In this post I talked about how projection can work in our lives, especially in terms of relationships. We project onto others what we do not want to look at in our own self, and then judge the other exactly the way we fear WE would be judged.
A lawyer was mean to me once, and for a quarter century I played the role of victim, never once bothering to look at what that role meant for my happiness or – more important for our shared salvation – his.
This is not a healthy way to live! It does not make us or anybody else happy. It seizes and clutches rather than liberates. It depresses rather than inspires.
Here I want to go one step further – again using a personal example – to hopefully show something about the subtlety and destructiveness of ego.
Jealousy has been a part of my life since I was a child. I don’t like to share; I never have. As a little boy I preferred playing alone to playing with others because sharing was complicated and no fun. I wasn’t the kid who took his ball and went home – I was the kid who stayed home with his ball. If I had to play with others, I did so grudgingly, resenting every moment that wasn’t all about me.
As I grew up, and not sharing became less socially viable, jealousy slowly morphed into a steady background hum. It touched every relationship to one degree or another. I wasn’t happy, and I wasn’t making others happy, but it wasn’t an unmitigated disaster either.
To me, as an adult, jealousy felt like a reasonable expression of my fundamental unworthiness. Why wouldn’t people want a better partner, friend, teacher than me? I was broken and unfixable. Who wouldn’t be better without me? I didn’t even want to be with me.
So you can see how at one level the jealousy dynamic was a frame in which I could more or less constantly perceive myself as a victim. I understood it in this light for years. And I worked hard on it in that light! Prayer, therapy, dialogue. Jealousy never went away but at least it was manageable.
I called that a “win.”
And I was wrong.
About a year ago, following a particularly challenging series of conversations with Chrisoula, I woke up from a dream I have since forgotten. There in the darkness, I saw three things with crystalline clarity:
- Jealousy was about perceiving myself as victim BECAUSE
- It allowed me to percieve others as victimizers WHICH
- Allowed me to punish them.
The punishment part was very important. I was worthless, yes, but you were worse – you were actually evil. You saw my worthlessness and betrayed me by choosing – by just being willing to choose – another to take my place.
And for that you deserved to be punished. And since I was the victim, then I was the one in charge of choosing and administering your punishment.
And I loved that. Loved it.
Is that clear? Under the “woe is me” narrative of the victim was the “off with his head” narrative of the cruel, unjust and all-powerful tyrant.
It was awful to see this. I could handle being a victim. In fact, I kind of liked it. Lots of sympathy, other people were reponsible for taking care of you, easy to lay claim to special treatment, et cetera.
But being the victimizer? The one who made victims of others?
I did not want to see that. In you I could see it, sure. But in me? No thank you.
However, in that moment, it was no longer possible to see it anywhere else but in me. In that way, the Holy Spirit brought a grim and twisted charade to its close. It taught me that I am not allowed to judge my brothers and sisters, and I am not allowed to punish them.
So I had to let the whole jealousy schebang go, right? I couldn’t hold onto it at all because I saw it was just a front the ego was using to cover an even more vile and destructive objective: it hated you and wanted to make you suffer before destroying you.
Seeing ego in that light – and knowing it was operative in me and all my relationships – was nauseating. It drove me to my knees in an old-school prayer – hands clasped, rocking back and forth, pleading with God to forgive me for hurting you and to make it so that I would never do so again.
To which God gently replied, “okay.”
God hears our prayer because our prayer is God praying in us. We’re already saved; salvation is remembering what is, not creating something new. It’s not about replacement but recollection.
To truly see the ego is always to initiate its undoing. When you really see ego, you will not like it, and not liking it means you will no longer value it, and what you do not value you will not protect or otherwise invest in (e.g., T-2.II.1:5-6). You will beg God to remove it from you.
And absent your care and nurture – absent your mindless blessing – ego will disappear. And what will remain is the quiet peace and joy which the Holy Spirit offers us in order to allow us to remember our home in Creation.
The moral of this story is: do not be afraid of how ugly your interior appears. Do not be scared to really assess your motives and biases, to look at ego in all its viciousness. Let it speak – hear its case.
Let all of it be revealed, so that all of it may at last be undone.
Do you like monster stories? Monsters are often stand-ins for ego – Mister Hyde, the witch in Hansel and Gretel, Grendel coming up from the swamp to threaten our meager fire . . . ACIM students looking at ego are not doing anything new. But we are maybe doing it in a way that aims to create new stories – stories about happiness and the end of conflict.
Those monster stories are our ancestor’s version of the work to which A Course in Miracles calls us: to face what is scary. But we do not have to destroy the monster. We merely need to see the monster/ego clearly where and as it is – inside of us and unbearably cruel. When we see it this way, then we will see also that we are what makes this monster possible.
Therefore, because we are doing it, we can do something else. This is the whole promise of salvation in A Course in Miracles!
In every difficulty all distress, and each perplexity Christ calls to you and gently says, ‘My brother, choose again.’ He would not leave one source of pain unhealed, nor any image left to veil the truth. He would remove all misery from you whom God created altar unto joy (T-31.VIII.3:2-4).
From the bottom of my heart – which is cleansed and brought to the light in your heart by the light in which both our hearts are brought forth – thank you for sharing the way.