Question 47 from
The Most Commonly Asked Questions About 
A Course in Miracles

By Gloria and Kenneth Wapnick, Ph.D.


47) It seems as if things are becoming worse since I began working with A Course in Miracles.  Is this common? Am I doing something wrong?

While it is always difficult to respond to students' individual experiences without knowing much more about them, there are still some general observations we can make. It is indeed the case that with many students of A Course in Miracles, their work with it seems to intensify ego conflicts rather than alleviate them  In fact, what is often occurring is that ego thoughts which had been kept denied for so long are now being raised to awareness -- an example of the important Course principle of bringing illusion to the truth, or darkness to the light -- so that they can be looked at with Jesus or the Holy Spirit, and thus let go.   Since it is fear that keeps our guilt denied, raising this guilt to awareness -- always expressed in some aspect of specialness -- will inevitably lead to an experience of fear. This is what is meant by these two powerful statements in the text that specifically address this experience. The first relates to our choosing Jesus as our guide instead of the ego, and the ego's angry response to such perceived treachery:

Would you know the Will of God for you? Ask it of me who know it for you and you will find it. I will deny you nothing, as God denies me nothing. Ours is simply the journey back to God Who is our home. Whenever fear intrudes anywhere along the road to peace, it is because the ego has attempted to join the journey with us and cannot do so.  Sensing defeat and angered by it, the ego regards itself as rejected and becomes retaliative (T-8.V.5:1-6; italics Ours).
The second passage, from the section "The Two Evaluations," explains the ego's reaction when we choose the Holy Spirit's loving evaluation of ourselves, rather than the ego's unloving one:
You, then, have two conflicting evaluations of yourself in your mind, and they cannot both be true. You do not yet realize how completely different these evaluations are, because you do not understand how lofty the Holy Spirit's perception of you really is. He is not deceived by anything you do, because He never forgets what you are. The ego is deceived by everything you do, especially when you respond to the Holy Spirit, because at such times its confusion increases. The ego is, therefore, particularly likely to attack you when you react lovingly, because it has evaluated you as unloving and you are going against its judgment. The ego will attack your motives as soon as they become clearly out of accord with its perception of you.  This is when it will shift abruptly from suspiciousness to viciousness, since its uncertainty is increased (T-9.VII.4:1-7; italics ours).
Both of these passages must not be understood literally in the sense that the ego actually believes and feels these things that are attributed to it.  Jesus anthropomorphizes the ego in the Course so that it will be easier for his students to understand its dynamics. As he explains early in the text:
I have spoken of the ego as if it were a separate thing, acting on its own. This was necessary to persuade you that you can- not dismiss it lightly, and must realize how much of your thinking is ego-directed (T-4.VI.1:3-4).
The ego's "retaliation" and "viciousness" are simply metaphors to describe students' fear when confronted by the threat to their own special and individual identities. The loving presence of Jesus within our dream, reflecting the Holy Spirit's evaluation of us, represents the core of this threat to the ego's thought system. This fear is what leads to the defense of projection, which must take the form either of behaving or thinking viciously towards another (anger), or towards oneself (sickness). It is these "ego attacks" of anger or pain that lead to the perception and experience that "things are becoming worse."

In summary, then, we can frequently see that these difficult periods -- referred to in the manual for teachers as "periods of unsettling" -- can be "good signs"; i.e., that students are actually progressing in their journey of forgiveness with the Course. However, this by no means should be taken to mean that this is always the case. Students must learn to discern these "positive" signs from the "negative" ones where they may be plunging further into the ego's hell, and would then need some external help. Those students, in particular, who place themselves in the role of teacher or therapist of A Course in Miracles and have no training or supervised experience in these areas have to be vigilant against their own specialness needs interfering with the application of sound judgment in circumstances where another is in serious trouble and in deep need of help. Unfortunately, over a period of many years we have observed many painful and tragic consequences of untrained people serving as counselors and therapists for others who were in serious emotional difficulty. Their interventions sometimes exacerbated the problem rather than alleviating it, even to the point of precipitating breakdowns that required hospitalization.

Reproduced with the kind permission of Gloria and Kenneth
Wapnick and the Foundation for A Course in Miracles

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