ACIM Supplemental Reading for December 3
Psychotherapy: Purpose, Process & Practice
The Practice of Psychotherapy
Is Psychotherapy a Profession?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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 December 3
Fear binds the world. Forgiveness sets it free.
The ego makes illusions. Truth undoes its evil dreams by shining them away. Truth never makes attack. It merely is. And by its presence is the mind recalled from fantasies, awaking to the real. Forgiveness bids this presence enter in, and take its rightful place within the mind. Without forgiveness is the mind in chains, believing in its own futility. Yet with forgiveness does the light shine through the dream of darkness, offering it hope, and giving it the means to realize the freedom that is its inheritance.
We would not bind the world again today. Fear holds it prisoner. And yet Your Love has given us the means to set it free. Father, we would release it now. For as we offer freedom, it is given us. And we would not remain as prisoners, while You are holding freedom out to us.
ACIM Q & A for Today
Q #1240: I am increasingly having problems with obsessive-compulsive hoarding disorder as I age. I’m currently 61 years of age. Are there any teachings in A Course in Miracles that can help me better understand the roots of my problem?
A: Our experience of ourselves as real individuals in a physical world means that we have identified with the ego thought system in our minds. That in turn means that in the core of our being there is a sense of lack, accompanied by searing pain that we are compelled to defend against. The source of this is the self-accusation — also deeply buried in our minds — that we got to be who we are as individuals by separating from our Source, thereby rejecting our Identity as Christ in favor of an autonomous, special existence that we thought would give us what we judged we could not get as part of God. As a result of this rejection of our true Identity and our true home, we would have to feel that there is something seriously wrong internally — a lack of enormous proportions. The pain of this is made worse by the overwhelming guilt we experience over having judged what we did as unforgivably sinful, intensified even more by the fear of punishment and retaliation by God Who will surely one day take back the existence we wrongfully acquired (the ego’s version of God, of course).
Now, all of this pain and anguish in our minds must be dealt with. And following the ego’s advice on how to handle it, we project it out of our minds onto our bodies and the world in any number of ways. This ontological level of lack then is expressed on the bodily level as neediness, insecurity, cravings, addictions, and general feelings of never having enough — just some of the forms this content in our minds could take. We form special relationships with whatever we find externally that helps us feel better and takes some of the pain away. The need to hoard could certainly reflect the mind’s insecurity about its fragile existence — fragile in the sense that it really rests on nothing, since our separation from God is illusory. Thus, hoarding and accumulating things would be one of the ways we attempt to compensate for our internal feelings of scarcity. In this sense, it would be no different from any other special relationship.
Finally, it would not be antithetical to the Course to look at the more personal aspects that may also be involved in this disorder, and therefore working with a therapist could be quite helpful in uncovering this layer of causes. This would then free you to work at the deeper levels in your mind, releasing more of the interferences to your remembrance of the love in which you were created and forever remain.
Q #1241: I have struggled most of my life with never being fully aware of God’s Love for me. I understand and appreciate His Love for others, just not me. Perhaps experiences from my childhood are the cause, or just a very poor sense of self-worth. The reasons could be endless. I see the problems and the errors in my thinking; but that does not provide an answer or healing. I feel abandoned by God. His Love is just not quite within my reach. How do I heal this thought when I do not even see myself as worthy enough to be heard by God? When I read and study the Course, it feels as though my ego, my resistance is greater and stronger than God and He is waiting for me to heal this perception of myself and of Him first, and until then He will just remain silent. Could this be true?
A: Resistance to changing our beliefs about ourselves is a major aspect of every student’s spiritual process, as is feeling unworthy of love. Kenneth’s book Ending Our Resistance to Love speaks to these issues directly. As is discussed in this book, being aware of your resistance is extremely helpful; but what you want to add to that is a decision not to justify your feelings of unworthiness. Although sometimes it is helpful to delve into the past to shed some light on this sense of unworthiness, the key to resolving the conflict is realizing that you are making a decision to hold on to that belief about yourself in the present. That is what you want to focus on. The ego loves to bring in the past because the past cannot be changed, which means we will be tempted to treat present conditions as limitations or handicaps we can do nothing about. Score one for the ego!
Approaching your sense of unworthiness as a belief you are choosing in the present (even though you do not experience it that way) advances you to the next step of looking at it now from the perspective of purpose : if you are choosing that belief, it must be for a purpose, which means there is a payoff to it, something you want. Since it leaves you feeling completely separate from God and even hopeless, then the goal of continuing to believe in it is to maintain your existence as separate from God. But the guilt over that (unconscious, of course) would necessitate projecting responsibility for it, resulting in the feeling that God has abandoned you.
This is why Jesus emphasizes that feeling unworthy of God’s Love is not humility or virtuous in any sense, unlike the view of many other spiritual paths ( W.pI.61 ) . Lesson 93 “Light and joy and peace abide in me” points out that our negative feelings are “so firmly fixed that it is difficult to help you see that they are based on nothing” ( W.pI.93.2:1 ). They are meaningless beliefs and feelings because they rest on the false assumption that we truly are separate from God and hopelessly sinful and unworthy as a result. As part of the correction, Jesus assures us, “Your sinlessness is guaranteed by God. Over and over this must be repeated, until it is accepted. . . . You are what God created or what you made. One Self is true, the other is not there. Try to experience the unity of your one Self” ( W.pI.93.6:1,2 ; 9:1,2,3). Realizing that our negativity is rooted in nothing real is extremely helpful, as we then would not be fighting against something we think is real.
To answer your last question: From the Course’s perspective, it could not be true that God is waiting for you to change your beliefs before He comes to you. That would be to give God human traits, and more importantly, it would imply that God somehow recognizes us as separate from Him, which is the exact opposite of the Atonement principle that states the separation never happened. The passages in the Course that speak of God that way are meant to help us with our fear of Him so that we would grow to trust Him as loving, comforting, and forgiving rather than as vindictive, judgmental, and unpredictable. This course is corrective of all our misperceptions about everything, and it must use language that meets us at our level of need, so that it can then raise us to higher levels, drawing us closer and closer to the perfect Oneness of Love, our true and eternal Identity.
Since Love is perfect Oneness, it is just plain silly to think that there can be anything real that can oppose It, “a power past omnipotence” (T. 29.VIII.6:2 ). What seems so powerful and destructive is nothing more than “a frightened mouse that would attack the universe” ( T.22.V.4:3 ); our seemingly monstrous ego has not even the power to stop the fall of a button ( T.18.IX.6:4 ) , and if we think otherwise, it is only because we want it to be that way, not because it is in reality. Again, our feelings of helplessness and unworthiness are all based on nothing. That is what choosing Jesus as our teacher would help us to learn, thus freeing us to be the Self that God created.
Related discussions may be found in Questions #180, #721, and #1042.