by D. Patrick Miller
The world I see holds nothing that I want ...
Let nothing that relates to body thoughts delay your progress to salvation, nor permit temptation to believe the world holds anything you want to hold you back. Nothing is here to cherish. Nothing here is worth one instant of delay and pain; one moment of uncertainty and doubt. The worthless offer nothing. Certainty of worth can not be found in worthlessness. ~ from Workbook Lesson 128 of A COURSE IN MIRACLES
Recently I had the pleasure of collaborating with Canadian therapist Diederik Wolsak and the Choose Again Society on the publication of Diederik's book CHOOSE AGAIN: Six Steps to Freedom. This is a self-help guide to Diederik's widely respected and highly effective "Six-Step Process" to emotional health and spiritual freedom. His approach is derived from the teachings of Attitudinal Healing, which in turn was developed by psychiatrist Jerry Jampolsky based on his study of A Course in Miracles.
Without giving away the whole Process, its essence is recognizing and releasing certain childhood traumas that tend to haunt people's psyches for the rest of their lives. As Diederik illustrates in numerous case histories, these early traumas may be dramatic and obviously damaging, or they may seem childishly petty from an adult retrospective. In his own case, his self-esteem as a toddler was badly wounded by the loss of a favorite red toy truck that no one else seemed to care about. Yet the incident was so impressed upon his young psyche that he grew up unconsciously seeking evidence for the reinforcement of the idea that his concerns were unimportant, and his well-being mattered to no one.
And so it goes with many of us, Diederik suggests, struggling all our lives to overcome a childhood wound of major or minor proportions — while at the same time we unconsciously find ways to replay it throughout adulthood. Unless we "catch and release" these early traumatizing notions about ourselves, they can rule our consciousness, ruin our relationships, and generally make life miserable.
What struck me about the case histories that Diederik presents is how often the central wound of the human psyche is steeped in feelings of worthlessness — the notion, in one form or another, that we amount to nothing, matter to no one, and aren't worth care and attention, even on our own behalf.
It would seem, in fact, that every kind of chronic psychological suffering circles back to worthlessness, whether it's caused by sexual or emotional abuse, being orphaned or having cruel parents, being bullied or being driven to bullying. People are drawn into various addictions to escape a sense of worthlessness, then feel even more degraded by the experience of addiction. People chase after money, sex, success, or influence because they are seeking something of value outside themselves, to counter the horrifying valuelessness felt within.
Even the rare comforts of wealth and power don't necessarily save one from the long-imprinted conviction of worthlessness. The Presidency of the United States is currently occupied by a man whose childish attempts to feel worthy are painfully and dangerously played out on a national and global stage.
A Course in Miracles suggests that a fundamental sense of worthlessness is not just the fault of poor parenting, unfortunate childhood circumstances, or even 'human nature' in the usual sense. In fact, it has deep existential roots in our identification with body over spirit, and the material world over our inner reality. Just as it's necessary to recover and recognize our childhood wounds to heal them, we need to recognize the fundamental mistake of identifying ourselves with the treacherous, time-bound world of material 'reality' — which ACIM addresses in the lesson, The world I see holds nothing that I want.
Yet by the very next lesson — Beyond this world there is a world I want — the Course acknowledges that simply rejecting the world as we see it is not a solution to the widespread pain of worthlessness:
"You cannot stop with the idea the world is worthless, for unless you see that there is something else to hope for, you will only be depressed. Our emphasis is not on giving up the world, but on exchanging it for what is far more satisfying, filled with joy, and capable of offering you peace. Think you this world can offer that to you?"
That raises the question of where the world we would want — a world where we feel inherently worthy, safe, and at peace — can be found. Do we have to die and go to heaven? Can we meditate our way there? Or do we have to wait on Elon Musk to build us a space transport?
In a section of Chapter 17 entitled "The Forgiven World," ACIM reveals that we can actually change worlds through the act of forgiveness:
"Can you imagine how beautiful those you forgive will look to you? In no fantasy have you ever seen anything so lovely. Nothing you see here, sleeping or waking, comes near to such loveliness. And nothing will you value like unto this, nor hold so dear. Nothing that you remember that made your heart sing with joy has ever brought you even a little part of the happiness this sight will bring you...
"This loveliness is not a fantasy. It is the real world, bright and clean and new, with everything sparkling under the open sun. Nothing is hidden here, for everything has been forgiven and there are no fantasies to hide the truth. The bridge between that world and this is so little and so easy to cross, that you could not believe it is the meeting place of worlds so different. Yet this little bridge is the strongest thing that touches on this world at all. This little step, so small it has escaped your notice, is a stride through time into eternity, beyond all ugliness into beauty that will enchant you, and will never cease to cause you wonderment at its perfection."
While many people may understand that forgiveness can heal relationships and ease inner pain, far fewer grasp its enormous power to shift the ground of reality right under our feet. What may begin with recognizing and releasing a childhood wound, or letting go of a grudge in the here and now, can eventually result in a way of looking at the world so differently that we find ourselves in a different world entirely. Free of the pain of worthlessness, that world is our true home.
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