Weekly Questions and Answers about A Course in Miracles: 10/3/2007

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This week's questions/topics:
Q #1220 Why do I overcomplicate reationships with the opposite sex?.
Q #1221 Is depression part of one's script?
Q #1222 If I respond to an attack I feel guilty, if I don't, I feel like a doormat.

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Q #1220: I seem to be determined to overcomplicate every potential friendship or relationship with the opposite sex. Not quite; but it has become clear a whole lot of unconscious emotional factors come into play. With the woman that I have just been involved, I find myself questioning her motivation, and then wondering about my own as well.

A: Although the specifics will change over time with our various special relationships, the underlying dynamics, content and purpose will remain the same, so long as we continue to employ the ego as our guide and teacher in approaching our relationships. It's helpful to recognize that specialness is always at the foundation of any relationship we pursue, no matter how we go about doing it. For the underlying premise is that I am incomplete in some way, and that I want and need someone else to help give me a different feeling or experience from what I am now experiencing. In other words, the motivation is always some sense of lack – always! And while we believe at the very core of our existence that lack is our reality, Jesus is asking us to consider the possibility that it is really a lie.

It would be a mistake, however, to think that A Course in Miracles is telling us not to pursue special relationships – Jesus needs our special relationships as the classrooms in which he can teach us our lessons of forgiveness. For special relationships, no matter what their form, allow us to get in touch with our own underlying guilt -- the source of our feelings of lack and need, which always motivate us to seek outside ourselves.

At this point it does not matter what the form of your relationship with this woman may be. Its value lies in the opportunity it has provided for you to recognize how effective the ego is in tying you up in knots when you seek to listen to its counsel. When we are willing to turn to a different Teacher, we will begin to understand that relationships are never really about anyone but ourselves. They are the mirrors we can hold up to look into the depths of our own unconscious mind and see what darkness is still lurking there. Intense feelings such as you describe around such relationships are not the result of past experiences in previous relationships, but rather result from the intensity of our belief in own guilt and unworthiness, having their ontological origins in our belief that we could separate from and attack Love. No wonder, with that belief, we will sabotage all of the relationships we pursue in a hopeless attempt to find outside of ourselves what we secretly accuse ourselves of having destroyed within and thrown away.

So, while we don't want to try to make ourselves stop any of the craziness we are pursuing in our special relationships, we do want to learn to step back from what seems to be going on and watch what we are doing with a certain sense of nonjudgmental detachment. If we can recognize our insanity without judging it, it will begin to lose its power and its appeal to us and we will find ourselves less inclined to act out our ego fantasies of conflict and victimization. Increasingly, we will find we can enjoy relationships simply as the joining of mind with mind, each whole and complete in itself, each seeking simply to extend the love that is already present within. And if the other does not seem to reciprocate, we will not experience it as an evaluation of our own worth, but rather as a call for the love that they have forgotten is already theirs.

This shift from a special to a holy relationship is beautifully described at the beginning of chapter 22 of the text:

      “Who has need for sin? Only the lonely and alone, who see their brothers different from themselves. ... For an unholy relationship is based on differences, where each one thinks the other has what he has not. They come together, each to complete himself and rob the other. They stay until they think that there is nothing left to steal, and then move on.....

A holy relationship starts from a different premise. Each one has looked within and seen no lack. Accepting his completion, he would extend it by joining with another, whole as himself. He sees no difference between these selves, for differences are only of the body. Therefore, he looks on nothing he would take. He denies not his own reality because it is the truth. Just under Heaven does he stand, but close enough not to return to earth. For this relationship has Heaven's Holiness. How far from home can a relationship so like to Heaven be? (T.22.in.2:1,2,5,6,7; 3)

To get more clarity about the purpose our egos give to our relationships, you may wish to check into either the book or the audio set on Form versus Content: Sex and Money .

Q #1221: Sometimes I'm just depressed, and I'm not quite sure how to look at it. I feel that any direction is wrong, that if I read or listen to A Course in Miracles , I'm unable to live up to its expectations, then I calcify even more, thinking, "Okay, since I have to accept choosing the separation as my responsibility, I must want to be depressed."   So two questions: (1) Could experiencing bouts of depression be part of one's script? In the same way that any other "event" might be? If so, then is it just a matter of accepting it and not fighting? Or am I deluding myself and not looking deeply enough? (2) Is it always a matter of having faith and hanging on through the discomfort? How does one know if this is the layers of fear that Jesus talks about going through--those cloud banks, etc.?

A: Basically, if we can take Jesus at his word, all of us, most of the time, whether we recognize it or not, are walking around feeling either angry or depressed, or perhaps angry and depressed (T.12.III.6:1,2,3; T.29.IV.3:3) . After all, everything in the ego thought system comes from guilt, and if we internalize the guilt, that's depression, and if we externalize or project it, that's anger. We cover those feelings over as much as we can with thin veils of apparent pleasure, Jesus also tells us , but you don't have to scratch very far beneath the surface to find the anger or the depression (T.29.IV.3:4) .

So, in a sense, yes, you could say depression is just part of our script, once we choose the ego, just as having a body is. In fact, Jesus explains, “When you equate yourself with a body you will always experience depression. When a child of God thinks of himself in this way he is belittling himself” ( T.8.VII.1:6,7). And it seems likely that, until we near the end of our journey, we will continue much of the time belittling ourselves, seeing ourselves as bodies. Jesus describes this overriding identification: “You still have too much faith in the body as a source of strength. What plans do you make that do not involve its comfort or protection or enjoyment in some way? This makes the body an end and not a means in your interpretation, and this always means you still find sin attractive. ...There is one thing that you have never done; you have not utterly forgotten the body. It has perhaps faded at times from your sight, but it has not yet completely disappeared” (T.18.VII.1:1,2,3; 2:1,2).

Yes, if we feel depressed, it can only be because we want to be depressed. But that's because we're also saying we want to be an individual, a vulnerable, helpless body, but we're not allowing ourselves to see the connection between that choice and the depression (T.12.III.6:5,6,7; T.21.V.2:3,4,5,6,7) . It would be a mistake however to think that the Course, or Jesus, has expectations of us that we are failing to meet. Only the ego has expectations against which we can be measured and judged. Jesus describes in uncompromising terms how our choices affect us, but he is not judging or condemning us for our foolish decisions. They are almost unavoidable while we persist in identifying with the ego and its seeming effects, for the learning situation with the wrong teacher must be depressing and hopeless (T.8.VII.8; 13:1,2,3) .

The Course process is not to deny that we are bodies but rather to seek Help in undoing the guilt in the mind that makes the need for a defense such as the body seem necessary. So it would be best not to make too big a deal of our depression, trying to figure out how to deal with it or get rid of it, as the ego delights in our doing, as if the depression itself were the problem. When we attempt to do anything about any ego state, even seeking a so-called spiritual solution, such as turning to the Course itself, we only reinforce our feelings of emptiness and inadequacy, because we are making the problem real and still putting ourselves in charge of the solution. And then nothing we decide to do will help, as you have found. Rather than trying to fight or change or minimize depression, it is more helpful simply to recognize that it is merely a symptom of a faulty choice in the mind -- choosing the wrong teacher. And so the goal then becomes, not to escape the depression, but to make a different choice in our mind.

The choice for a different Teacher is reflected in those holy instants, which we open ourselves to when we simply say “no” to the ego and “yes” to the Holy Spirit. And in those instants the body recedes in importance in our perception, at least momentarily. “You are not asked to let this happen for more than an instant, yet it is in this instant that the miracle of Atonement happens. Afterwards you will see the body again, but never quite the same. And every instant that you spend without awareness of it gives you a different view of it when you return. At no single instant does the body exist at all” ( T.18.VII.2:3,4,5; 3:1 ).

It is then simply a matter of not judging ourselves for choosing the ego and all its effects, including depression, and then having faith – in the process of forgiveness -- that over time, our investment in the ego will recede as we look directly at it and eventually through it. Our own resistance is the clouds of guilt and the layers of fear that we must pass through. From where we stand on the ego side, it all looks dark and foreboding and impenetrable, but from Jesus' perspective it is all as substanceless as clouds (T.18.IX.8) . That is why we cannot let go of the ego and all its effects, including depression, on our own, and why we need the help of a Guide, such as the Holy Spirit or Jesus, Who is not fooled by the illusion. And then gradually, like the fog in the morning sun, our depression will dissipate and lift in the light of true forgiveness and healed perception.

By the way, since we will continue to identify ourselves as bodies for much of our journey back home, it only makes sense that we be open along the way to seemingly external interventions that can help ameliorate painful symptoms we may be experiencing, such as depression. If you find your bouts of depression are interfering with your normal functioning, you may wish to consider seeking some form of treatment, including therapy and medications, such as antidepressants. And you may also find the answers to some previous questions on depression helpful, including Questions #352, #257 and #128.

Q #1222: When I perceive an attack that seems totally unwarranted -- and this can be a mere comment someone makes that makes me feel invalidated -- my reaction is one of intense anger and hatred to the point that, if I could and get away with it, I would kill the other person. With these feelings of invalidation and indignation, I can feel like a door mat. This is a sticking point for me, because if I don't succumb to the anger and attack back, and I pray to the Holy Spirit for help instead, I just feel flat and unmotivated, and feel like trash.

As I understand it, what has happened is the experience of indignation and invalidation is just my own guilt and fear projected outward and the situation provides the opportunity to become aware of my unconscious self-deprecation, and that the people that appear to be doing it to me are not the true cause. Although I understand this intellectually, when it hap­pens, this understanding seems to have very little power or strength in relation to the inten­sity of emotion, and does little to transform the pain.

I greatly desire to know a way I can follow that can help me to truly forgive and to trans­form the energy of this guilt / anger into the vitality and love that I seek. I want to know that, yes, forgiveness truly works through experience of applying and practicing it.

A: There is another aspect to the guilt in your mind that may help you understand why it is so dif­ficult to let go of your anger when you feel you have been invalidated by the other person. Your unconscious guilt -- which can also be called self-hatred -- leads you to expect to be mistreated because that is what your guilt tells you you deserve. This is true of all of us, of course, who believe we attacked God and separated from Him. You would not be affected by the other per­son's attack unless, unconsciously, you thought you deserved it. In your right mind, where you identify with your guiltlessness as a Son of God, you would not take an attack personally, and you would see the fear in the other person that is behind the attack. This is why Jesus tells us in A Course in Miracles that “no one can be angry at a fact. It is always an interpretation that gives rise to negative emotions, regardless of their seeming justification by what appears as facts. Regardless, too, of the intensity of the anger that is aroused” (M.17.4:1,2,3).

Related to this is another dynamic that is described in the section in Chapter 31 called “Self-Con­cept versus Self” (T.31.V) . The concept described there, “the face of innocence,” is one most stu­dents wish they had never come across. It is a devastating revelation about us, although it ultimately is our way out of the hell of situations such as the one you describe. The gist of this idea is that concealed beneath our protests of being the innocent victim of another's cruelty is a wish that we be unfairly treated so that we can blame that person for our lack of peace and happi­ness. Upon hearing this for the first time, most people strenuously object: “That's impossible! Why would I deliberately want to suffer at another's hand? That makes no sense.” It doesn't make sense from our perspective. But in light of the ego's strategy, it makes perfect sense.

As you stated, you realize, intellectually at least, that you have projected your guilt onto the other person, which is how the ego assures you that you will regain your innocence -- that other cruel person is the victimizer, not you. What follows from this is that deep inside you, therefore, you must want to be unfairly treated. You have to suffer at the hands of a victimizer if you are going to be the innocent victim, according to the ego's twisted logic. This is difficult to swallow, but it is essential to include in your understanding of projection. As you are able to look at this aspect of guilt, you are giving yourself another way of handling your anger. It does not take away your anger, but it helps you not justify it. That does not seem helpful, but it is very helpful, in that it gives you a better chance at getting at the real cause of your anger.

The way your ego has led you to see things, no matter which path you take, you wind up as the loser. On the one hand, if you forgive by letting the other person off the hook, you feel like a door mat and trash. But if you don't forgive, your anger just saps your energy and you just surrender, while your guilt stays intact in your mind. With true forgiveness, no one loses. You just look at what your ego is doing without judging yourself. If you are not judging, then you are in your right mind with Jesus or the Holy Spirit. Even if this is for a split second, you have made significant progress toward disidentifying with your ego, which is the real problem, not what the other person said or did. In that instant, you would be peaceful, having glimpsed your own innocence, which is shared by everyone. You do not forgive the other person, you forgive yourself for having believed that your guilt is real and that you needed to so something about it (the defense of denial and pro­jection). This takes a lot of practice, but Jesus guarantees our success, because all we are doing is reclaiming the guiltlessness that is our true identity. Who can invalidate you if God Himself guar­antees your innocence (W.pI.93.6) ? This can happen only if you forget who you are, and then give power to someone else to make you into a door mat, which can happen only in a dream or fantasy (T.4.I.7) .

We have discussed many of these ideas in Questions #63, 551, and 569.