A radical new approach for letting go of fear and finding lasting peace, by Corinne Zupko (a summary by Pat Evert)
When the problem is identified as internal —the product of our own thoughts —we are no longer passive victims reacting to circumstances beyond our control. The metaphysical thought system taught by the book A Course in Miracles (ACIM) offers one of the few solutions to anxiety that is truly comprehensive. ACIM tells us that there are only two states of mind: fear and love. And they’re obviously mutually exclusive. If you’re experiencing one, the other is gone. Fear eclipses love, but love banishes fear entirely. When we’re not feeling love and peace, we’re not in our right mind —quite literally. We are insane. Anxiety is nothing more than fear projected into the future: fear about what might occur at some future time. Love is lived only in present tense. We are insane and the world is our asylum, consider this book a key to escape and a path to sanity. If we are trapped in turbulent dreams, this is the soft whisper and gentle caress that call us to awaken.
My anxiety journey was one of the worst, most terrifying experiences of my life. Yet once I allowed it to become my greatest teacher, it also became one of the best. My anxiety brought me to greater inner peace than I ever thought I could experience, and for that, I’m incredibly grateful. Anxiety is a call to awakening and can start you on a pathway toward love and inner peace. The spiritual practice that helped me out of anxiety is called A Course in Miracles. According to A Course in Miracles, “miracles are expressions of love” (ACIM T-1. I. 35); but they are also shifts in perception. When we are caught in fear, we must learn to shift our perception.
Part one – the descent into anxiety
• A new way of seeing the world
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. Our Inner Therapist always tells us that we are loved, that we are safe, and that we have done nothing wrong. Who Are We Really? You are not who you think you are —and this is glorious news. What you really are is love, and love only. We have forgotten our existence in eternity and mistakenly think that the world we see is our home. We are eternal, united in joy, equally loved and loving; we shine forever. 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 are going to call the ego. The ego is a belief in your mind that you are a body with a personality instead of an eternal being. It is a belief or idea that you are separate from God, a thought system that expresses traits that are the opposite of God. The ego is a silly thought that we have chosen to take seriously. Why did I accept the ego into my mind in the first place? The answer is specialness. We want to be special. Our Loving Source doesn’t know specialness. Everything in Love’s eyes is equally special. By turning our back on our Loving Source of Oneness, we believe we can find, maintain, and enhance our specialness. We end up getting lost in it and can no longer remember being in constant, loving communication with our Source.
In working with your Inner Therapist, honesty is key. Let’s acknowledge our sense of specialness. List ways you want to be special. We feel massive guilt for turning our back on our Loving Source. Right on the heels of this extreme guilt, we become fearful that our Loving Source will get angry and punish us for turning away. This cannot actually happen, because God is Love, and Love only. God is incapable of being anything other than loving. But we accept the idea of guilt into part of our Loving Mind.
We hold many images about ourselves. Some of these images are roles that we play in life. Take a moment to write down as many images as you can think of that you hold about yourself. What are some roles that you play in life? What profession do you identify with? What are your abilities? How do you view your body? Your state of mind? Do you feel that you would be happier if some of these images were different? All the images of your small self that you have just listed are transient. Your capital-S Self is very different. It does not change with time: it remains in a constant state of pure joy. It is pure Spirit. Ask yourself, “Am I willing to release all of these ideas about myself in order to remember something even greater lies within me? Am I willing to even release the images that I think will make me happy?” Say to yourself, “I am willing to see myself differently. I am willing to accept a miracle and to remember my Self.”
• Awakening from a not-so-sweet dream
How do we wake up from this nightmare of anxiety? First, we have to recognize that it is a nightmare. And I’m speaking literally, not figuratively. The world we all see is a manifestation, a vivid dream, of a powerful mind that is asleep. Just as our sleeping dreams feel real, so does this waking dream of the world. This is because we have misused the power of God to make ourselves forget that we are the Children of God. Your Inner Therapist can help you remember your real being, which you have forgotten through your identification with your body. Ego identity, is terrified that it is going to get into trouble for turning its back on God. It is plagued by unconscious fear and guilt. The sleeping part of our Child Mind has to get rid of the intolerable fear and guilt it feels for cherishing the dreamworld of specialness and separation.
We continue to project our beliefs of fear and guilt all the time in our stories. Write down every projection you can think of that occurred today (again without judgment).
Taking responsibility for our projections is a key to working with our Inner Therapist to remember the truth of who we are. Our curiosity to experience what it was like to be special and separate from Love (God) has placed us in a world that can be vicious at times. We’ve been terribly mistaken in our perception of reality. It turns out there is nothing to be afraid of here. Take note, it’s only the ego that’s afraid. We give up nothing in the process of awakening from anxiety to love. The only thing we lose is fear. As we begin to wake up, this extension of love happens more frequently, not less.
There is a positive payoff for every negative state. With extreme self-honesty and no judgment, write out any and every positive payoff to that behavior that you can think of. What do you get out of it? What is the benefit to you?
“Why are we here?” From the perspective of the ego, we are here to forget who we really are. From the perspective of our Inner Therapist, we are here to remember who we truly are. Working with our Inner Therapist, we begin a gentle process of waking the sleeping part of our Child Mind to the awareness that it never left its Loving Source and that it is not happy being separate from our Source. We are also reassured that our Source isn’t mad at us, and we are not guilty. Although it may seem like there are a lot of worldly threats that we need to watch out for, we can wake up in an instant, because we have not left our Source.
• Two voices, two choices
The sane part of us is our Inner Therapist, who is the link back to remembering our Loving Source. The ego will try to keep you asleep but the Inner Therapist will help you wake up. Because the ego belief was made out of our feeling guilty for seemingly separating from our Source, it isn’t capable of satisfying us: it is only capable of delivering dissatisfaction. Anything the ego tells you that you need ultimately will not satisfy you. The ego is not the voice that wants to make you truly happy, ie. “Do you prefer that you be right or happy?” (ACIM T-29. VII. 1: 9).
How do I distinguish between the voice of the ego and the Voice of my Inner Therapist?” This takes practice. As long as you are willing to consistently turn to your Inner Therapist, you can be certain that any ego that is present will gently fall away as you are ready to let it go. The more you do this, the better you will become at distinguishing between these two voices. In my experience, the voice of the ego is any thought that is judgmental or fearful, or has a negative sense of urgency to it. The Voice of our Inner Therapist is very quiet —so quiet that it is easily drowned out by the endless distractions of the world. This Voice is a loving and gentle teacher that I experience not as words or sound, but as a feeling —a lightness at the core of my being.
To better attune to your inner voice ask, “Inner Therapist, please direct my attention to the place in my body where I can most easily attune myself to your guidance.”
Do we listen to the ego’s voice and choose to follow its incessant demand to react or attack? Or do we listen to the Inner Therapist’s Voice and choose to follow its quiet plan of healing and miracles? If we follow our Inner Therapist, we are choosing healing. If we follow the ego, we are choosing to be separate, willing ourselves to stay in madness.
• Mental illness, mental health
The ego, that popular idea of who I am, is actually an insane wish not to be as we are in Oneness. We’re “all mad here” because we identify ourselves as limited to a body and personality. We choose to block out Love and listen to the ego. If Love is the Source of our real being, and we’re actively blocking it, the result is that “you always attack yourself first” (ACIM T-10. II. 4: 5). If you’re attacking yourself like this —and you’re not even aware of doing so —how can you possibly be at peace? Do these feelings of anxiety scare me? If they do, it’s a sign that the ego is freaking out because you are perceiving its unreality. It doesn’t like that! We must be gentle with ourselves and allow ourselves to be exactly where we are. We need to treat ourselves with kindness and self-acceptance in order to progress. Take this feeling to your Inner Therapist and ask for a different way of seeing what makes you fearful. Anxiety comes from our identification with the ego. The more I identify with the body, the more I think I am alone in this world.
There is a part of me that is whole, safe, and at complete peace. This part of me is my Self. As I come to know this Self, my anxiety has to fade. I do not judge myself for where I am. I do not feel guilty for identifying with my small self. But I am willing to learn that my happiness and my peace lie in my Self. Inner Therapist, show me the way.
Your Self does not know anxiety. Anxiety comes from trying to be something that we’re not. We’re not bodies, but we want to be bodies. Through our Inner Therapist work, this sleeping part of our Child Mind learns, one miracle at a time, that there is nothing to fear and no reason for guilt. Our Inner Therapist is teaching this frightened part of our mind that it is safe and loved —and that it is in fact part of Love itself. God’s Will and our will are identical, and God’s Will for us is “perfect happiness.” Fear is a shape-shifter, and until we heal the belief in separation that gives rise to all fear, that fear will be free to manifest itself as sickness, lack, loneliness, or conflict. Fixing is what most of us want, even if we usually call it healing. All we want is for the symptoms to go away: we don’t want to change anything beyond that. We want the pain to diminish, but we want to keep our world “real,” exactly as it is. We want to remain special and separate, but without any difficulties.
Part two – the ascent into peace
• Onions, fear and the recipe for healing
When our Child Mind had a temper tantrum in its desire for specialness and descended into fear, each step we took into fear was another cushion that muffled our awareness of Love. It is these layers of self that prevent us from knowing the peace of who we really are. Underneath all those layers, Love is always there. We are still covering Love with more muffling layers of self right now. We do it every time we let the ego be our guide (siding with wrong-mindedness). The Inner Therapist’s job is to help us heal our minds of the layers of fear that muffle the presence of Love. Our Inner Therapist has two jobs. One is to be in perfect communication with God; the other is to perceive what is of value in the dreams we are dreaming, which is Love. Whatever we feel and whatever we struggle with, our Inner Therapist has not forgotten that we are part of Love. The Inner Therapist overlooks the false emotion and reinforces only the truth, thereby cleaning up that bad egg to keep only the truth and love that it contains. What is false is simply not real: it is part of the dream. When we give our trouble to the Inner Therapist, we gain a miracle —that is, a shift in perception and a restored awareness of love. We step into right-mindedness. This is the recipe for inner peace. It will just patiently wait until we’re in such a mess that we finally ask for help. The Inner Therapist does not impose its will on us —ever. This is why we go through challenging times. They are opportunities to truly heal the mind of its layers of fear. No matter what it is, it is coming up because it is an opportunity to look at another layer of fear with your Inner Therapist and experience healing.
Mindfulness meditation is all about accepting the present moment without judgment, by sensing our breathing, sensing the body, becoming aware of sound, or becoming aware of a feeling of love. All these experiences occur only in the present moment. As we turn to our Inner Therapist more consistently, the entire day becomes a meditation, driven by the continual desire to know the truth of who we are. To clean up the layers of fear we’ve piled on top of our awareness of Love’s presence:
1. Be willing to see the problem differently.
2. Give it to your Inner Therapist and ask for the miracle.
3. Rest in trust that it is done.
• Five steps to handing it over
This chapter is about looking at the ego with our Inner Therapist.
Step 1: Find Your Willingness – Willingness is the key to happiness. It all starts with just a bit of openness to seeing things differently from how you currently see them. Ask yourself, Am I willing to see this differently? If the answer is yes, you’ve found your willingness. Touch that tiny bit of willingness, then offer it to the Inner Therapist.
Step 2: Commit to an Attitude of Radical Self-Honesty – We deny that we are made only of Love, then look to the world to fill the void we feel inside. We need to be completely and impeccably honest with ourselves and with our Inner Therapist if we’re serious about finding peace that lasts. The goal is not to stop having negative thoughts. It’s to have none that we would keep from sharing with our Inner Therapist. If you feel anything but pure joy, the ego is at the wheel, driving your car. Be willing to hide nothing from your Inner Therapist. Honesty undoes anxiety.
Step 3: Look Directly at What Is Coming Up for You – Don’t shy away from anything. Turn toward the pain and discomfort, and imagine your Inner Therapist right beside you. Say, “Inner Therapist, I am willing to look at this fear with you in order to allow it to be undone. I do not want to keep it hidden. Every time we catch a fleeting sense of fear and bring it to the light of Love, we are working to undo every false perception in our mind and to remember who we truly are.
Step 4: Acknowledge That the Fear Is Coming from Your Split Mind – If we follow the ego, we become willing participants in its endless and painful roller-coaster ride. God is not separate from you, and all pain and fear is the result of a split mind. Everything that seemingly happens to you can be an opportunity to wake up, as each situation is repurposed by your Inner Therapist to provide you with a miracle instead of a grievance. The ego is only a mistaken belief. It has no power to hurt me.
Step 5: Give It to Your Inner Therapist and Ask for a Miracle Instead – Now you can give everything to your Inner Therapist so that it can be transformed. Now your Inner Therapist can do its job: exchanging false perceptions for true perceptions. This shift in perception is a miracle. Those miraculous thoughts of Love are already in your mind, waiting to be expressed through you.
• Five steps to strengthening your choice
Step 6: Acknowledge Your Unwillingness to Heal, and Look at That with Your Inner Therapist, Too – we need only a tiny bit of willingness in order for a miracle —a shift in perception —to occur. If you feel any degree of struggle, acknowledge it as an unwillingness to heal. Say, “This is where I’m unwilling to heal. Here you go, Inner Therapist!” Keep at it.
Step 7: Recognize That It Is Done, and There Is Nothing to Fear – Now comes the time to steadfastly dig in your heels and refuse to allow your mind to ruminate on the situation. You’ve handed it over, and it’s time to release it.
Step 8: Show Up for Therapy with Your Inner Therapist Daily – It is a declaration to yourself that you are worthy of love.
Step 9: Recognize Unconscious Fear and Guilt as They Arise – If I focus on fear, my awareness of it grows. If I focus on Love, my awareness of it grows.
Step 10: Don’t Fight Yourself: Be a Happy Learner – allow yourself to be exactly where you are. Don’t think the other needs to be ‘fixed.’ If you find yourself thinking that you should be further along on your journey or more spiritually advanced than you are, know that is the voice of the ego. Take it to your Inner Therapist.
• Peace-Inducing Perception Shifts: Five Things to Think
Shift 1: This Is Happening Because It Is an Opportunity for Me to Grow – Acknowledge this opportunity. Will I go through fear to love? Yes, I will. I am not going crazy, I am learning to become more sane.
Shift 2: I Am Not a Body – You are not [your name here]. Shifting from anxiety to love is about coming to know your true identity, which is not based in a body. You are not your personality. You are not your self-concept. You are not this clay garment. All these identities derive from the ego. All our problems stem from a bad case of mistaken identity —a “great amnesia.”
Shift 3: The Ego Has the Issues, Not Me! – I’m learning how to let go of my identity as Corinne and wake up to the truth of who I am.
Shift 4: Sickness Is of the Mind, Not the Body – Wanting to be a separate self means that we choose to perceive ourselves outside our natural state of Oneness. Our collective choice to side with the ego makes us vulnerable to sickness; our choice to turn all our perceptions and beliefs over to the Inner Therapist leads to healing the mind.
Shift 5: Sickness Is a Defense against the Truth – Pain consumes our attention. Yet there is nothing stronger than Love.
• Peace-Inducing Perception Shifts: Five More Things to Think
Changing the way you see things is a miracle, because it changes what you see in the world as well as how you’re seeing it. It is our decision to allow fear to be undone in our mind in order to remember our Oneness with our Loving Source and with one another.
Shift 6: The Ego Has No Power over Me – fearing the ego is fueling the ego. By fearing the ego’s tantrums, we give it power and make it seem more real. We become “invulnerable” when we do not protect the ego. I am safe because I choose to not protect the ego.
Shift 7: I Don’t Have to Master My Anxiety or Fears: I Can Find Peace by Mastering Love – Because we have made our own fear, we have to be willing to bring it to the light of Love to be undone. Fear is only a construct of the ego, and it is unknown by God. Inner Therapist, I give you: My spouse, my body, my health, my family, my house, my car, my money, etc.
Shift 8: I Don’t Know What Is Best for Me, and I Don’t Know What Makes Me Happy
Shift 9: I Am Willing to Release Everything – True forgiveness is about seeing what is true within another person, which is Love, and nothing else. “Let miracles replace all grievances.”
Shift 10: I Am Willing to Not Believe the Picture and to Find My “Rock” of a New Reality
Part three: Putting it all together
• Miracles in action
When you experience fear in any form, remember that it is because you are misperceiving and seeing through the lens of the ego rather than with the vision of your Inner Therapist. Remember that the body’s eyes report only separation to you. Miracles restore our perception from wrong-mindedness to right-mindedness. Ask your Inner Therapist for a miracle instead. Be willing to focus on love and to get quiet. Extreme suffering brings you to your knees, and this is a great time to start letting go. Being in a state of relinquishment is actually a good place to be. If you’re stuck in panic mode, let the anxiety crack you open to release even more to your Inner Therapist than you thought you could. In relinquishing a thought system that doesn’t work and exchanging it for a new thought system of peace, all you have to lose is fear. The light in you is too bright to fail.
Review the mind-straightening mantras or perception shifts that give you hope that you will make it through this. See if you can work on accepting (or at least acknowledging) that anxiety is happening right now. Look at what is arising inside you with your Inner Therapist, even if it is only for a moment. If I am experiencing lack of peace in any form, I am simply misperceiving, that is all. I am not going crazy; I am learning to become more sane. Trust that things will shift when they are ready to shift, or that your next step to take will be made clear.
• More miracles in action
The goal of healing is always the same: to remember the truth about ourselves. It has never changed: we just haven’t accepted it yet. We feel anxious being with others because we wholeheartedly believe they are separate from us, have the power to make us feel excluded, and are capable of hurting us with their judgment. I am holding them to their ego identities, and I’m holding to my own ego identity. If you’re siding with the ego, self-consciousness feels strong. If you’re siding with your Inner Therapist (and therefore are conscious of your Self), you feel peace. Love is incapable of attacking or being attacked. So be willing to look at each judgment, with your Inner Therapist in order to release these beliefs. Slowly look at each thought and say, “Inner Therapist, I’m willing to bring this to the light to be healed. Please look at it with me.” It is also important to recognize your true worth if you are struggling with feelings of inadequacy. Your worth is not established by teaching or learning. Your worth is established by God. If you feel discomfort in any form, it means that you are simply misperceiving. It becomes an opportunity to look with your Inner Therapist at what is coming up, and ask for it to be exchanged for the miracle instead. Remember you cannot be rejected. Your Inner Therapist and Love itself will never leave you. As you come to know this truth, fears of rejection fade, and you become comfortable with who you are. Noting the fear, say to your Inner Therapist, “I am willing to see this social situation differently. I am willing to see that they are not making me anxious, but that the ego is just telling me they are separate from me.” Imagine giving your fear to your Inner Therapist, and say, “I want a miracle instead.” Whatever the form of the fear, know that it is just the ego offering you a “gift” of anxiety, hoping you will stay identified with your small self. As you feel the truth of these words, place your thumb, index finger, and middle finger together. This is a reminder in the form of physical touch that you can use whenever you begin to feel anxious.
The ego in you can only join with the ego in another. But when you are willing to side with your Inner Therapist, the Love in you joins with the Love in another, and you are both healed as a result. This reinforces your experiential knowing that your Inner Therapist is really there, and that you and the other person are not bodies. I can be most helpful if I am willing to see the truth in another, rather than siding with fear. He or she is already perfect. When another person triggers a grievance in you, it is a chance to look at what it is bringing up in your mind. “I don’t have to trust her at all: I trust the Inner Therapist within her.” Every time I felt the fear of sickness arise and the strong pull to believe in it, I turned to my Inner Therapist, asking to be taught about the unimportance of the body. The Course promises, “I can be entrusted with your body and your ego only because this enables you not to be concerned with them, and lets me teach you their unimportance.”
Work with the spikes of fear rather than running away from them.
Step 1. Every moment when any fear arises, be willing to look at that fear with the Inner Therapist rather than turning away from it or minimizing it.
Step 2. Clean up shop, and toss everything into your Inner Therapist’s hands.
Step 3. Seek a moment of quiet.
By handing over my fixed false perceptions to my Inner Therapist, I started to experience small glimpses of pure joy and a feeling that nothing could hurt me. All fear is the same. It takes countless different forms, but it stems from our desire to be an independent golden goose, separate from God, ruler of our own little universe. When we realize that we’re completely and utterly dependent on our Inner Therapist, the Holy Spirit, that’s when we recognize that we have a power within us that far exceeds anything that could be given us in this world. The process of healing can be boiled down to one simple statement: withhold nothing from your Inner Therapist. This process takes extreme patience. Reorienting your mind toward Love rather than ego is difficult.
Meditation: Willingness – Presence – Wellness