Weekly Questions and Answers, 11/19/2003

This week's questions/topics:

Q #310: How can a psychologist best help a patient?.
Q #311: Does everyone have a role to play in the world?
Q #312: Is it wrong or bad for me to miss or crave a relationship?
Q #313: Help! How do I avoid a recurring disastrous pattern in my life?.
Q #314: My anger and hatred of evil prevents me from forgiving.
Q #315: How can I deal with a poor self-image?

Look up a specific question by date or question no.

Q #310: I have been a student of A Course in Miracles for over 10 years, and I recently entered a Doctoral Program in Clinical Psychology. One of the difficulties I have is that I am learning psychological material that is often at odds with the Course. On an intellectual level, I understand and can accept the distinctions. However sometimes I can't, and this causes me some frustration. I worry about how to help another, although I also recognize where the answer lies -- to turn and trust in the Holy Spirit. I even understand that much of what I am learning can be helpful if placed under the direction of the Holy Spirit -- the problem is that I often forget. I guess my question is: if I'm inclined toward a particular psychological orientation and practice, say psychoanalysis or narrative therapy, is it okay to follow my interest, but with the Holy Spirit as guide?

A: It is never the form but only the content that can ever conflict with the Course. In other words, it is the purpose for which you use the particular psychological orientation and practice that determines whether or not it will be at odds with the Course, and not its particular theoretical model of mental illness and health, with its specific applications. Use it for ego purposes, and you will judge and attack the differences it helps you identify between yourself and your clients. Use it for the Holy Spirit’s purpose and you will see it as a means for uncovering the ego’s patterns and plots and schemes and connivings, both in your client and in yourself, so that they can be released to the healing light of forgiveness.

So study whatever therapeutic model appeals to you and become as good at its practice as you possibly can. For training in the symbols of the world enables you to accept a teaching role in the plan for the healing of the Son’s mind (W.pI.184.9:1,2). Just never forget that the only true healing comes from the one Therapist Who knows no healing is necessary. Your role is to become an instrument for that healing by first allowing your own guilt and attack thoughts to be healed. When your own blocks have been removed, the healing love can then simply flow through you (T.9.V.7,8).

Q #311: It is obvious that Helen and Bill had specific, individual purposes in bringing A Course in Miracles to the world, besides the purpose we all share, which is to forgive and to wake up to knowing ourselves as the one Son of God. I can presume, as the Course says, that we all have an individual part to play in God's plan for salvation; but does that also mean a part in the world?

A: Since the Courses teaches that the world is an illusion, made by the mind of the separated Son as an attack on God (W.pI.155.2:1, W.pII.3.2:1), it follows that it would not tell us that God’s plan for salvation means we have a specific role to play in the world as individuals. It is important to remember that the Course is addressing the mind; specifically, the decision making part of the mind, because nothing exists outside of it: "Mind reaches to itself. It is not made up of different parts, which reach each other. It does not go out. Within itself it has no limits, and there is nothing outside it. It encompasses everything. It encompasses you entirely; you within it and it within you. There is nothing else, anywhere or ever" (T.18.VI.8:5,6,7,8,9,10,11). Every reference to our role or function in the world, therefore, must be interpreted with these metaphysical principles in mind. There is only one role assigned to us by God: to be His innocent Son. The Holy Spirit’s function is healing the mind of the thought of separation, and our only function is accepting this healing through forgiveness. Many passages in the Course seem to imply that each individual has a specific and unique role from God: "To each He (the Holy Spirit) gives a special function in salvation he alone can fill; a part for only him" (T.25.VI.4:2), (See also:T.25.VI.7). However, this "part" is to accept the Atonement for himself. It is "special," in other words "specific," because we have chosen to identify with our individual bodies in the illusion, and have assigned different roles to ourselves, and to every body. Although these specifics (being a son, daughter, parent, teacher, nurse, CEO) are irrelevant to the outcome, they are important because they make up the classroom the Holy Spirit uses to teach us the truth about ourselves. Each part of the Sonship, therefore, has to play his part by accepting the Atonement "as an individual" in his specific classroom and, as you mention, by ultimately accepting his only role and identity as God’s Son.

Q #312: I just finished a meditation on why I haven't had an intimate relationship for so long. Most of the reasons that occurred to me were ego-based. The one I didn't think was ego-based was that I'm just too lazy to put in all the effort it takes. I don't know if this is an appropriate question to be asking, but I think about relationships a lot and I don't seem to be able to help it. I know the Course says that special relationships are just a device to keep you away from the truth and I notice that the A Course in Miracles never addresses the issue of sex or sexuality directly, but I must ask for some guidance here. I have these desires and I don't feel like they're being met. It's hard for me to believe that it's wrong to have these feelings. I'm becoming very frustrated with my life and with this Course. Am I misinterpreting something? I think I must be missing something? Can you help?

A: Yes, it does sound like you’re doing some misinterpreting. By the way, you don’t say what the other thoughts were that came to you in your meditation about having an intimate relationship, but the one you mention still sounds ego-based -- like someone’s mother making a judgment! Rest assured, Jesus or the Holy Spirit do not sound like our mothers’ nagging! And the truth is that fear is more likely the reason you’re not experiencing an intimate relationship, whatever answers you think you heard.

It’s true special relationships were made by the ego to distract us from the Holy Spirit’s answer -- the Course refers to them as "the ego’s most boasted gift" (T.16.V.3:1) -- for they hold out the hope that we can find in someone else the special love that God could never give us (T.16.V.4). But once we seem to find ourselves in the world of separation, the Course does not teach that special relationships are to be avoided or given up. On the contrary, they become the necessary classrooms in which we learn our forgiveness lessons. In Jesus’ own words, "I have said repeatedly that the Holy Spirit would not deprive you of your special relationships, but would transform them (T.17.IV.2:3).

So while the Course is telling us that our special relationships -- and that would include ones involving sex and physical intimacy -- won’t bring us the joy of Heaven, nowhere in the Course does Jesus say that those feelings are wrong or bad or sinful. And furthermore, through our participation in those relationships, we have the opportunity to heal the guilt in our minds that we have projected on to them. It could be that we feel victimized either by the special relationships we are in or have been in, or by the fact that we are not now in the ones we believe we want. In the end, the different forms are all the same, but along the way, our part is merely to be willing to be open to the relationships that are already a part of our lives. For each one, whether or not it involves physical intimacy, will offer us an opportunity to find the love that has always been ours, just buried and hidden beneath the guilt and sin in our own minds.

You may wish to ask then, not for a specific relationship, but for help in releasing the guilt and the fear that seem to be preventing you from experiencing love. You may be surprised at what opportunities show up in your life when you have that willingness, but don’t make the mistake of deciding and defining in advance what those opportunities should look like. Trust that we always find what we need to practice our forgiveness lessons, as we are ready to take our next steps.

You may find Ken Wapnick’s recent tape on "Form vs Content: Sex and Money" of value in thinking about your issues around relationships. You may also wish to take a look at Question #184 for a related discussion.

Q #313: I have just realized, with somewhat of a shock, that a series of events that happened in my life -- loss of friends, my job, my home -- about five years ago seems to be playing itself out again in the same way, under similar circumstances. Everything seems to be falling apart.

I don’t want to repeat this because what followed five years ago was the bleakest, loneliest, poverty-stricken period of my life. I feel like I'm the victim of some big reality con and there seems to be nothing I can do to stop it and I'm terrified. It seems that my ego is trying to protect itself by massively intensifying its attack in order to stop me from letting it go by creating bad circumstances in my life. Is there anything I can do to stop what is happening? A friend has suggested that the first time this happened, maybe I should have chosen to go in a particular life direction but didn't and so now circumstances are repeating themselves so I can make the right choice this time. Maybe I'm getting carried away over nothing but if things do fall apart again and I can't change them, it would be nice to have some inner peace with what is happening.

A: You do not say whether you are a student of A Course in Miracles, but your hunch as to what your ego may be up to suggests you have more than a passing knowledge of the Course’s principles. The Course itself says that "trials are but lessons that you failed to learn presented once again, so where you made a faulty choice before you now can make a better one, and thus escape all pain that what you chose before has brought to you" (T.31.VIII.3:1). But it is always and only ever talking about the content of our own perceptions of others, and the pain those judgments bring, and not the specific form of events as they seem to play out in our lives. And there is nothing in the Course that says you must repeat the cycle of pain and suffering until you get it right, as if there were some kind of karmic debt to be paid. This may be true within the ego thought system, but the whole purpose of the Course is to expose the insanity of the ego so we can make a choice for sanity against that thought system.

So what is to be done? What we all must learn to do is to make conscious our own inner decision to see ourselves as guilty sinners who deserve to be punished for all of our transgressions, beginning with our supposed attack on our Father Who only extends His Love to us. That we believe down deep that we have attacked love is true, but we need to bring that belief into our awareness so we can question its validity, as well as the suffering and pain we believe it calls for. For there is no inevitability to the events of our lives. And even more to the point, there is no inevitability to the interpretation we give to the events of our lives. In other words, we may feel victimized by what seems to be happening to us in our lives, but that interpretation of victimization is nothing but that -- an interpretation. And if we’re willing to accept our role in giving that interpretation to external events, then we can join with Jesus and allow him to offer a different interpretation in which no one is guilty, including, and especially, ourselves.

So if you can begin to recognize that it is your ego that is fanning your fears about the future, based on a faulty premise about yourself, you can begin to question whether you want to continue to listen to that voice. For that voice never wishes any of us well (T.15.VII.4:3). But there is another Voice, once you dismiss the ego’s, that only ever wills your perfect happiness (W.pI.101).

Q #314: A problem that will not go away, no matter what I do, concerns evil in people in my life: abuse, neglect, selfishness. I want to forgive, but in all honesty I cannot, because inside I am angry and I hate evil. Prayer gives me lots of affirmation of love. I want this love from people. I am also afraid of people. How can I pass through this wall that obstructs my peace?

A: This type of situation is usually difficult to work through. It requires a great deal of patience and gentleness with yourself. Forgiveness, of course, never means that you deny the "objective facts" -- the abuse, neglect, and selfishness. It asks that you bring your anger and your feelings of victimization to the loving, non-judgmental presence within you, and just observe yourself holding others responsible for your lack of peace. If you try to forgive when you really don’t want to, you are fighting yourself and you will wind up feeling more guilty, which is not a kind thing to do to yourself. Holding on to blame and anger is not sinful and has no effect on Jesus’ love for you; it just prevents you from being peaceful and experiencing that love, as you already know. That is all.

When you are in touch with your feelings about evil, you might remember Jesus’ advice to us concerning the original choice to separate ourselves from God: "Call it not sin but madness, for such it was and so it still remains. Invest it not with guilt, for guilt implies it was accomplished in reality. And above all, be not afraid of it" (T.18.I.6:7,8,9). If you hate evil, you are afraid of it and have forgotten that when love looks on it, it sees only a tiny, mad idea having no power to affect love in any way. That means that the truth about you has been untouched by what you have perceived as evil in others. The part of you that is afraid of that truth continues to see evil as real and powerful, and capable of making you weak.

Finally, a therapist or counselor might help you recover some of your inner strength and work with you on your fear of relationships. You could then look at the deeper issues and apply the principles of A Course in Miracles.

Q #315: I have a problem relating to other people. When I speak with them I feel like a stone and the situation seems to be so unrealistic. I feel embarrassed when people speak to me, or they want anything, or when I believe that I did something wrong. How can I deal with this situation? I perceive that it is my fear of Jesus and a defense against my inner guilt, but I feel so helpless.

A: Yes, your difficulty relating to other people is probably coming from your inner guilt. Guilt results in a poor self-image that makes you feel inferior to others and afraid of them. Just keep working on your lessons and ask for help in releasing your guilt. Be gentle with yourself and be confident that there is a loving, healing presence within you that sees beyond your guilt and fear. Manage your anxiety as best you can. Then, as you feel better about yourself, the anxiety will gradually disappear.

You might also consider getting help from a professional counseling service. They often have effective ways of helping you with your self-esteem and self-image.