Being a psychotherapist, I LOVE that the scribe of A Course in Miracles, Helen Schucman, and her collaborator and colleague Bill Thetford, were both psychologists.
The Course came into the world through them presented as not only a spiritual philosophy, but as a complete psychological mind-training, which I think is SO COOL!
Many of the evidence-based best practices in psychotherapeutic treatment today are also centered around working with the mind, and the thoughts and beliefs that are responsible for the emotions that we have.
This aspect is very similar to what A Course in Miracles is talking about when it says,
“You may believe that you are responsible for what you do, but not for what you think. The truth is that you are responsible for what you think, because it is only at this level that you can exercise choice. What you do comes from what you think.”
People tell me how someone in their lives isn’t treating them well – and when I ask them to elaborate on some of the thoughts they have about this person, I often hear a litany of criticism. People think that they have those critical thoughts because of how they are being treated. The truth is that they are being treated the way they are because of the thoughts they are having and the beliefs that are reinforced by them.
Lesson 338 in A Course in Miracles says,
“I am affected only by my thoughts.”
It doesn’t say,
“I am affected by the things my spouse says (or doesn’t say)”,
“I am affected by my disrespectful teen”,
“I am affected by my controlling mother”.
But that’s where most of us are operating from. We see the problem as,
“If _____ would just do/not do _____, then I would be happy.”
Both A Course in Miracles and modern psychology teach us that among the most powerful defense mechanisms the mind uses is that of projection – distancing one’s self from unpleasant thoughts, beliefs, feelings, or behaviors by attributing them to someone else.
Some beliefs may be deeply ingrained, or even unconscious. They may be felt as, “I’m not good enough”, “I’m not lovable”, “I’m not worthy”, “I don’t deserve it” – and when a person operates from that place they unconsciously attract situations that reinforce those negative beliefs. If you don’t think you are worthy of being treated well, you will find yourself in relationships where you are not treated well.
The truth is, all of the negative emotions we feel – guilt, resentment, anger, hurt, fear, sadness – are representative of feeling separate from our Creator. That is the one problem A Course in Miracles is concerned with us learning – and the one solution is for us to remember that the separation never occurred.
If we hope to ever be happy in this world we have to be willing to take responsibility for every single thing that happens in our lives. Not in a guilty way – blaming ourselves for what we create is just as destructive and erroneous as blaming others, and there’s no difference because we are all one mind.
Taking ownership of our experience means understanding that when we have a judgmental, critical, or condemning thought, that is what is going to be reflected back to us from the world.
One concept from A Course in Miracles that I think can be useful in explaining the idea of our thoughts controlling our experience in relationships is that of there being no private thoughts.
(WHAAAAAT? I know, right? When I got to that particular teaching of the Course the first time, I was like, “oh sh*t.”)
We are taught that as long as you keep your thoughts to yourself and don’t verbally express them – “keep it in your bubble” as they say to the kindergartners – that that means they can’t be heard, felt, or reacted to, and that you can’t be held responsible for having them.
So even if you think your husband is a total jerk, as long as you don’t say it, he won’t know. It makes sense that we would think that, because the whole idea of bodies is to keep us separate from our bros, right?
But guess what? We aren’t separate – all minds are joined, which means one of the biggest self-fake-outs we do is think that our thoughts are private. They aren’t.
I talk more about this subject in today’s video.
There Are No Private Thoughts
In the world of bodies and form, where we think we are separate, we can see this illustrated by witnessing how thought energy travels.
Did you ever start to make a call or send a text and the person calls or texts you at that moment? Ever start to say something to a companion and they say they were just thinking the same thing?
That is not a coincidence – which is a false concept anyway. It happens because our thoughts travel faster than we can engage our bodies to articulate them – because they originate in our mind – our one mind.
So when you find yourself totally trash-talking someone in “your mind”, saying something like, “You’re an idiot”, think about the fact that they can hear you in “their mind”. That bubble that you believe keeps your thoughts safe within your mind is as chock full of holes as the idea itself.
The person may not say, “Hey, I heard you totally diss me just now” – but that’s mostly because we are heavily invested in the egoic idea that we are separate, and we don’t really want to think that our thoughts are not private. But the other person can feel the energy of the thought you are projecting at them just like the attack it is.
Having said that, before I get too far down the rabbit hole of talking about the “other person”, I just want to remind us that all minds are joined because there is one son of God and we are it. So (here’s where it gets all freaky) there is really no other person.
That is just the human being’s experience of appearing to be separate in our perception of the world. This means that whatever thought that we are thinking about another person, we are really thinking about ourselves.
One of the fathers of modern psychology and total rad dude Carl Jung called this our shadow side. He theorized that whenever we can’t tolerate something in another person it’s because we hate it within ourselves. Being unable to admit to and acknowledge this, we unconsciously deny it and project it onto them.
So, “you’re an idiot” really means “I’m an idiot”.
To better get this concept it is necessary for us to look at why we have the emotional reaction we do when we feel that someone has mistreated us. It is not actually what people are saying or doing to us that is causing our response. It is what we believe to be true about ourselves that their behavior is triggering that we find so upsetting – it is the meaning we make of it.
From A Course in Miracles’ perspective, we are projecting this world and everyone in it in our minds. This means that everything that everyone is saying or doing to us is also in our minds.
We are making the movie. We are creating the dialogue. So, why would I have someone saying hurtful or disrespectful things to me? Why would I have someone behaving in a controlling manner toward me? Why would I have my spouse be disengaged, my child be defensive, my parent be critical?
Because I feel guilty, and on a below the gut level I think I deserve to be punished.
I’m Not Good Enough (and I am Guilty)
I can tell you that in my experience as a therapist, the two most commonly occurring negative self-perception patterns people have are that they are not good enough and that they are guilty. If I had a buck for every time someone told me they feel guilty – about EVERYTHING – well, let’s just say I’d probably be writing this from my own private island.
The two beliefs are actually just one – we believe we are not good enough because we believe we are guilty. It is pervasive, not because our parents said it, or the priest or the nuns said it, or the Bible said it, or the televangelist said it – although we may have had the idea reinforced by any or all of the above.
The belief that we are not good enough because we are guilty comes directly from the ego mind – that part of our joined mind that wants us to believe we separated from our Creator – that we rejected Him.
The ego mind will use the vehicle of our thoughts to take us on as many guilt trips as possible if we allow it to take the wheel.
As the Course tells us,
“There is no more self-contradictory concept than that of ‘idle thoughts.’”
If you pay attention, you will notice that when your thoughts become idle they often turn critical of people with whom we are in relationship. We then experience guilt for having these thoughts, even if it is unconscious to us. We can even make ourselves feel guilty about feeling guilty!
So, what is the treatment?
How do we stop feeling guilty, and projecting our guilt onto others? How do we stop judging them and then experiencing the consequences of our critical thoughts playing out in our lives? How do we stop our thoughts?
First, we become more conscious of them. As we study and practice the lessons of A Course in Miracles, we will develop more of an in-the-moment awareness of our thoughts. We can then use the forgiveness practice as it is defined in A Course in Miracles.
When we become aware that we are having a critical thought about another person, as soon as we are able we need to take ourselves through the steps of the process.
- I am forgiving this person for what they didn’t do, remembering that there is nothing to forgive because
- I am dreaming an illusion made up by the ego mind
- I acknowledge that the guilt is in my mind and I am projecting it onto them
- I forgive myself for believing in the dream
- I ask Spirit to change my mind, heal my projections, and help me see this differently
It is important to understand that this is what forgiveness means in A Course in Miracles. It does not mean,
“I forgive you even though you hurt me.”
As Jesus tells us specifically in lesson 221,
“Forgiveness recognizes what you thought your brother did to you has not occurred. It does not pardon sins and make them real. It sees there was no sin. And in that view are all your sins forgiven.”
All YOUR sins are forgiven because you and your brother are one, so when you hold another person guilty, you hold yourself there too.
When you forgive and release them, you free yourself. It is important to learn this process and the steps it entails so that you really understand what you are doing – or rather – undoing.
Once you get it down, you can shorten the prayer to
“You are Spirit, pure, whole and innocent. All is forgiven and released.”
This version is great because it’s faster, and you can use it to forgive more and more when you notice your peace is disturbed. If you are new to this concept and process, it might take a while before you are able to forgive someone.
Here’s the awesome effect, which will become self-reinforcing and be your motivating factor for wanting to practice this form of forgiveness. It is like magic, in that as you do it, you will find that one of two results happen. Either the situation in the world actually appears to change, because you changed your projection, thus shifting your perception. Or you just will no longer experience a charge on it.
As you get into the habit of “hearing” your own thoughts, you will get better and better at catching them, and forgiving them immediately. Eventually they change as you are thinking them, you find yourself reframing them – another common psychological tool – into a positive and loving thought.
The result of this will be that your relationships will improve immensely.
You will be more accepting, and able to allow people to be as they are and not feel like you need to change them. You will find that you experience greater peace and harmony, more joy, and you will definitely have more fun.
When you realize that you control your experience with your thoughts, you empower yourself to create miraculous relationships.
Thank you for spending time with me today, it is such a privilege for me to be here with you.
I hope that this blog post was helpful to you in some way.
And now I’d love to know…
Question: Did this conversation deepen your understanding or inspire you? Did it cause you to consider your relationships from a different perspective? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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I send epic thoughts of your brilliant, radiant, vibrant, shimmering awesomeness your way.
Rev Kelly Russell