VIII. The Unbelievable Belief, P 2
2 The ego’s use of projection must be fully understood before the inevitable association between projection and anger can be finally undone. The ego always tries to preserve conflict. It is very ingenious in devising ways that seem to diminish conflict, because it does not want you to find conflict so intolerable that you will insist on giving it up. The ego therefore tries to persuade you that it can free you of conflict, lest you give the ego up and free yourself. Using its own warped version of the laws of God, the ego utilizes the power of the mind only to defeat the mind’s real purpose. It projects conflict from your mind to other minds, in an attempt to persuade you that you have gotten rid of the problem.
We can accept a lot of conflict, but there is a limit to how much conflict we are willing to endure. The ego’s plan to limit conflict, at least to reduce it to a level we are willing to tolerate, is to project the conflict from our mind to other minds. If you have been studying the Course for very long, you probably understand the idea of projection, though if you are like me, you may have been unwilling to acknowledge the frequency of this strategy in your own life.
I have been very vigilant for projection in my own mind for several years now, but I still catch myself doing it. I noticed recently that I was projecting my anxiety at work onto a co-worker. I noticed just a while back that I did this with family members. But it also occurs in little ways that I barely notice. I went to the road to get my trash can and noticed the garbage man had accidentally thrown away the lid along with the garbage. I felt angry with them knowing I would have one more thing to take care of Monday morning.
Why did I feel angry? I doubt that they tore off the lid and threw it into their truck on purpose. I am aware that I am never angry for the reason I think so I tried to do a little detective work on this. I felt angry. I felt angry at the garbage men because their carelessness was causing me to use my time to fix this problem. I don’t have enough time. I see the belief in lack is still in my mind. I am sick of that problem and sick of giving it to Spirit for healing only to take it back. It is the garbage man’s fault that I feel like this. The proof is clear; he was careless and now I am inconvenienced. Nice little mental trick.
What I noticed as I did this is that the closer I got to the real problem, the more intense the anger. It seemed like a minor annoyance, a bit of inconvenience, but there was intense rage behind the veil I drew over the situation. In asking the Holy Spirit to help me understand this better, I became aware of guilt. I want the garbage man to be guilty because I am damn sick of being the guilty one all the time. Thinking about it makes me grind my teeth and fight back tears. There is fear in there as well as guilt.
Well, there. That was a surprise. Who would have thought that such a minor incident could have been hiding all of that.
I love how Jesus inserts this really important sentence in the middle of the paragraph. He says this:
“The ego therefore tries to persuade you that it can free you of conflict, lest you give the ego up and free yourself.”
Lest I give up the ego and free myself. He says that so casually as if it was the easiest solution ever and I could just decide to give up the ego. I could just decide to free myself. I can stop fooling around with the ego half measures that are no longer working for me anyway, just go right to the heart of the matter, kick the ego out, and free myself. It sounds crazy. After all, I have been trying to do this for a long time. How could it be that easy? I don’t know, but would Jesus say it if he didn’t mean it? He said he would never ask me to do anything I could not do.
I am now very aware of when I project. I understand why I do it. After this mornings little exercise, I understand somewhat the depth of the anger, fear and guilt that is involved. I have even practiced withdrawing my projections and accepting full responsibility, and it didn’t destroy me. I know I want to be free, and Jesus says I can be, and apparently it is not all that hard. I just quit wasting time following ego strategies, give up the ego altogether and free myself.
I accept that, Jesus.