The choice to be upset

This blog obviously focuses on workbook lesson 5 in A Course in Miracles, with the infuriating title: “I am never upset for the reason I think.” Note that it does not say “almost never”; it makes no exceptions whatsoever. For almost all Course students, this is a most un-favorite lesson. We all like to think we are upset because of factors outside of us: you treated me unfairly; the weather turned bad; the stock market plummeted; my car broke down; and on and on. Since we obviously cannot control everything in the world around us (or so we reason), we won’t be able to avoid becoming upset from time to time.

In A Course in Miracles, Jesus taps us on the shoulder and explains to us that this only seems to be the case as long as we are firmly convinced that this dream world with its myriad bodies is our reality. In truth, we are quite capable to awaken from this dream and choose to remain at Home, as spirit, in the Heart of God where you and I belong. But we believe we don’t want that. We want to keep the silly notion of separation ongoing. We want to remain asleep so we can continue to experience ourselves as unique, special, autonomous individuals. To this end, we must engage in constant mind activity that ‘proves’ that the separation did indeed happen and is in fact reality.

Finding things to be upset about fits in nicely with this goal. If I can prove that there is a world that can hurt me, this clearly illustrates that (a) I exist as an individual body, and that (b) someone else is responsible for all the misery we experience in the dream. That’s the perennial goal of the ego. So Jesus is saying to us something like “Why not honestly admit that you want to be upset, so that you can keep up this silly ego-dream of time and space and individuality? It’s not a sin, but it is a tragic mistake. How long will you continue to crucify yourself this way?” Now we can see why, for most Course students, lesson 5 is a most un-favorite lesson: I’m never upset for the reason I think; I make the (unconscious) choice to be upset, so that I can keep up the illusion of my innocent separated self, and at the same time condemn my brother for his obvious sinfulness, so that God will send him to hell and allow me back into Heaven. “Behold me brother, at your hand I die,” we read in (T-27.I.4:6). My upset is fully justified!

This lesson is not meant to make us feel guilty. It does aim, however, at making us aware of the underlying guilt that we, as the Son of God, made in the ontological instant by seemingly choosing against our Creator (even though, in reality, this is impossible and never really happened). Once we realize that this original choice for guilt is the ultimate source of all our upsets, can we slowly begin to realize that all our upsets, big and small, really originate from the same cause. Therefore, it doesn’t really matter what seems to upset me, big or small: there is no hierarchy in illusions; they are all the same in content. This insight is the prerequisite for being able to let all upsets go. Once I realize that I am not upset because of what seems to happen outside, but only because of my unconscious though deliberate purpose to keep experiencing separation, I can choose to let it go and relax.

Before you and I reach that point, however, we must practice with great specificity in our daily lives, to fully realize that ‘a slight twinge of annoyance’ really is no different from ‘intense rage’ (WpI-21.2:5). At first it’s very, very hard to believe that, for example, being upset over a low cookie supply in the cupboard is really no different from being upset over a diagnosis of terminal cancer. The ego tells us that all attempts to see the sameness of these two cases are absurd and preposterous. To the happy learner part in my mind, however, this is merely a reminder that I’m obviously still firmly convinced I am a body living in a world that does have power to upset me. Again, this is hardly something to feel guilty about. In his Course, Jesus invites you and me to be mildly humble, and honestly acknowledge that (a) apparently I am still a spiritual infant, not a giant, and (b) I am in dire need of help on my spiritual path. Jesus (or the Holy Spirit) gladly serve as the perfect guide to this end; but must choose them; have to do the mind work.

A very useful insight this lesson offers is that a mere intellectual grasp of the truth of this lesson doesn’t mean we have mastered the complete change of mind that is the primary aim of this Course. Merely telling myself that “There are no small upsets. They are all equally disturbing to my peace of mind.” (WpI-5.4: 3), doesn’t mean I won’t feel upset by this or that tomorrow. But it does help me to switch teachers in my mind a little sooner than yesterday. This is why this is a Course in practicing self-forgiveness; day after day, year after year. Each time I become aware of an upset (i.e., a non-loving thought, a judgment), the first thing I do is becoming aware of that without guilt or judging myself. I’ll feel better instantly. This provides the space to choose to switch teachers and ask Jesus (or the Holy Spirit) for help in what to think, say or do instead.

A Course in Miracles teaches us to honestly see the ego and its purpose for what it is. Although we are ultimately asked to take the ego lightly because of the inherent silliness of the foundation on which it rests, we are also taught that we cannot dismiss the ego lightly, as long as we still identify with its premise of autonomous individuality. Being an effective Course student does not mean wanting to be enlightened overnight. Being an effective Course student means choosing to be a happy learner, placing full trust in the guidance of Jesus (or the Holy Spirit) to get us Home at the pace that we are ready to accept. And always remember that it is “a journey without distance to a goal that has never changed” (T-8.VI.9:7), since in reality you and I already are safely at Home in the Heart of God. So learn to gently smile about all your upsets a little sooner today!


 

See also my “Miracles or Murder: a guide to concepts of A Course in Miracles“. This guidebook, endorsed by Gary and Cindy Renard, was published in March 2016 by Outskirts Press and is available at Amazon.com:

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See also my Feb. 2019 Course workshop at www.youtube.com called “Farewell to your self, to find your true Self”. (English captions/subtitles available)

Dutch visitors may also be interested in this Dutch page: ikzoekvrede.nl.

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