I was working with a couple yesterday who I will call Ted and Lea for the purposes of this article. Ted genuinely wanted to find a way to face angry criticism from Lea without reacting to what feels to him like a personal attack. He wants to be there for her, to respect and care about her feelings, even when they are ostensibly about him. A tall order to be sure and one that requires more than a mere behavioral change to pull off successfully.
In a recent class at the Foundation for a Course in Miracles (facim.org) my teacher, Dr. Kenneth Wapnick, said that “You cannot judge someone when you understand them.” Ted would be wise to beware of interpreting Lea’s motives, for he is seeing through his own filters that are most likely seeking to justify the reaction that he is already experiencing. However, if Ted simply notices his reaction to Lea’s criticism as his reaction, rather than imagining that he knows what is really going on with her, he has a better chance of staying open and feeling compassion for her.
A Course in Miracles says that “Every loving thought is true. Everything else is an appeal for healing and help regardless of the form it takes.”
(T-12.I.3:4&5). This means that every thought that does not come from a loving place is a call for help, which includes Ted’s defensiveness as well as Lea’s complaint. If you look deeply into every thought that is not from love, you will find that it comes from some form of fear. The thought that gave rise to Lea’s attack or Ted’s defensiveness in the first place is actually a thought of fear masquerading as anger, blame or whatever.
If loving thoughts are the only true thoughts, it follows that every other thought is false. A Course in Miracles goes on to say that “…if you see attack as the call for help that it is, the unreality of fear must dawn on you. For fear is a call for love, in unconscious recognition of what has been denied.” (T.I.8:12 & 13). Love has been denied.
When Ted reacts to Lea’s upset with defensiveness, he is reinforcing both of their fears that seem to have temporarily obscured love. They have forgotten who they really are, beings of love, and have become caught up in the painful attack/defense cycle. They are digging ever more deeply into their fears in a vain attempt to find love there.
If Ted can learn to simply notice, without judgment of any kind, that his own fear has gotten triggered, he can then manage his reactions instead of being swept away by them. This pause in the action creates the possibility of making a different choice. It would be a good time to ask a power greater than his own self to “Please help me see this differently.”
Just in the asking, Ted has made a decision for love instead of for fear and he will be able to respond to Lea with kindness. That kindness could look like just listening, offering understanding, asking how to help — whatever would be responding to her call for love rather than to her upset.
There’s an old saying that only one person gets to go crazy at a time and whoever gets there first has dibs! When either Lea or Ted chooses love instead of fear, they both have the opportunity to see the unreality of their fears as they dissolve in the face of love. A potential descent into the attack/defense cycle has not only been averted, but translated to love, the only thing that was ever true.
And better yet, Ted and Lea’s relationship has now become an opportunity to practice transforming fear into love. This practice will eventually generalize to disarming fears in all areas of their lives. “The veil that you have drawn across the face of love has disappeared.” (A Course in Miracles, T.I.9:11).
Who wouldn’t want that?!