is not learned. Its meaning lies within itself. And learning ends
when you have recognized all it is not. That is the interference;
that is what needs to be undone." --ACIM
Nowhere in our lives
is the backward, upside-down, and pain-producing thinking of the
ego more apparent than in our relationships. Yet we have bought
into the ego’s thought system so thoroughly that, although
our relationships always seem to involve—and frequently end
in—pain, we rarely question the very premises on which we
attempt to build them.
What A Course
in Miracles calls special relationships, or illusions of love,
are those relationships in which we believe that something outside
of us can fill up or compensate for what seems to be lacking inside—that
something outside ourselves can make us feel happy, loved, worthy,
safe, important, powerful, whole, fulfilled. Special
love finds expression in our lives as addictions, such as addictions
to alcohol, drugs, food, sex, work. We can have special relationships
with things, like our cars, our homes, our possessions, our jobs.
Most often, though, it is the special relationships we form with
other people that cause us the greatest anguish, and at the same
time provide us with the greatest opportunities for growth, transformation,
with people are not limited to romantic or sexual relationships,
although these kinds of relationships seem to be a place we frequently
get caught in the illusion of love. But the dynamics and fantasies
of special love can also operate in the relationships we have with
our friends, our families, our teachers, etc. Whenever these relationships
have become a source of conflict, disappointment, frustration, and
pain in our lives, we can be certain that special love has been
Special love is literally
a contradiction in terms. Real love is inclusive, not exclusive.
Its very nature is to extend, to share, to reach out from and
Real love sets no
conditions, makes no demands, sets up no bargains. Real love is
naturally generous, expanding. It gives freely and joyfully from
the abundance of its own nature—which is limitless—and
it can only increase in the giving. By contrast, special love is
based on a belief in, and feeling of, lack. The longing for specialness
says "I don’t have enough. I want and need more."
This experience of lack grows out of our profound sense of separation
from our real spiritual identity—from God and the love that
is our true nature. Believing this state of lack to be our reality,
we seek specialness as a substitute for the wholeness we have forgotten
is our inheritance as part of God.
Specialness by its
very nature must limit and exclude, because one is special by being
set apart from others, by having something others do not have, by
being different or by having more of something while others have
less. Inherent in the very structure and assumption of specialness,
then, is the set-up for envy, jealousy, fear of loss, and a belief
that we need to defend whatever we have from others who would try
to steal it from us. Specialness literally sets us up to be at war
with each other, and war has nothing to do with love.
The Course points
out that the special love relationship is the ego’s most powerful
weapon in its arsenal for keeping us bound to our nightmares of
guilt and fear. For in these relationships, the ego disguises its
"gifts" of hopelessness and pain in glittering promises
of the fulfillment of our hopes and dreams. When we end up, again
and again, in pain, lonely, and unfulfilled, the ego counsels us
to blame the other person and look for someone else. Or it tells
us that we are, after all, not good enough—leaving us desperately
hoping that someday someone will prove to us we are wrong. Finally,
the ego may offer us the option of cynicism and the conviction that
love does not exist.
The Course tells us
there is an alternative to this cycle of infatuation, disillusionment,
desperation, anger, and blame that characterize special love. But
in order to be open to the alternative, we need first to recognize
that beneath all its promises of happiness, special relationships
really offer us nothing but self-attack and belittlement.
at the special relationship, it is necessary first to realize
it involves a great amount of pain. Anxiety, despair, guilt and
attack all enter into it, broken by periods in which they seem
to be gone ... and even when the hatred
and savagery break briefly through, the illusion of love is not
Yet the one
thing the ego never allows to reach awareness is that the special
relationship is the acting out of vengeance on yourself. Yet what
else could it be? In
seeking the special relationship, you look not for glory in yourself.
You have denied that it is there, and the relationship becomes
your substitute for it." --ACIM
Once we are willing
to look truthfully at the pain and ugliness built into the very
structure and dynamics of the special relationship, we eventually
become willing to let go of the hope that we will ever find our
fulfillment there. Finally we reach a point where we can genuinely
say, "I hope there is an alternative to this, and I don’t
know what it is."
The alternative that
the Course holds out to us is not a swearing off or avoidance of
relationships. The alternative is, rather, the transformation of
the special relationship into a holy relationship—a relationship
which has been given over to the Holy Spirit to be used for healing,
to be used as a classroom for forgiveness.
you have escaped the mockery of salvation (happiness) the ego
offered you, and look not back with longing on the travesty it
made of your relationships. Now no one need suffer, for you have
come too far to yield to the illusion of the beauty of guilt ...
What guilt has
wrought is ugly, fearful, and very dangerous. See no illusion
of truth and beauty there. And be thankful that there is a place
where truth and beauty wait for you. Go on to meet them gladly,
and learn how much awaits you for the simple willingness to give
up nothing because it is nothing." --ACIM
Use of Time
To really understand
what is going on in special relationships, it is helpful to understand
the way the ego uses time to perpetuate itself. Key to this is the
ego’s investment in the past and its determination that the
present and future be simply a continuation of the past. The
ego emphasizes the past because that is where the source of our
guilt is found. Thus, to let go the past is to let go of the foundation
of the ego’s entire thought system, which is the belief that
guilt is real. The ego, therefore, ensures its own continued existence
by keeping the past alive and real to us.
has a strange notion of time—and it is with this notion
that your questioning might well begin. Remember that its emphasis
on guilt enables it to ensure its continuity by making the future
like the past, and thus avoiding the present.
By the notion
of paying for the past in the future, the past becomes the determiner
of the future, making them continuous. For the ego regards the
present only as a brief transition to the future, in which it
brings the past to the future by interpreting the present in past
Caught up in the
ego’s way of thinking, we see our present experiences as being
determined by something that happened in the past. We blame the
way we feel about ourselves on how our parents treated us as children.
We blame our reactions in our current relationship on what happened
in our last relationship. We
fall in love with someone because he or she seems to be so different
from those we see as the cause of our pain in the past. From the
perspective of our ego, we define and experience the present in
a way that is essentially and thoroughly past-referential.
no meaning to the ego. The present merely reminds it of past hurts,
and it reacts to the present as if it were the past. It dictates
your reactions to those you meet in the present from a past reference
point, obscuring their present reality. In effect, if you follow
the ego’s dictates you will react to your brother as though
he were someone else, and this will surely prevent you from recognizing
him as he is. And you will receive messages from him out of your
own past, because, by making it real in the present, you are forbidding
yourself to let it go." -aCIM
The special relationship,
which is an illusion of love, is based on the past. Specifically,
the Course points out that it is an attempt to seek vengeance on
the past. In the special love relationship we initially hope and
believe that the other will somehow make up for what we did not
receive in the past. In our minds we continue to accuse, condemn,
and attack those in our past for what we consider to be their ‘sins’
towards us. We select a special love partner who we think will somehow
be different from those figures from our past.
impossible to let the past go without relinquishing the special
relationship—for it is an attempt to re-enact the past and
change it. Imagined slights, remembered pains, past disappointments,
perceived injustices and deprivations all enter into the special
relationship, which becomes a way in which you seek to restore
your wounded self-esteem.
What basis would
you have for choosing a special partner without the past? Every
such choice is made because of something ‘evil’ in
the past to which you cling, and for which someone else must atone.
The special relationship takes vengeance on the past ... It has
no meaning in the present, and if it means nothing now, it cannot
have any real meaning at all." --ACIM
While the special
love relationship seems to be an attempt to change the past, in
fact it is really a way to preserve and hold onto it. If our current
special love partner does treat us better than we were treated in
past relationships, we use this contrast to highlight the guilt
of those from the past. If he disappoints us—which eventually,
in some way or other, he will—we react with the accumulated
rage and fury of all the past hurts, insults, and disappointments
we have nursed over time and brought with us into the current relationship.
We then add one more grievance to the heavy load we carry, and become
even more wedded to the belief that the past is what is real and
meaningful, that the present is merely a continuation of the past,
and that future will be nothing but more of the same.
The Course teaches
that all healing is release from the past. The special relationship
is never healing because it preserves the past. Within the special
relationship we interact, not with another in his wholeness and
totality, but rather with what the Course calls the shadow figures
from our own past. They are shadow figures because they are not
whole, real people, but are simply our limited, partial, egocentric
perceptions and definitions of others.
you recognize a holy encounter if you are merely perceiving it
as a meeting with your own past? Each
one peoples his world with figures from his individual past, and
it is because of this that private worlds do differ. Yet the figures
he sees were never real—for they are made up only of his
reactions to his brothers, and do not include their reactions
to him. The shadowy figures from the past are precisely what you
must escape. They are not real, and have no hold over you unless
you bring them with you. They carry the spots of pain in your
mind, directing you to attack in the present in retaliation for
a past that is no more. And this decision is one of future pain.
Unless you learn
that past pain is an illusion, you are choosing a future of illusions
and losing the many opportunities you could find for release in
the present.The ego would preserve your nightmares, and prevent
you from awakening and understanding they are past." --ACIM
Love Is Dependency
Ken Wapnick has pointed
out that what the world calls love—special love— is
this world calls love is really specialness. Another word to describe
it is dependency. This illusion of love is to compensate for our
own perceived lack by using someone else to fill it up. I become
dependent on you to meet my needs, and I will make you dependent
on me to meet your needs. As long as we both do that, then everything
Dependency is not
love, but attachment. Yogi Amrit Desai clearly contrasts attachment,
which seeks fulfillment from without, with real love, which shines
forth from within.
focuses on an outside person or object as the center of your being.
Real love emanates from the center within. Special love uses the
other to fulfill your needs and addictions. The attached person
is dependent on the object of his attachment. When the object
is gone, the feeling of love is also gone. The person who has
contacted his inner source of love, however, carries the light
of love with him wherever he goes. He is like a miner with a light
attached to his forehead. Wherever he turns, he sees light, because
the light is a part of him." -Amrit
When we view another
as the source of our well-being and happiness, we also see him as
having the power to withhold or withdraw that happiness from us.
The other thus becomes, in our mind, a threat—a reminder of
our perceived vulnerability and lack of wholeness. Thus, the hope
and promise of love we seek in special love or dependency eventually
give way to the fear and hatred out of which it is born.
begins in fear, lives in fear, dies in fear and is again reborn
in fear ...When (one) feels incomplete in himself, he looks for
someone who will provide the qualities he lacks. He becomes attached
to the person whom he thinks will make him complete. Now he needs
the other. He is in bondage to the other.
subconsciously, he fears the other’s withdrawal. Gradually
and subtly he begins to hate the other. He cannot help but hate
that which is a source of fear and anxiety to him. Even though
he himself created the fear and addiction, he paradoxically hates
the other as the cause of all his insecurities." --Amrit
Real love, the Course
teaches, is changeless and eternal. Special love inevitably turns
into hate and fear. It therefore cannot be love, but merely the
illusion of love.
By defining the present
exclusively in terms of the past, the special relationship seeks
to obliterate our awareness of the power and opportunity offered
us by the present moment. The present— Now— is the only
aspect of time in which we can choose to see differently, choose
to forgive, choose to let go of the perception of guilt that gives
rise to all our pain and fear. The present is the only aspect of
time in which we can choose and experience healing.
you change the past except in fantasy? And who can give you what
you think the past deprived you of?
seek to lay the blame for deprivation on it, for the past is gone.
You cannot really not let go of what has already gone... The past
is gone; seek not to preserve it in the special relationship that
binds you to it, and would teach you that salvation is past and
so you must return to the past to find salvation. There is no
fantasy that does not contain the dream of retribution for the
past. Would you act out the dream (of vengeance) or let it go?"
Berke The core practices
of A Course in Miracles are forgiveness and listening
to the Holy Spirit, our inner teacher, the voice for
God within us. This
book is offered as a simple sharing from my heart,
to give readers new to the Course some feeling for
what this path of healing is like, and readers already
working with the Course some feeling of companionship
on the journey.
has been sustaining me and giving me the courage
to travel through the darkness toward light, through
fear and pain toward love, is the foundation of
faith I've developed to this point on my journey.
And through this experience, I continue to learn,
in an ever deeper way, that Love does answer us—Love