ACIM Reading for November 20
Psychotherapy: Purpose, Process and Practice
3. The Practice of Psychotherapy
3.- II. Is Psychotherapy a Profession?
1. Strictly speaking the answer is no. How could a separate profession be one in which everyone is engaged? And how could any limits be laid on an interaction in which everyone is both patient and therapist in every relationship in which he enters? Yet practically speaking, it can still be said that there are those who devote themselves primarily to healing of one sort or another as their chief function. And it is to them that a large number of others turn for help.
That, in effect, is the practice of therapy. These are therefore “officially” helpers. They are devoted to certain kinds of needs in their professional activities, although they may be far more able teachers outside of them. These people need no special rules, of course, but they may be called upon to use special applications of the general principles of healing.
2. First, the professional therapist is in an excellent position to demonstrate that there is no order of difficulty in healing. For this, however, he needs special training, because the curriculum by which he became a therapist probably taught him little or nothing about the real principles of healing. In fact, it probably taught him how to make healing impossible. Most of the world’s teaching follows a curriculum in judgment, with the aim of making the therapist a judge.
3. Even this the Holy Spirit can use, and will use, given the slightest invitation. The unhealed healer may be arrogant, selfish, unconcerned, and actually dishonest. He may be uninterested in healing as his major goal. Yet something happened to him, however slight it may have been, when he chose to be a healer, however misguided the direction he may have chosen. That “something” is enough. Sooner or later that something will rise and grow; a patient will touch his heart, and the therapist will silently ask him for help. He has himself found a therapist. He has asked the Holy Spirit to enter the relationship and heal it. He has accepted the Atonement for himself.
4. God is said to have looked on all He created and pronounced it good. No, He declared it perfect, and so it was. And since His creations do not change and last forever, so it is now. Yet neither a perfect therapist nor a perfect patient can possibly exist. Both must have denied their perfection, for their very need for each other implies a sense of lack. A one-to-one relationship is not one Relationship. Yet it is the means of return; the way God chose for the return of His Son. In that strange dream a strange correction must enter, for only that is the call to awake. And what else should therapy be? Awake and be glad, for all your sins have been forgiven you. This is the only message that any two should ever give each other.
5. Something good must come from every meeting of patient and therapist. And that good is saved for both, against the day when they can recognize that only that was real in their relationship. At that moment the good is returned to them, blessed by the Holy Spirit as a gift from their Creator as a sign of His Love. For the therapeutic relationship must become like the relationship of the Father and the Son. There is no other, for there is nothing else. The therapists of this world do not expect this outcome, and many of their patients would not be able to accept help from them if they did. Yet no therapist really sets the goal for the relationships of which he is a part. His understanding begins with recognizing this, and then goes on from there.
6. It is in the instant that the therapist forgets to judge the patient that healing occurs. In some relationships this point is never reached, although both patient and therapist may change their dreams in the process. Yet it will not be the same dream for both of them, and so it is not the dream of forgiveness in which both will someday wake. The good is saved; indeed is cherished. But only little time is saved. The new dreams will lose their temporary appeal and turn to dreams of fear, which is the content of all dreams. Yet no patient can accept more than he is ready to receive, and no therapist can offer more than he believes he has. And so there is a place for all relationships in this world, and they will bring as much good as each can accept and use.
7. Yet it is when judgment ceases that healing occurs, because only then it can be understood that there is no order of difficulty in healing. This is a necessary understanding for the healed healer. He has learned that it is no harder to wake a brother from one dream than from another. No professional therapist can hold this understanding consistently in his mind, offering it to all who come to him. There are some in this world who have come very close, but they have not accepted the gift entirely in order to stay and let their understanding remain on earth until the closing of time. They could hardly be called professional therapists. They are the Saints of God. They are the Saviors of the world. Their image remains, because they have chosen that it be so. They take the place of other images, and help with kindly dreams.
8. Once the professional therapist has realized that minds are joined, he can also recognize that order of difficulty in healing is meaningless. Yet well before he reaches this in time he can go towards it. Many holy instants can be his along the way. A goal marks the end of a journey, not the beginning, and as each goal is reached another can be dimly seen ahead. Most professional therapists are still at the very start of the beginning stage of the first journey. Even those who have begun to understand what they must do may still oppose the setting-out. Yet all the laws of healing can be theirs in just an instant. The journey is not long except in dreams.
9. The professional therapist has one advantage that can save enormous time if it is properly used. He has chosen a road in which there is great temptation to misuse his role. This enables him to pass by many obstacles to peace quite quickly, if he escapes the temptation to assume a function that has not been given him. To understand there is no order of difficulty in healing, he must also recognize the equality of himself and the patient. There is no halfway point in this. Either they are equal or not. The attempts of therapists to compromise in this respect are strange indeed. Some utilize the relationship merely to collect bodies to worship at their shrine, and this they regard as healing. Many patients, too, consider this strange procedure as salvation. Yet at each meeting there is One Who says, “My brother, choose again.”
10. Do not forget that any form of specialness must be defended, and will be. The defenseless therapist has the strength of God with him, but the defensive therapist has lost sight of the Source of his salvation. He does not see and he does not hear. How, then, can he teach? Because it is the Will of God that he take his place in the plan for salvation. Because it is the Will of God that his patient be helped to join with him there. Because his inability to see and hear does not limit the Holy Spirit in any way. Except in time. In time there can be a great lag between the offering and the acceptance of healing. This is the veil across the face of Christ.
Yet it can be but an illusion, because time does not exist and the Will of God has always been exactly as it is.
ACIM Workbook Lesson for November 20
I merely follow, for I would not lead.
Father, You are the One Who gave the plan for my salvation to me. You have set the way I am to go, the role to take, and every step in my appointed path. I cannot lose the way. I can but choose to wander off a while, and then return. Your loving Voice will always call me back, and guide my feet aright. My brothers all can follow in the way I lead them. Yet I merely follow in the way to You, as You direct me and would have me go.
So let us follow One Who knows the way. We need not tarry, and we cannot stray except an instant from His loving Hand. We walk together, for we follow Him. And it is He Who makes the ending sure, and guarantees a safe returning home.
ACIM Q & A for Today
Q #1029: In A Course in Miracles Jesus says: “Make no one fearful, for his guilt is yours” (T.13.IX.2:2). I am a school teacher and I hate to say it but the only way that I can keep my classroom full of middle-school students orderly at times is to indeed make them fearful. For example, if my students do not fear that I will lower their grade or call their parent if they misbehave, they will have no motivation to behave as I need them to in class. How do I reconcile your oft-stated suggestion to not forget to be “normal” with Jesus’ statement that I quoted above about not making others fearful? I see no other practical way to control my classroom at times but to use fear. I guess what I am really asking is: Can we lovingly be guided to use fear?
A: You’re suffering from another one of those form versus content confusions so common to Course in Miracles students! (You may wish to look at Questions #371, #452, #484 and #584 for further discussion of issues related to the ones you raise here.) First of all, to answer your closing question, we will never be lovingly guided to use fear as a way to change or control anyone for any purpose — not even 12- and 13-year old brats! For fear is the emotion/thought that is triggered and reinforced by our belief in our guilt (T.19.IV.A.10:1,2,3,4) , which says we are deserving of punishment (T.26.VII.3:1; W.pII.259.1:4) , and Jesus’ main purpose in the Course is to help us undo our guilt and all its various expressions. So any intervention or manipulation intended to reinforce guilt and fear to achieve a specific end could never have originated from the right mind.
Now that is not to say that we would never be lovingly guided to be firm or use discipline or the possibility of negative consequences in our dealings with others, especially with children and adolescents. And this brings us back to the central issue in the Course of purpose, which is always the determiner of the content of any of our decisions and subsequent actions. If our purpose is to see others as responsible for how we feel, then we have chosen to reinforce our own belief in separation, and we have turned to the ego as our teacher in the situation. But if our purpose is to remember that we all share the same interests, and acting out is only ever a call at a deeper level for the love that we all long to experience, then we have chosen to listen to the Holy Spirit as our guide.
So how would this look in your classroom situation? If you are aware of some degree of anger towards your students for their misbehaving and feel a need to threaten them and punish them to get them to do what you want them to do, you can be certain that your ego is in charge. But if you simply recognize that they are acting their age and that they need guidelines and limits, as well as consequences for crossing those limits, in order to be able to benefit individually and as a group from their learning environment, that could very likely be a right-minded perspective. At the level of form, you may do and say the same thing to your students as you would when your ego is calling the shots, but your intent or purpose would be different.
To set limits from a right-minded perspective, you must first be very honest with yourself about any ego-based feelings your have towards the class as a whole or towards any individual student or students. If you are aware of anger or even mild annoyance or irritation, any action against your students that you take in response to those feelings will be coming from your ego. And so you are the one in need of help. Your first step then would be to recognize that your upset has nothing to do with how your students are behaving or misbehaving. Anger is never a reaction to anything external, regardless of how justified it may seem (T.30.VI.1:1,2; M.20.3:3,4) , but always represents a projection of our own unresolved internal conflict over the separation (T.6.in.1:2,3,4,5,6,7) . This is perhaps the most difficult step in the correction process to accept, given the value accorded to projection as a defense within our ego thought system.
But once you can recognize and accept that your reactions are not to your students but to your own guilt, you can withdraw the projection from your students and begin to address the real issue in your mind. And that simply involves acknowledging that the anger has been a defense against accepting responsibility for how you feel, but that now you are willing to acknowledge that you are the one who decides how you will feel and react.
Your next step simply involves taking the inner guilt that is behind your anger to Jesus and looking with him at its insubstantial nature (T.18.IX.5:2,3,4; 6; 8) . Our guilt does not seem like nothing to us, and that is why joining with Jesus, who symbolizes the memory of oneness for us – – which means he is the reminder that the separation and guilt are not real — is so essential to the looking process. When we allow ourselves to take that step, our anger and guilt disappear. It is at this point that you can then return your attention to your students, knowing more clearly what is the kindest, most loving way to keep or bring the class under control, since you no longer have any anger invested in the situation. It may involve setting limits, or you may also at times find that there could be a different way of structuring the class or framing the lesson that more readily elicits your students’ participation and cooperation. And a different overall approach may evolve over time, as you are able to release your own obstacles to seeing more clearly.
And should your guidance be to set some limits with consequences for your students, it may be helpful to know that you are not responsible for your students’ reactions. Should they experience fear at the possible outcomes for crossing the boundaries you establish, their fear, much like your anger, is not the result of the external limits you have set, but rather is a projection of their own unresolved guilt. Fear after all need not be the only reason for respecting the limits, and you can set clear limits without intending to arouse guilt and fear, if you have done your part first to recognize and release your own ego investments in the situation.