When have you felt most alone? An internet search shows it’s likely to have been while experiencing a bereavement/ going through a relationship breakup/retiring and losing the social contact you had at work/changing jobs and feeling isolated from your co-workers/ moving to a new area without family, friends or community networks. These particular periods of loneliness can leave us feeling so powerless and impoverished, they are exacerbated by these underlying experiences: history of trauma/poor parental attachment/fears of intimacy/trapped in a false narrative. Do any of these apply to you?
We’ll come back to these formative four experiences later on… In ordinary day-to-day situations, when do you most commonly feel alone? Maybe at a social gathering when your partner or friend knows everyone and you hardly know anyone, or during a quiet weekend when nothing much is going on, or at home, ‘in the same room and yet a world apart’. Can there be any of us who haven’t experienced acute, sporadic or chronic loneliness? And yet A Course in Miracles teaches that we are never alone, and there is never any cause for loneliness. There is no contradiction here because the ‘I’ who experiences loneliness isn’t the ‘I’ that ACIM says is never alone. We could view forgiveness as a shift between these two identities: the healing journey from loneliness to total communication.
Let’s look at some excerpts from “The Two Emotions” (T-13.5), which describe so clearly the source of our loneliness and how to experience that we are never alone. This section begins with a chilling look at our insanity and culminates in a sublime presentation of forgiveness. It is absolutely worthy of our deep consideration.
“The content of individual illusions differs greatly… They are made of sights that are not seen, and sounds that cannot be heard. They make up a private world that cannot be shared… In this world their maker moves alone, for only he perceives them”. (T.13.5.1:4,6,7,9)
We start with a bombshell teaching: an external world, in which we go about our daily lives and meet with others, just isn’t there! The world isn’t there and the others aren’t there! Our private imagination dreams of these happenings and relationships, but they are all ‘much ado about nothing’. No one can join us in personal illusions, even in dreams of ‘happy families’, ‘spiritual community’ or ‘a wide circle of friends’. Shall we take a few minutes now to contemplate that we ‘move alone’ in our personal lives?
“You communicate with no one, and you are as isolated from reality as if you were alone in all the universe. In your madness you overlook reality completely, and you see only your own split mind everywhere you look.” (T13.5.6:4,5)
Even on a good day, when we, the person, feel reasonably connected with the people around us, or deeply connected with a friend or partner, this is only the ‘high’ in our rollercoaster addiction ride of special relationships. For every illusory high of connection there is an illusory low of loneliness… Yes, we bring in specialness here, and a quote from another part of the Text: “The ego’s goal is quite explicitly ego autonomy. From the beginning, then, its purpose is to be separate, sufficient unto itself and independent of any power except its own. This is why it is the symbol of separation.” (T11.5.4:4-6)
The individual self is completely fixated on separation to maintain its identity, and so all forms of physical joining/togetherness/ sharing are but disguised mind choices to be alone. Similarly, all forms of sickness, suffering, deprivation and conflict are also choices to be alone, deliberately made by the split mind. Shall we take a few minutes now to contemplate what choices our mind is making to be alone? Maybe we’ll see something we’ve not recognised before.
I’d like to offer a couple of experiences I’ve had of being lonely, and give a behind the scenes view of what was going on in my mind. And then we’ll go to healing. Starting school at the physical level: a few weeks earlier than the first big day my mum was taken into hospital with pregnancy complications. This happened on holiday, so the hospital was miles from where we lived. Having been with my mum every single day up to this point, for her to drop out of my universe for 6 weeks was shattering. For this very shy child – never having been to nursery/play group/a child minder – to step into school life on such a shaken foundation was terrifying. It was excruciating to be in a playground full of boisterous children and not know how to relate to any of them. I felt so alone.
Starting school at the mind level: my mum disappearing is a replay of the original separation experience of God disappearing. The replay casts me as the innocent victim in the mind’s attempt to dissociate from the guilt of leaving God. Starting school on a shaken foundation is a reflection of setting off into egoland without my Creator. Indeed, terrifying! The scary school children who all seem to reject me are projections of my rejection of God and our true shared Identity. My mind dreamed the whole scenario, too fearful to see the trauma within itself.
Being ill at the physical level: lying flat out in bed, unable to see or speak or hardly move, alone in the house, with carers coming in for 4 brief calls a day, for a long period of time. Being ill at the mind level: a really clear image of “a nightmare of abandonment by an Eternal Love” and “a dream of fierce retaliation for a crime that could not be committed” (W-190). The experience is a projection of savage self attack brought on by crippling guilt in the mind. The mind is choosing a physical spiral into desolation and death to avoid acknowledging that the choice for the ego is a descent into oblivion.
In gratitude, let’s go back to ‘The Two Emotions’ and the Course’s merciful teaching:
“It is given you to learn how to deny insanity, and come forth from your private world in peace. You will see all that you denied in your brothers because you denied it in yourself.” (T-13.5.7:7,8)
A trumpet call for forgiveness… when we open to Spirit and see with fresh eyes, we realise that the awfulness outside is simply a picture of the perceived awfulness inside. The loneliness of the person is a projection of the loneliness of the mind that is rejecting its Creator. As we withdraw these projections, and no longer deny the innocence of our brothers or ourselves, we recognise that there is no journey but “to walk with Christ”. In my second example, the lying down phase came to an end when I forgave my father after 50 years of hating him. I got to see how incredibly lonely I’d felt by excluding him from my love.
“The Holy Spirit is the light in which Christ stands revealed. And all who would behold Him can see Him, for they have asked for light. Nor will they see Him alone, for He is no more alone than they are.” (T-13.5.11:1-3)
We can’t possibly feel alone when we have opened our minds to the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is in all minds, so we are opening a complete communication channel to all.
Let’s return to the formative four experiences mentioned near the beginning of this article: history of trauma/poor parental attachment/fears of intimacy/ trapped in a false narrative. These four loneliness inducing conditions describe the ego experience perfectly!
History of trauma – the individual self was born of the traumatic decision to separate from God and that trauma is reflected in every aspect of our personal lives.
Poor parental attachment – poor God attachment! Need we say more?
Fears of intimacy – the only real intimacy is at the mind level, with God and as Christ. We are indeed fearful of this because it denies the existence of our physical self.
Trapped in a false narrative – was there ever a better description of running the ego thought system in our minds? We live in fantasy and deny all power to remember the truth.
This ‘formative four’ give a powerful focus for our healing work. In recognising these conditions as the intrinsic basis for our separate self, and not just misfortune that can befall some, we can become motivated to release our self-imposed and insane sense of isolation and choose instead loving communion with our Creator and all brothers in Christ.
“Think of the loveliness that you will see, who walk with Him! And how beautiful will you and your brother look to the other! How happy you will be to be together, after such a long and lonely journey where you walked alone.” (T-22.4.4:1-3)
Let’s close with some beautiful support from Jesus. Joining minds with Jesus has been my practice since the early days of studying ACIM, and indeed I have never felt alone since then:
“I am come as a light into a world that does deny itself everything. It does this simply by dissociating itself from everything. It is therefore an illusion of isolation… If I am with you in the loneliness of the world, the loneliness is gone. You cannot maintain the illusion of loneliness if you are not alone.” (T-8.4.2:1-3,6,7)