Student: This is a question about coming to grips with the intensity of self-hatred and self-loathing. What is helpful when you are experiencing the intensity of that kind of ego attack? You realize that you’re doing it to yourself, and it becomes like a Catch-22 cyclic process where you know it intellectually and you intensely hate yourself for continually making the wrong choice to be here, knowing that it’s your choice to be here, and knowing there’s a part of you that doesn’t want to do that. It wants to wake up. What do you do that’s helpful when you’re there? In part of my mind I am saying: just look at it; you are afraid of love. I hear myself saying it and yet I’m intensely feeling this self-hatred, which is unbearable. I keep thinking how do you deal with it when you’re in it, you know you’re in it, and you can’t seem to get out of it? It’s like hanging on for dear life. Where can I get the help for the transition?
Kenneth: There’s no easy response or answer to this. What gets you through the searing self-hate and guilt is also understanding that it is not what it seems—at least beginning as an intellectual idea, at least knowing that your hatred of yourself is just as made up as your hatred of another person. And knowing that both comprise the double shield of oblivion, which conceals the love that is underneath. Knowing this, even if you are in the throes of a massive ego attack, at least helps you have that little smile kind of tucked away someplace that knows it is not what it seems. This is why an understanding of the Course’s theory is helpful, because it gives you a framework in which you can understand these kinds of reactions: that underlying all this hate and this holding onto grievances and feeling how you’ve been unfairly treated is an even more intense sense of hatred of yourself. But that also is made up.
Again, think of a double shield of oblivion: they are two parts of the same defensive system whose purpose is to keep you from choosing to really be at peace, because underlying the hate and the self-hate is this deep abiding sense of love and peace. Knowing this is what will get you through it. There’s no other way of doing it. You can deaden the pain. There are all kinds of things people do to deaden pain. But that does not let go of the pain. It ameliorates it in terms of feeling, but the pain is still there. It just gets masked over. What gets you past the pain is realizing that it’s a choice, just as your hate of someone else is a choice, then your hate of yourself is a choice, too. There is no shortcut.
The whole world was literally made to conceal this searing intensity of guilt. This is why so often people studying the Course say, my life was so much better before I got involved with this damn thing. What they don’t realize is that their life was always terrible, but they didn’t know it because the guilt was covered. And when you start unveiling the layers of the system—you peel away the ego’s thought system—at some point you get in touch with that self-hate and that is not fun. But it was always there. We just didn’t know it. But knowing it is what will eventually enable you to get through it. There is no other way of doing it except knowing that your guilt is a decision just as your anger is a decision.
(Excerpted from unpublished workshop conducted by Dr. Kenneth Wapnick, “I am at home. Fear is the stranger here.”)
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Foundation for A Course in Miracles