What I see is a form of vengeance.
Today’s idea accurately describes the way anyone who holds attack thoughts in his mind must see the world. Having projected his anger onto the world, he sees vengeance about to strike at him. His own attack is thus perceived as self defense. This becomes an increasingly vicious circle until he is willing to change how he sees. Otherwise, thoughts of attack and counter-attack will preoccupy him and people his entire world. What peace of mind is possible to him then?
It is from this savage fantasy that you want to escape. Is it not joyous news to hear that it is not real? Is it not a happy discovery to find that you can escape? You made what you would destroy; everything that you hate and would attack and kill. All that you fear does not exist.
Look at the world about you at least five times today, for at least a minute each time. As your eyes move slowly from one object to another, from one body to another, say to yourself:
I see only the perishable.
I see nothing that will last.
What I see is not real.
What I see is a form of vengeance.
At the end of each practice period, ask yourself:
Is this the world I really want to see?
The answer is surely obvious.
This lesson describes the horrific cycle of attack and defend and how it perpetuates the illusion. If I hold attack thoughts in my mind, then I will perceive a world as attacking me. If I let attack thoughts just slide through my mind without giving them power through my belief in them, I will perceive the world differently.
I used to be very confused about how to perceive sickness. When I got sick enough that going to the doctor was necessary, I felt guilty, like I was betraying Jesus by not accepting healing of the body through mind healing. I felt like a failure. So when I did go to the doctor it was as if he were the symbol of my failure and so I did what humans tend to do, I projected my guilt onto him, and so attacked him. Mostly in my mind, but I did attack.
And, of course, I didn’t receive the help I went for, or if I did, I didn’t feel good about it. I often thought that he was not a good doctor, when all along, I was not a good patient. Later, I matured in my understanding of the Course and I no longer felt wrong for going to the doctor. I just thought of the doctor as my partner in the healing of this body. I worked on healing my mind and he worked on healing my body, and I accepted both healings to the degree I was able.
What happened is that I started finding my way to doctors that I liked and appreciated, doctors who seemed always to have my best interests at heart and appeared to be very competent at their jobs. All of this occurred because I made a decision to disrupt the cycle of attack and defend. I no longer had any desire to take vengeance on myself for “seemingly” betraying Jesus with my sick body, and so I no longer experienced vengeance from the medical community in the form of poor or mediocre doctors.
This is the way all attack thoughts work. If we believe we are being attacked and that attack in return is justified, our life becomes a war zone with no peace in sight. It happens in relationships in the same way. When I was married, I held my husband’s behavior against him and felt justified in defending myself.
The very fact that I thought I needed defense increased my belief in an unsafe relationship, and so, of course, I believed that more defense was needed. It was a crazy self-perpetuating cycle. Eventually, I had to ask for another way to see because even divorce did not relieve the distress. Deciding that I was done with vengeance and done with suffering, and deciding that I was willing to do whatever it took to be at peace is what broke that cycle.
What I think, I see
Here is how Regina starts her discourse on the cycle of seeing and believing.
It is simple: Mind decides an idea is valuable or meaningful, and through this decision that idea becomes manifest in some way. When it is manifest, it is experienced. If mind decides the experience has importance or meaning, it seems real. Once an idea is experienced as real, it is like a mesmerizing spell that mind ignorantly believes and the spell continues as real.
To wake up from this cycle, one must choose to step outside of the spell-continuance process. One may step out at the level of mental idea or one may step out at the level of manifest experience. Either way, the step out process is the same. One must see that the idea or experience is not meaningful. One must not give it value or importance. One must return to the constant spiritual practice of Self-inquiry and Self-watching.
Here is what I read in ACIM in Lesson 325. It is very similar, I think.
1 This is salvation’s keynote: What I see reflects a process in my mind, which starts with my idea of what I want. From there, the mind makes up an image of the thing the mind desires, judges valuable, and therefore seeks to find. These images are then projected outward, looked upon, esteemed as real and guarded as one’s own. …
The Fearful Mind is a Virtual Vengeance Machine
One night as I was getting ready for bed, I noticed that my ego mind was writing stories. I was having a conversation with the hotel clerk about some deficiencies in the room and I was defending my stance that I should have been given a better room. This imagined conversation was an example of the way attack thoughts in the mind are projected onto the world. There is actually nothing wrong with this room and there was not actually a conversation going on with a hotel clerk. The only thing happening is that I had anger in my mind and I was looking for somewhere to project it.
I stopped myself from continuing the imagined attack and defend conversation with the hotel clerk, but before you know it, I was having another made up moment in my mind, attacking someone else. As long as we have attack thoughts in our mind we will project anger onto the world and it will seem as if the world is taking vengeance on us. The fearful mind is a virtual vengeance machine, churning out attack and defense scenarios endlessly.
Sometimes the conversations are not just in my mind, of course. Sometimes I argue with someone out loud. Sometimes I hear words from another person and interpret them as an attack on me. I might feel justified in defending myself. In each case, there is another way to see these things. Even if the person intends to attack me, it is possible to see the attack as a call for love, that is, to see his words as his fearful thoughts being projected onto me.
Here is an example of how this occurs. I asked for more vacation time at work and I was surprised when my boss balked at the idea. Immediately, I was angry and my mind got busy justifying the way I felt. I have worked there for a long time and I have done a really good job for those guys. I never ask for anything. I always do whatever is asked of me. I work really hard.
I started thinking about how selfish and self-serving my boss is and how heartless the company is. I wished I could just walk away and see how they felt then. That I didn’t think I could afford to quit just made me angrier as I felt trapped in a situation I couldn’t change and I resented them even more. He cut off any discussion about it and that felt like a slap in the face. The more I thought about it the stronger my sense of justified indignation. It all seemed so unfair.
Jesus tells us to beware of the temptation to perceive ourselves as unfairly treated. No one is unfairly treated because we do this to ourselves. My attack thoughts are the source of the world I see. How can anything be anyone else’s fault, when the world I see is made by my thoughts? When I thought the cause of my upset was my boss’s unreasonable attitude, I was trapped by my own thoughts and emotions and there was nothing I could do about it, especially since there was zero chance of influencing the outcome. But when I took responsibility for the world I have made through my beliefs, I saw my way out.
Before I decided what to do about the situation, I had to first become clear in my own mind. I asked the Holy Spirit to help me see it differently. By this time, I was so invested in my anger that it took a while to get clarity. I first had to take responsibility for my own mind. Later in Lesson 152, we are going to learn that our life unfolds according to the decisions we make. It tells us this: “Nothing occurs but represents your wish, and nothing is omitted that you choose. Here is your world, complete in all details. Here is its whole reality for you. And it is only here salvation is.” Clearly, my problem begins with my thoughts and is solved by a change of thoughts.
I continued to allow my mind to be healed. If I attained the vacation days through manipulation of any kind, all I would have done was to have made a temporary change in the illusion. Nothing would have changed in reality. I would have left myself in a world of attack where someone wins only at the expense of someone else. I would be stuck in what feels like a vengeful world out to get me. I would continue to live in a constant state of dread, waiting for the other shoe to fall.
For a while longer I was still attached to the idea that this was about Myron’s story of vacation days. As I watched my thoughts and I noticed the desire to attack, I continued to believe I was unfairly treated. Eventually, the desire for peace brought me to the acceptance of the Atonement. In a way the whole thing was funny. I had always taken whatever vacation time I wanted. No one ever said no when I asked. Vacation time was never an issue except in my mind. This situation was a direct result of a conflicted mind projecting anger onto the world. It was my own savage fantasy and that is all it was.