We hold many false perceptions in our mind. These false perceptions are purposeful blocks to our peace of mind. Paradoxical though it may seem, we hold on to mistaken ways of seeing because they make us unhappy.
We’re all addicted, to some degree, to being afraid and miserable. But we’re not usually aware of this addiction, and that’s what can make the world seem cruel or scary. We think our problems or enemies are “out there” in the world, but in fact they’re mostly within our own habitual, unproductive ways of seeing. And they’re hard to undo without extraordinary help.
Your Inner Therapist can help you
Fortunately, you have an effective way to change your ways of seeing, and that’s through your Inner Therapist. What I call the Inner Therapist is also known as the Holy Spirit, your Higher Mind or your Inner Teacher. You can call it whatever you like. I capitalize terms like these when I’m referring to concepts beyond this world of form. Your Inner Therapist is not separate from or external to you, but it’s outside fear.
Our Inner Therapist holds the key to inner peace because it knows what really makes us happy. It’s that small, quiet Voice inside that always tells us that we’re loved, that we’re safe and that we’ve done nothing wrong. It doesn’t analyze or judge us: it simply sees our inner light. You won’t hear this Voice if you’re regretting the past or worrying about the future; your Inner Therapist is always heard in the present moment.
The feeling of connection with your Inner Therapist is deeply gratifying and enormously comforting. It engenders pure joy. It’s like coming home. But this happy, carefree childhood feeling can be easily drowned out by busyness, worry and all the distractions of the world. When you learn to stay consistently in touch with your Inner Therapist, however, you can literally be a miracle worker.
My perspective on healing anxiety through the Inner Therapist is chiefly inspired by A Course in Miracles, which is a unique psycho-spiritual system for changing the way we look at the world.
Diving into the Course completely and wholeheartedly was my way out of an internal hell. For me, accepting its radical view of our existence was the key to overcoming chronic anxiety. I needed an explanation of a crazy world that made no sense to me. I needed another way to look at everything, because the way I was seeing constantly frightened me. A Course in Miracles turned everything in my world on its head—and then answered every big question I’d ever had in a completely new way.
One big question: Who are we, really?
You’re not who you think you are—and this is glorious news. You’re not your fear, your anxiety or your worry. You may feel that these things define you, because they’re really good at capturing and overpowering your attention. That’s their purpose. But the fearful, freaked-out, anxious you isn’t the true you, despite how compellingly real that fear and anxiety seem. What you really are is way more awesome. I promise.
If, like me, you’ve struggled with deep anxiety about death, sickness and suffering, I’ve got good news for you. What you really are is love, and love only.
Your true nature actually exists in an eternal state, a creative state in which you’re entirely happy and at peace. You can’t die; you can’t become sick; you exist forever; and you’ll know yourself even after this body is laid aside. You’ve probably heard teachings like this before. But we’re going to work toward experiencing the truth of these words, for it’s the experience of these teachings that provides relief from anxiety.
You’ve forgotten the eternal love that you’re made of because right now, you believe you’re confined in a body, in a particular time and place. But, in fact, you’re a pure, Loving Mind.
This Loving Mind exists independently of your ego personality and also of the “mind” generated by your brain. Your reality is actually abstract, not physical. You’re not your body. Yes, you do seem to have a body right now, just like you have clothes—but everyone knows that their clothes aren’t their real selves. The clothes are just something useful to keep us warm and protected, and perhaps to express our personalities.
The idea of existing beyond your body may be hard to grasp or even imagine at first, because we’re literally asleep to it most of the time. We’ve forgotten our existence in eternity and mistakenly think that the world we see is our home. I’ve always gained comfort from this Course quote, which helps me begin to understand a world that’s very different from the one we see:
Sit quietly and look upon the world you see, and tell yourself: “The real world is not like this. It has no buildings and there are no streets where people walk alone and separate. There are no stores where people buy an endless list of things they do not need. It is not lit with artificial light, and night comes not upon it. There is no day that brightens and grows dim. There is no loss. Nothing is there but shines, and shines forever.” (ACIM T-13.VII.1:1–6)
So in truth, we’re perfectly at peace. We’re eternal, united in joy, equally loved and loving; we shine forever.
Does eternal bliss sound good to you? Or does it sound like cosmic oatmeal, bland and boring? I can certainly understand if you’re thinking, “Eternal bliss sounds lovely, but too lofty. Get real! I feel anything but peaceful, happy or loving. And also, I have a cold.” Before we can see the world in a new way that promotes peace, we need to explore the nature of this seemingly real, pessimistic, fearful voice in our minds, which we’re going to call the ego.
Down the ego rabbit hole
Down, down, down. Would the fall never come to an end? “I wonder how many miles I’ve fallen by this time?” she said aloud. “I must be getting somewhere near the centre of the earth. … I wonder if I shall fall right through the earth! How funny it’ll seem to come out among the people that walk with their heads downward!”
– Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
The ego is a belief in your mind that you’re a body with a personality, instead of an eternal being. It’s a belief or idea that you’re separate from God.
The ego turns our perception upside down because it’s a thought system that expresses traits that are the opposite of God. If God is eternal life, the ego believes in death. If God is unconditional love, the ego is an expert at judgment and giving love only to those it deems worthy. If God is perfect harmlessness, the ego calls forth pain. If God sees only what’s true, the ego sees only what’s false.
The ego may seem like a big deal, but it’s just a “tiny, mad idea” that we’ve accepted into our minds (ACIM T-27.VIII.6:2). It’s a fearful, false voice that wants to keep us identified with a small sense of self.
Do you ever get a really silly idea that you just can’t let go of? Even if you suspect it’s all wrong, you might take it seriously for a long time. For example, my family once lived in a rental house that had an in-ground pool, which was freezing cold. Obsessed with the desire to get his kids swimming, my dad got the idea that he could boil four pots of water at a time on our electric kitchen stove and dump the boiling water into the forty-thousand-gallon (about 151,416 litres) pool to raise the temperature.
The ego is a silly thought that we’ve chosen to take seriously. Believing in it plays a huge role in contributing to anxiety.
Even at the age of 10, I knew this wouldn’t work. But he believed it would, and raced to boil his next batch of water after dumping one batch into the pool. Only after repeated failures to raise the water temperature did he finally look for another way. He discovered solar panels on the roof of the house that could be rigged to warm the pool water.
The ego is a silly thought that we’ve chosen to take seriously. Believing in it plays a huge role in contributing to anxiety. Until we see how the belief in ego actually causes unhappiness, we won’t be inclined to let go of it.
In my quest to find freedom from the ego, I sought answers to some big existential questions that had plagued me for years. One big question is, why did I accept the ego into my mind in the first place? The answer is specialness.
Our Loving Source doesn’t know specialness. Everything in Love’s eyes is equally special. This means that no one is special—an idea that’s almost incomprehensible on this earthly plane, where our specialness is literally equal to our survival.
While we (the Children of God) are really still at home in Love, some of us decide that we want to call the shots, be cooler than the bunch, different from the rest—and we certainly want to write our own script of life, rather than just exist in the perfection that was given to us. Love, being One and only knowing Oneness, can’t give us the specialness we so vehemently desire.
You could say that, being children, we have a special case of the “terrible twos”: oneness, unity and infinite love just aren’t good enough for us, because we want to experience two-ness, also called duality. This duality sounds like our own personal, delightful Disneyland.
So, to get the specialness that Love can’t give us, we decide to blow off Love. By turning our back on our Loving Source of Oneness, we believe we can find, maintain and enhance our specialness.
We grab onto our “tiny, mad idea” of specialness and take it so seriously that we end up getting lost in it and can no longer remember being in constant, loving communication with our Source. We’re mesmerized by our dream of duality and individuality, but that dream is often a nightmare.
This is an error we make not just once, but perpetually, as we choose to keep dreaming of a substitute for Oneness. Because this initial choice wasn’t made on a conscious individual level, we have no memory of it. However, we can easily see evidence of our desire for specialness in our lives.