Ask: How do you help someone change a hurtful interpretation?
I have been trying to help someone and have been trying to have them, when they see something disturbing, to tell the Holy Spirit that you are willing to see this differently. Last week she saw a beggar yelling at his dog. She has a particular problem with suffering dogs of the world. I tried to explain how we perceive and then interpret what we perceive. She wrote back “what about when you see something hurtful or sad when it is obvious and not an interpretation.” She got me there. The problem is it all results in her giving large amounts of money and it completely ruins her day and results in a deep depression that can last a week or most likely longer. During this time she can do nothing. I think you get the picture. How can I answer her comments?... – DH
If you want inner peace then you want to sort out fact from interpretation (projection of meaning). You never respond to facts, but to your interpretations. Your interpretations always tie in some way to your own story for the personal self with which you indentify. Usually, it is some form of “victim” story. Or it may tie into a role that you play and that you value. The value in your seeing this is in seeing how your thoughts make up the world in which you seem to find yourself. You don’t really live in the world of form; you live in your thoughts about it. When you accept this then you are empowered to change your mind and therefore your experience from conflict to peace.
In this situation a person yelled at their dog. “Hurtful” and “sad” are your friend’s interpretations (if she used those words to refer to this particular situation). These thoughts are to what she is responding and they lead to her depression. She thinks her thoughts are facts. No doubt she identifies with the vulnerability of dogs, which are at the mercy of humans, just as she feels she is at the mercy of the world at large.
There are many ways in which to interpret anything in the universe of form because it is neutral. But A Course in Miracles simplifies things greatly by teaching that what isn’t love is a call for love. The experience of love or the call for love is always in the mind of the perceiver. But in the beginning most see these calls “out there” in the images that they perceive because they believe that their experience comes from the images and not from their own mind. This is a beginning, however, in that choosing to see a call for love at least replaces their initial interpretation and teaches them that they can choose to see things differently. This opens the process for them to eventually accept that their experience of love or a call for love can come only from their own mind.
Generally in a situation where another feels attacked I help them to understand that their perceived attacker was coming from their own pain. They were calling for love. Their attack was not personal. But what makes your friend’s situation so difficult is that she takes personally situations that do not even involve her. Someone yells at a dog and now she is hurt and saddened, not just in passing, but for many days. She has made herself a victim of the beggar when the beggar was not even addressing her.
One obsesses on the perceived pain of others to avoid dealing with their own pain. Your friend is not yet ready to ask the Holy Spirit for another way to look at things. She would have to be willing to look inward to become aware of the Holy Spirit. And she is not going to be willing to do that until she is willing to look at her own perceived problems. At this stage traditional psychotherapy is probably called for. You can encourage her to get help, which is her choice to make. And in the meantime you can be her friend simply by listening and understanding. Sometimes, “That sounds very painful; I’m sorry you’re hurting” is all the love that someone is ready to hear.
Learn about the books The ACIM Mentor Articles, The Plain Language A Course in Miracles, and 4 Habits for Inner Peace at www.acimmentor.com.
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