ACIM Supplemental Reading for December 1
Psychotherapy: Purpose, Process & Practice
The Process of Psychotherapy
The Definition of Healing
The process of psychotherapy, then, can be defined simply as forgiveness, for no healing can be anything else. The unforgiving are sick, believing they are unforgiven. The hanging-on to guilt, its hugging-close and sheltering, its loving protection and alert defense — all this is but the grim refusal to forgive. “God may not enter here” the sick repeat, over and over, while they mourn their loss and yet rejoice in it. Healing occurs as a patient begins to hear the dirge he sings, and questions its validity. Until he hears it, he cannot understand that it is he who sings it to himself. To hear it is the first step in recovery. To question it must then become his choice.
There is a tendency, and it is very strong, to hear this song of death only an instant, and then dismiss it uncorrected. These fleeting awarenesses represent the many opportunities given us literally “to change our tune.” The sound of healing can be heard instead. But first the willingness to question the “truth” of the song of condemnation must arise. The strange distortions woven inextricably into the self-concept, itself but a pseudo-creation, make this ugly sound seem truly beautiful. “The rhythm of the universe,” “the herald angel’s song,” all these and more are heard instead of loud discordant shrieks.
The ear translates; it does not hear. The eye reproduces; it does not see. Their task is to make agreeable whatever is called on, however disagreeable it may be. They answer the decisions of the mind, reproducing its desires and translating them into acceptable and pleasant forms. Sometimes the thought behind the form breaks through, but only very briefly, and the mind grows fearful and begins to doubt its sanity. Yet it will not permit its slaves to change the forms they look upon; the sounds they hear. These are its “remedies”; its “safeguards” from insanity.
These testimonies which the senses bring have but one purpose; to justify attack and thus keep unforgiveness unrecognized for what it is. Seen undisguised it is intolerable. Without protection it could not endure. Here is all sickness cherished, but without the recognition that this is so. For when an unforgiveness is not recognized, the form it takes seems to be something else. And now it is the “something else” that seems to terrify. But it is not the “something else” that can be healed. It is not sick, and needs no remedy. To concentrate your healing efforts here is but futility. Who can cure what cannot be sick and make it well?
Sickness takes many forms, and so does unforgiveness. The forms of one but reproduce the forms of the other, for they are the same illusion. So closely is one translated into the other, that a careful study of the form a sickness takes will point quite clearly to the form of unforgiveness that it represents. Yet seeing this will not effect a cure. That is achieved by only one recognition; that only forgiveness heals an unforgiveness, and only an unforgiveness can possibly give rise to sickness of any kind.
This realization is the final goal of psychotherapy. How is it reached? The therapist sees in the patient all that he has not forgiven in himself, and is thus given another chance to look at it, open it to re-evaluation and forgive it. When this occurs, he sees his sins as gone into a past that is no longer here. Until he does this, he must think of evil as besetting him here and now. The patient is his screen for the projection of his sins, enabling him to let them go. Let him retain one spot of sin in what he looks upon, and his release is partial and will not be sure.
No one is healed alone. This is the joyous song salvation sings to all who hear its Voice. This statement cannot be too often remembered by all who see themselves as therapists. Their patients can but be seen as the bringers of forgiveness, for it is they who come to demonstrate their sinlessness to eyes that still believe that sin is there to look upon. Yet will the proof of sinlessness, seen in the patient and accepted in the therapist, offer the mind of both a covenant in which they meet and join and are as one.
ACIM Workbook Lesson for December 1
I will not hurt myself again today.
Let us this day accept forgiveness as our only function. Why should we attack our minds, and give them images of pain? Why should we teach them they are powerless, when God holds out His power and His Love, and bids them take what is already theirs? The mind that is made willing to accept God’s gifts has been restored to spirit, and extends its freedom and its joy, as is the Will of God united with its own. The Self which God created cannot sin, and therefore cannot suffer. Let us choose today that He be our Identity, and thus escape forever from all things the dream of fear appears to offer us.
Father, Your Son can not be hurt. And if we think we suffer, we but fail to know our one Identity we share with You. We would return to It today, to be made free forever from all our mistakes, and to be saved from what we thought we were.
ACIM Q & A for Today
Q #962: You often encourage people to seek out some form of counseling or psychotherapy when they are feeling discomfort or depression, whilst working with Course, to get back to the real source of this disquiet, which is the guilt in their mind. How does a therapist achieve this?
A: I think you may have misunderstood. Therapy is like a good aspirin, or some form of medical intervention, or a meditative walk in the woods. It’s all magic, but at the level of the world, it can be very helpful. And so, at times, when people are struggling with various life issues, it can be beneficial for them to have the opportunity to get another perspective in the world’s terms on what is happening for them, and perhaps learn some techniques that will enable them to get unstuck or free of their pain. But it’s not that the therapist achieves anything for the patient. The therapist can point to and even help open doors, but it’s the patient’s or client’s decision whether to walk through those doors.
Now there could be times when a therapist helps a patient uncover buried sources of guilt hidden in the recesses of the patient’s mind, but in nearly every case, these would still relate to past memories from this lifetime. It is very unlikely that most therapists would be helping the patient get in touch with the ontological guilt, for that is not their purpose. Nor is that necessary for the purpose that therapy is being recommended to some questioners in this forum. If the therapist is open and non-judgmental, willing to join with the patient in finding a better way to cope with emotional and psychological problems, that is enough (P.2.II.8; P.2.V.4; P.3.II.6) . There is a joining and a healing in that openness that is being held out to the patient, if the patient is willing and so chooses to accept it.
And the patient can use the therapy sessions to identify projections of the buried ontological guilt, regardless of the awareness or intention of the therapist, who may know and need know nothing about A Course in Miracles . It is, after all, the patient who decides what purpose everything in his or her life shall serve, and if the patient has an understanding of the purpose and practice of the Course’s principles of forgiveness, any situation, including but not limited to therapy, can serve that purpose.
Q #963: I have been studying A Course in Miracles for a little over two months now. Not only do I see no appreciable change in my outlook on life, but I am increasingly aware of feelings of irritation and depression. Sometimes these feelings are about nothing in particular, but lately I find myself feeling especially agitated when I do the exercises in the Workbook. I believe everything I read about God’s gifts to me, and instead of feeling grateful, I feel restless and annoyed, and wish God would just leave me alone. Of course, I don’t really wish He’d leave me alone. I’m pretty sure my experience is not that unusual, but what specifically can I do to get through this and not give up?
A: You are absolutely correct that your experience is not unusual. Most of us are initially drawn to A Course in Miracles because when we read it, we sense that a loving presence is speaking to us. We recognize that the path Jesus lays out for us offers true hope of escaping from the painful conditions with which we are accustomed to living. But a crucial component of Jesus’ curriculum is that we become very aware of just how unhappy we really are in this world. After all, why would we be motivated to accept that this world is just a dream — let alone do the challenging inner work that leads to awakening from it — unless we realized that it is a nightmare?
And so, between the many beautiful and inspiring words in the Course, Jesus takes every opportunity to let us know that this is “a dry and dusty world, where starved and thirsty creatures come to die” (W.pII.13.5:1). On day one of the workbook, he asks us to concentrate on the idea that nothing that we see means anything (W.pI.1) . Given the fact that we have spent our entire lives up to this point believing that this world holds much that we want and that our perceptions are very meaningful, how could we not feel irritated and depressed by what Jesus is telling us?
The good news though, is that what he is saying is only irritating and depressing to the ego. And contrary to what we have believed up to now, the ego is not the totality of who we are. It is but one of two internal teachers in our mind. At any moment, we can ask Jesus or the Holy Spirit within our mind, to be our guide. When we do this, we get in touch with the fact that God’s Love is still available to us and is totally unaffected by the apparent darkness and misery in this world. In working with the Course, this means asking one of them to help us simply watch all the resistance we have to it (such as our irritation or depression) without judgment.
Jesus and the Holy Spirit reside in that part of our mind that knows we made up all this darkness and misery precisely to obscure the Love we are now being urged to embrace. They are aware, therefore, that while Jesus tells us that forgiveness offers everything we want (W.pI.122) , we think forgiveness will lead to our destruction. They see that the many negative emotions we go through in working with the Course are all merely covers for the terror that grips us when we ponder returning to a God Whom we think is filled with rage towards us — a terror that makes it inevitable that we will wish He would just go away. But Jesus and the Holy Spirit know that God is not angry with us. Thus, they see our terror as simply a silly mistake. As Course students, we should ask for their help to cultivate that attitude as well — to see our irritability and depression as understandable reactions to fear, and to not make a big deal about them. They are simply indicators that our fear of accepting God’s Love and being at peace is still quite great. This is a fear that we cannot expect to just disappear after two months — or any particular amount of time – – spent working with the Course. It will, however, dissipate gradually if we are willing to just let it be and have faith that Jesus is leading us through our pain because he knows that there is something much better for us on the other side of it.