I have betrayed her in my mind out of spite but would never dream of actually doing it as I love her tremendously. I am afraid my wife will betray me by loving someone else, that she will not love me. I have dedicated my life to her and our children, our family, and I do not want to lose her!
Isn't marriage a sacred contract that should be worked through, a Holy Relationship with vows taken in the eyes of God in Church? I have asked Jesus and the Holy Spirit to look at my thoughts, feeling, actions, and words to help forgive me and to undo all those mistakes I have made and the ones that I feel in my gut now. I have asked Jesus and the Holy Spirit to be in my mind to bring peace, light, joy, forgiveness, love and understanding, but I still feel terrible and scared. How do I get to feel at peace and joyful with life and see my wife without feeling hurt, pain, guilt, betrayal, and jealousy?
How do we or the Holy Spirit undo the mistakes we have made? Do I try to tell my wife everything I'm recognizing? Near the end of “Practicing the Holy Instant” (T.15.IV), A Course in Miracles talks about communicating all thoughts pure and unpure so that the Holy Spirit's purity can shine them away. Does this mean communicating my thoughts to the Holy Spirit in my mind or communicating them to the person whom the thoughts are about, my wife, so she can realize I have learned from my mistakes? I would like our relationship to be a success as I really want a family forever. I feel sorry that our children may not be living together with both their mother and their father as I did. Is there hope for our relationship?
A: There is always hope for every relationship, if you look at it from Jesus' perspective. In fact, the outcome is certain (W.pII.292.1), for in the end every relationship will be healed. But the form of the relationship may not be what we think we want and need, while we remain identified with the ego and concerned with our own special interests. For the healing occurs in our mind, at the level of thought, and that may or may not be reflected in anything that seems to be happening in the world between two bodies. It is only in the mind where any real hope can be found.
The pain you've been experiencing as you've been confronted with a major shift in your relationship with your wife comes through your words very clearly, as does your desire to do whatever you can to maintain the marriage. However, from the Course's perspective, you have set up the problem and its solution in your mind in a such a way that you are assuring yourself of conflict and pain, no matter how things turn out. For you see your peace and joy as dependent on what you have no control over -- your wife's decision either to leave or return. Now this is very much the way of the world -- to see our experience of love and happiness as coming from outside ourselves -- and it is doomed to failure (T.29.VII.1) . And so even your pleas to Jesus or the Holy Spirit for help are attempts to bring about changes so that your wife will decide to remain with you.
The relationship you have established with your wife, like all of the world's so-called love relationships, is what the Course would call a special love relationship or bargain (T.16.V.6,7,8; T.21.III.1) . We come to such relationships out of a feeling of lack or emptiness (T.16.V.9:2) , never questioning the reality of the lack we're experiencing. We all seem destined as human beings to have to seek for love and, if we are lucky enough to find a relationship that seems to meet that need, do what we can to cling to it so we will not have to experience the feelings of lack and emptiness again. But, beneath all such relationships are ambivalence and resentment for being dependent on the other, and so conflict such as what has pervaded your relationship with your wife over the years is almost inevitable. But this is how we have all set up our lives. And so, when confronted with the possibility of the loss of such a relationship, as you have been, the feelings of desperation, loss, pain, guilt and anger can seem quite intense.
And yet Jesus assures us that none of this need be (T.4.IV.1,2,3,4,5,6) , if we are willing to change our thinking about ourselves, which we can only do by changing from the ego to Jesus or the Holy Spirit as our Teacher and Guide for looking at our lives and our relationships (T.4.IV.7,8) . For it is the ego who is the arbiter of the conditions for all special love relationships. And special rituals and “sacred contracts” are all part of its offerings (T.16.V.11:4,5,6,7,8; 12:1,2,3) , to obscure the guilt and fear and emptiness that are at the core of its gifts. Now there is nothing wrong, and there can be great practical value in making commitments to another through a marriage contract but, from Jesus' perspective in the Course, there is nothing sacred or holy about such contractual agreements. The only thing that can make anything sacred or holy is its purpose, and the only purpose that confers holiness on any of the symbols of the world is forgiveness, which must begin truly with ourselves. Whether you and your wife remain together or not, the relationship can always be made holy by being given the purpose of forgiveness in your mind. And this simply means that you are willing to withdraw judgment and blame from both of you and forgive yourself for wanting to see her as somehow responsible for your happiness. True love and happiness can only be found by joining in our minds with Jesus or the Holy Spirit and releasing our investment in the guilt and lack of the ego.
And this is how all our little mistakes are undone with the Holy Spirit. For the only mistake that ever has to be undone is our choice for the ego, however that choice may be expressed in the relationship. The specific mistakes and self-judgments can be brought to the Holy Spirit or Jesus for healing, where they can be recognized simply as faulty choices and not sins deserving of punishment (T.19.II.6; T.19.III.4) . Once you have released the underlying guilt associated with all your self-condemnation, you may or may not be guided to share some of the specifics with your wife. But you will have no need to use any of it to try to change the nature of your relationship with her. For in your mind, as you continue to practice forgiveness, you will become increasingly aware that you already have the love that you thought you had needed to seek from her. And if you should feel guided to say anything to your wife, it would be only because it could be helpful to her. For we are never the ones who can judge what is truly helpful for anyone, including ourselves (M.29.2) .
And so, regardless of the form of the relationship in the world, Jesus assures us that every relationship can become holy. And it does not depend on what the other person says or does or thinks, but only on which teacher we have chosen in our own mind. And given the gifts the Holy Spirit holds out to us, how could we want anything else?
“Before a holy relationship there is no sin. The form of error is no longer seen, and reason, joined with love, looks quietly on all confusion, observing merely, ‘This was a mistake.' And then the same Atonement you accepted in your relationship corrects the error, and lays a part of Heaven in its place. How blessed are you who let this gift be given! Each part of Heaven that you bring is given you. And every empty place in Heaven that you fill again with the eternal light you bring, shines now on you. The means of sinlessness can know no fear because they carry only love with them” (T.22.VI.5) .
Q #867: If I am focusing on bringing my problem to the Holy Spirit for a long time (hours, months) as opposed to a short time (minutes), am I making the error real? Or am I seriously looking at the guilt? I often get confused about this. Also, being a 12-step program attendee, if I talk about the problem I seem to be having in a meeting so I can look at it, is that making the problem real? Or, again, am I seriously looking at the guilt? My intention is to use that forum to look with the Holy Spirit at the problem. Hearing myself say it out loud in front of other people seems to help look at it. It begins to seem trivial and lose its power there, I think.
A: If you're spending that much time on the perceived problem, more than likely, you're focusing on the wrong problem or, more accurately, the pseudo-problem rather than the real problem. You see, whatever seems to be a problem in our lives upon which we lavish so much concern and attention is always a smokescreen, to keep us from getting in touch with the underlying problem in our mind (W.pI.79) . And this is true regardless of whether the focus is on someone else or on ourselves, that is, the self we think we are. Our problems can seem so complex, with so many angles to consider, so many layers to work through, so many insights to pursue, before we can really understand and let go, release, “forgive.” And yet, we are remaining entrenched in the ego thought system, never really stepping outside it, simply rearranging the furniture on the Titanic, as one of our staff members once so aptly put it.
Because Jesus is well aware of our tendency to try to solve problems at the wrong level, in A Course in Miracles he cautions us , ”If you believe you understand something of the ‘dynamics' of the ego, let me assure you that you understand nothing of it. For of yourself you could not understand it. The study of the ego is not the study of the mind. In fact, the ego enjoys studying itself, and thoroughly approves the undertakings of students who would ‘analyze' it, thus approving its importance. Yet they but study form with meaningless content. For their teacher is senseless, though careful to conceal this fact behind impressive sounding words, but which lack any consistent sense when they are put together (T.14.X.8:4,5,6,7,8).
The temptation is almost unavoidable to perceive our problems as being the result of our relationships in the world. But that's no surprise since we, as the collective Son, established the world and relationships among bodies for the very purpose of keeping ourselves unaware of the underlying problem in the mind (W.pI.64.1:2,3,4; 2:1) . And so we can spend hours, days, months, even years, going around and around over the same or similar territory, analyzing the specifics to death.
One form this can take is to trace all of our relationship issues back to our parents. At one level, this is true, for the dynamics of our relationships with our parents are repeated in all of the relationships we experience throughout the rest of our lives. But if our focus is on how the limitations of the parenting we experienced as children are at the root of all our problems in later life, we have not really gone far enough back, or more accurately, deep enough (for more on this, see Question #861). For even our initial relationships in this lifetime with our mother and father are symbolic of, or split-off fragments of, our initial primary special relationship with God. And that relationship is an insane hallucination that we have made up to maintain our belief in the separation, while holding someone else responsible for the guilt and pain that follows from it. And the specific problems and issues in our lives are only illusory shadows of that underlying imaginary ego dynamic with God.
So our focus on ourselves and our relationships in the world is, from Jesus' perspective, really misplaced. Not that our problems in the world can not serve a different purpose, when brought to the Holy Spirit (W.pI.64.2:2,3,4) . For they can become the portals to the darkened vaults of our mind, where the hidden ego beliefs will continue to wreak havoc on our peace until we shine the light of true forgiveness on them so that they can dissolve into the nothingness that is their essence. But so long as we maintain our focus only on the world and our lives here, those disruptive unconscious beliefs remain securely hidden and locked away from our awareness, but still festering in the recesses of our mind, infecting and affecting our every perception.
Having said this, please don't think it follows from this answer that you should stop doing whatever you are doing, if it seems to help you resolve issues and conflicts in your life. You just want to be aware that until you identify and address the underlying issue or content -- your choice for separation and guilt in your mind -- you are not resolving the real problem (W.pI.79.6) . And you will find only temporary relief, much as an aspirin can briefly relieve the symptoms of an underlying chronic systemic problem in the body but is not addressing the source of the pain, which will return once the palliative effects of the drug wear off.