Best Viewed in Landscape
In November 2010, Dr. Kenneth Wapnick presented a program at the Foundation highlighting the process of forgiveness that enables us to harmonize our words and thoughts, ending the guilt-reinforcing conflict that keeps us imprisoned in the thought system of separation, specialness, and attack. Below is a write-in question asked during this program. We have printed a partial answer to the question in this email, and the remainder of the answer can be viewed on our website, both of which have been lightly edited.
Excerpted Question on Burnout
from Words and Thoughts
Kenneth Wapnick, Ph.D.
Q: “Yesterday you said something about being filled with light and to the point of forgetting about yourself and just thinking of others. How do you apply that to someone who has addictions and anger, who I feel I have given, and given, and given over 22 years and is not enough? I feel drained and can’t give anymore. Can you explain that and is it two different levels?”
Kenneth: My answer to the second part is the answer to the first part—how you kind of realize that you are filled with light and you no longer think about yourself. If you have the feeling of being drained because you’re always giving and giving and giving—which is a very common experience, whether you’re living with someone, whether you’re a teacher, whether you’re a therapist and you feel drained at the end of the day or you get burned out after two years of doing something like that—it’s always because you are the one who’s giving, and when you are the one who’s giving, obviously you are going to be depleted.
When you have the experience, which is where this course will lead you, that the giving is done through you, there’s no effort. Then how could you be drained? You can’t be drained of love; love is ongoing. You can only be drained when you feel you’re the one who’s giving, and that can only be the case when you feel your giving has to have a result; that you’re giving and you want something back in return. In a sense, I’m giving to you; now you have to fill me up again. You think about it almost quantitatively: I’m giving of myself, and since it’s one or the other in the ego’s system, I’m emptying myself and giving it to you and that leaves me with nothing, and therefore I have to get something back from you, and if I don’t get it back from you, there’s nothing here and then I feel sacrificial; I feel resentful; I’m always giving; I get nothing in return. That’s the situation of the person who asked about this, but it’s the situation of most people.
One of the core themes of this course is that giving and receiving are the same: “All that I give is given to myself” as Lesson 126 states. That could only be when you’re right-minded, when you recognize that when you give you’re really reinforcing the love that’s in you. And if you reinforce the love that’s in you that’s what you’re going to receive because that’s what you’ve chosen to have your reality be.
Another lesson (108) is: “To give and to receive [is] one in truth.” If there’s no one out there—which is always where you have to come back to in terms of understanding how this whole process works and what the Course means—if there’s no one out there, then who can I give to? I can only give to myself, and if I feel that my giving needs an effect—someone has to be helped by me—then it’s obviously my ego giving. It’s what the Course refers to as “giving to get,” which is what special relationships are: I give love so that I will receive love. I’m very kind and helpful to my patients because I expect to be appreciated and I expect that people will feel grateful. I expect that people will get better. There’s always a hook in there. There’s always a condition. That’s not giving; that would be what The Song of Prayer would call giving-to-destroy.
When you’re truly giving, it doesn’t matter whether the person changes or not, because what giving really means in the Course is undoing the blocks within you that would interfere with the free flow of love that’s in everyone’s right mind. That’s what anything positive in this course is: undoing the blocks within ourselves.
Most of you will recall that the introduction to the text says, “[This] course does not aim at teaching the meaning of love, [because that cannot] be taught. It does aim, however, at removing the blocks to the awareness of love’s presence.” Those blocks are all the different forms of special relationships that are projections of our guilt, and forgiveness is what undoes the guilt.
Remember what I’ve been saying: whatever is in the split mind will automatically come out. If it’s wrong-minded guilt we call it projection; if it’s right-minded forgiveness and love we call it extension, but it’s the natural state of the split mind that the contents of the mind will always find its way out. Well again, from the right-minded point of view, when you undo the blocks, the love in you just flows out. So you’re not the one who’s giving; it’s the love giving through you. There’s no sense of “I” who’s giving, which means there’s no sacrifice, there’s no resentment, there’s no excitement, there’s no fatigue, there’s no stress because you’ve gotten yourself out of the way. Again, it’s not that “I” am giving; there is no “I” that can give. In that holy instant I have undone the “I” and the love just flows through me.
There’s an idea in the Course, and it occurs throughout, but there are three very specific references that talk about the miracle (M-18.4:5), forgiveness (T-25.IX.9:6), and holiness (T-15.III.3:1) and, while the passages are different, it’s the exact same idea, and it says choosing the miracle (or forgiveness or holiness) is your responsibility. How this extends through you is not. So the miracle and forgiveness are correctives. They’re not anything positive; they undo. Let me read you a line right at the beginning of Chapter 28 in the text: Here’s paragraph 1: “The miracle does nothing. All it does is to undo. [In other words, it removes the blocks; removes the ego.] And thus it cancels out the interference to what has been done [which is our choice for the ego]. It does not add [I mean, it doesn’t do anything positive], [but] merely takes away. And what it takes away is long since gone.…"
So our job is to choose to be healed. Our job is to choose through our looking without judgment at undoing our ego. Once we do that, how that miracle, how that forgiveness, how that healing, how that holiness extends through us is not our concern. So there’s no sense of an “I” at that point.
Therefore, if you’re living with someone who’s an alcoholic and you feel you’re always giving, giving, giving you’re just as addicted as he is; just a different form of addiction. So I’m assuming this is your husband; it may not be; may be a child, whoever it is, is addicted to alcohol or drugs; you’re addicted to sacrifice because you think you’re giving, and your ego has set this up so that you will feel sacrificial and you will feel resentful; you will feel burnt out; and you will feel drained. There’s no love in any of this, because you’ve been giving to get.
When you let go of your addiction to sacrifice then all that’s left is that love, and that love is what gives, and it would give for 22 years; it would give for 44 years, or 222 years, or 222 lifetimes. It won’t make any difference, because in that holy instant there is no one out there.
Another line I frequently quote says, “At no single instant does the body exist at all” (T-18.VII.3:1). Translated into simple English it means in the holy instant there is no body. The holy instant is when we choose the Holy Spirit as our Teacher and the Atonement principle as our Guide. The Atonement principle says there’s no separation. If there’s no separation there’s no sin; if there’s no sin there’s no projection of sin; if there’s no projection of sin there is no world and there is no body. So in the holy instant there’s no one out there. Your eyes may see people out there but in your experience there’s only the love within you.
“At no single instant does the body exist at all,” and therefore there’s no one to whom I am giving. There’s no one out there that I want to feel grateful or to be appreciative, or to get better, or to give up alcoholism. All that I’m aware of is I’m now identifying with that loving presence that we would call Jesus or the Holy Spirit in our right minds, and it’s Their love that extends through us. We’re not in the equation anymore. What that love says, what that love does, what that love effects out there is not our concern. If it becomes our concern then we’re right back in the ego and we’re addicted to the ego again, addicted to sacrifice and specialness. That’s how you remember that there’s light in you. The workbook says there’s a light in you this world cannot give, but you can give it as it was given you. It was given you by God when He created you. That’s the light of Christ, and within the dream it’s reflected as what the Course calls a “little spark,” and each of us has that spark, which is a reflection of the Great Ray, which would be Christ. And we can give that light by letting it come through us, but I’m not the one who gives it.
And that light as it comes through me—remember yesterday I read from the text that, “The value of the Atonement does not lie in the [form] in which it is expressed” (T-2.IV.5:1-3). That love will take form in whatever way will be helpful and I, as a person, am not involved anymore and, again, you know you’re doing it right when you have no investment in the outcome and there’s no sense of effort. There’s no strain, there’s no stress, there’s no expectation, there’s no fatigue; it just comes through you. And whether the person receives your love or not is not your concern.
Can you imagine what a mess Jesus would be if he cared what happened to his course? [Laughter] Think about that. Imagine what a mess Jesus would be if he cared what happened with the people who taught what he taught 2100 years ago? You just be that presence of love, and what happens after that is irrelevant to you, and if it’s not irrelevant to you then you know you’ve turned away from love into the arms of special love, and special love is always concerned with outcome. It’s concerned with form. It’s concerned with words and not the loving thought that underlies the words.
Okay, so again the answer is to keep giving, but not in the spirit of sacrifice, and giving, by the way, does not always mean you do what the other person wants. Remember again what we discussed, when the Course says to do something outrageous, it doesn’t mean to do something that will hurt you or the other person (T-12.III.4); that’s not helpful.
So this whole concept is really important and, again, it is the difference between words and thoughts, between form and content. It’s not what you do that’s important; it’s whom you do it with; whether you do it with the Holy Spirit or you do it with the ego; that’s what’s important. And if you do it with the Holy Spirit or with Jesus, again, it doesn’t matter what you do. That was what’s in back of what I said earlier in the week, that you could stand up here as a teacher of the Course and read the phone book and communicate its message if you do it defenselessly and with love. It doesn’t matter what you say or what you do. What teaches is not what you say.
I sometimes say, which I think is probably the experience of everyone, if you think back over your early years in school—in grade school—and you think back to your teachers, what you remember are those teachers who were kind and those teachers who were abusive. You don’t remember (I think)—or it’s rare that you remember—what they actually taught you, but you do remember how they were with you, or with other students. Those who were tyrants, who were abusive, whom you were terrified of, and those who were really kind, that’s what you remember; you remember the content, not what they taught you. It’s the same idea that’s in back of that line—I think I mentioned this also earlier in the week—in the psychotherapy pamphlet, where it says healing occurs when the therapist forgets to judge his patient (P-3.II.6:1). It says nothing about technique; it says nothing about brilliant insights. Healing occurs when the therapist forgets to judge his patient. That’s the holy instant, and since minds are joined the patient is healed.
Now this doesn’t make sense in a two plus two equal four world. It does make sense when you realize two and two is five. Healing occurs on the level of the mind because everything is on the level of the mind because there is nothing out here. So again, you always have to come back to the underlying metaphysics. There’s nothing out here. Healing occurs in my mind. So you could minister to your spouse, who’s an alcoholic for 22 years and he’s healed. He’s healed in the moment you don’t judge him. He’s healed in the moment you don’t judge him. He’s healed in the moment you don’t let his ego affect you. He’s healed in the moment you don’t let his addiction take away the love and the peace that’s in your mind, because then you’re saying, “His seeming sin has no effect on me. My love for you, my peace is totally unaffected by your drinking, or your giving up drinking.” That is remarkably freeing for you and it’s remarkably healing for the other person, because at that moment you are not seeing yourself as separate from that person, and if you’re not separate the ego lied. That disproves the ego thought system.