ACIM Supplemental Reading for November 26
Psychotherapy: Purpose, Process and Practice
The Process of Psychotherapy
The Limits on Psychotherapy
Yet the ideal outcome is rarely achieved. Therapy begins with the realization that healing is of the mind, and in psychotherapy those have come together who already believe this. It may be they will not get much further, for no one learns beyond his own readiness. Yet levels of readiness change, and when therapist or patient has reached the next one, there will be a relationship held out to them that meets the changing need. Perhaps they will come together again and advance in the same relationship, making it holier. Or perhaps each of them will enter into another commitment. Be assured of this; each will progress. Retrogression is temporary. The overall direction is one of progress toward the truth.
Psychotherapy itself cannot be creative. This is one of the errors which the ego fosters; that it is capable of true change, and therefore of true creativity. When we speak of “the saving illusion” or “the final dream,” this is not what we mean, but here is the ego’s last defense. “Resistance” is its way of looking at things; its interpretation of progress and growth. These interpretations will be wrong of necessity, because they are delusional. The changes the ego seeks to make are not really changes. They are but deeper shadows, or perhaps different cloud patterns. Yet what is made of nothingness cannot be called new or different. Illusions are illusions; truth is truth.
Resistance as defined here can be characteristic of a therapist as well as of a patient. Either way, it sets a limit on psychotherapy because it restricts its aims. Nor can the Holy Spirit fight against the intrusions of the ego on the therapeutic process. But He will wait, and His patience is infinite. His goal is wholly undivided always. Whatever resolutions patient and therapist reach in connection with their own divergent goals, they cannot become completely reconciled as one until they join with His. Only then is all conflict over, for only then can there be certainty.
Ideally, psychotherapy is a series of holy encounters in which brothers meet to bless each other and to receive the peace of God. And this will one day come to pass for every “patient” on the face of this earth, for who except a patient could possibly have come here? The therapist is only a somewhat more specialized teacher of God. He learns through teaching, and the more advanced he is the more he teaches and the more he learns. But whatever stage he is in, there are patients who need him just that way. They cannot take more than he can give for now. Yet both will find sanity at last.
ACIM Workbook Lesson for November 26
All things I think I see reflect ideas.
This is salvation’s keynote: What I see reflects a process in my mind, which starts with my idea of what I want. From there, the mind makes up an image of the thing the mind desires, judges valuable, and therefore seeks to find. These images are then projected outward, looked upon, esteemed as real and guarded as one’s own. From insane wishes comes an insane world. From judgment comes a world condemned. And from forgiving thoughts a gentle world comes forth, with mercy for the holy Son of God, to offer him a kindly home where he can rest a while before he journeys on, and help his brothers walk ahead with him, and find the way to Heaven and to God.
Our Father, Your ideas reflect the truth, and mine apart from Yours but make up dreams. Let me behold what only Yours reflect, for Yours and Yours alone establish truth.
ACIM Q & A for Today
Q #1295: Traditional psychotherapy and A Course in Miracles seem to define the term ego in different ways. I’ve been in counseling for about the past two years and my therapist is working with me to build an ego. She tells me that I’ve got to get an ego first before I can give it up. It would seem that what she defines as ego and what Jesus is talking about are two different things, but I’m not completely sure just how to sort them out.
A: Counselors and therapists use the term ego thanks to Sigmund Freud. Freud divided the human personality into three parts: id, ego, and superego. According to his theory, the id operates on the pleasure principle, seeking immediate gratification for our instinctual drives. The superego is our internal, moral censor that represses the id. And the ego mediates between the id, superego, and the outside world, seeking to find means for us to express ourselves in socially acceptable ways. The ego is the conscious part of the psyche — basically the personality with which we identify.
Today’s counselors who speak of the ego do not necessarily view the psyche from a Freudian perspective. But they have largely adopted the word ego as a shortcut for saying our personality and identity as an individual . The goal of most counselors is to assist others in becoming healthier individuals — helping them to be more comfortable and functional within this world. So, we could say that they are helping their clients or patients to develop healthy egos.
When Jesus speaks of the ego in the Course, he is basically talking about the entire human psyche, conscious and unconscious. He tells us that the person we think we are is a false self, born of our mistaken belief that we could create a substitute for our true identity as God’s beloved Son. Thus, A Course in Miracles is all about recognizing that we would be happier if we released our grip on the ego and embraced the Holy Spirit instead. Therefore, for many Course students, the term ego has taken on a sinister ring — making the idea of developing a healthy one sound contradictory, if not downright frightening. However, this is the result of a misunderstanding. The Course encourages us to live in this world but know we are not of it. And doing that requires ego strength. To not develop a healthy ego represents fear, which must be unlearned if we are ever to move beyond fear to acceptance of God’s Love.
So, far from turning the ego into an enemy, Jesus would have us forgive it (and thus forgive ourselves) as the first step to moving beyond it. While he would ultimately have us let the ego go; Jesus would be the first to agree that we cannot move beyond the ego until we see it for what it is and make peace with it. Thus, like a great therapist, he asks us to simply watch it — turning our experience of being an ego (which, within this dream, seems to be the entirety of who we are) into a classroom in which we learn more and more about ourselves every day.
The Course and most forms of counseling do part ways in that, in counseling, becoming at peace with yourself within this world is typically the final goal, while in the Course, it is only a step toward awakening. Yet, despite both this fundamental difference and differences in the use of language, there is certainly no inherent conflict between the Course and the process of therapy. It is simply important for Course students to hold the aim of therapy as a means to an end and not an end itself.