Applying ACIM Practices At Work

by Bret

Several months ago I started in a new job as an outreach support worker for clients with mental illness"challenging to say the least. I found myself working in a small team that was disgruntled by the apparent ineptitude of our immediate superior and also by the clutch of defensive and offensive tactics he used to exert his influence over the team. It was also his role to provide supervision, and he proved to be sisgnificantly inexperienced in that role. The situation was unusual in the sense that the two levels of management above the outreach team had less experience in working with mental health than did the members of the team.

So I found myself in a stressful situation i.e. in a new position in a dissatisfied team, working with a particularly difficult client group while guarding against the machinations of a manager determined to prove he was in charge. I slipped into playing a defensive role against my manager's attempts to gain my attention and dictate the way in which I should perform my duties, and at the same time felt resentful that instead of providing me with useful and supportive supervision my manager was actually adding to my workload and stress level by his attempts to gain my attention, invade my workspace and dictate how I should do my job.

The other great stress was that I knew I was not relating to the manager in accordance with the principles of ACIM, in which I strongly believe. I was seeing myself as vulnerable, and I was seeing the manager as attacking me, which made it difficult to see the Christ in him, for I felt that if I relaxed for a moment he was going to eat me alive. I knew I was coming from the ego, but wasn't sure how to make the shift to operating from the Spirit. To just let the manager have his own way would be to lose my own integrity " after all, I too, am the Christ " and would also be giving him the message that his working from the ego could give him the success he was after. A lose lose situation. I guess that's a typical ego based situation.

I made the shift to Spirit by refiguring the equation in two main ways. Instead of seeing myself as a victim of an inept manager I started to see myself as a Son of God, the Christ, as my real Self. This involved trusting my own inner voice when making decisions about how to work with clients, and also letting that voice direct me to where I should go for further advice when necessary. I often wake at three or four in the morning thinking about specific clients. My practice is to hand each one over to my Self, listen for an answer on what to do re. the client and then record the answer in writing the answer and leave it by the bed to take to work in the morning. I realised that much, if not all, of my resentment towards my manager came from my view of myself as weak, vulneralbe, and relient upon him for help that which he was possibly incapable of delivering for reason I knew not of.

The second shift involved ceasing to see the manager as someone intent on controlling me and seeing him as someone who was trying desperately to stay in control of a situation that he felt he needed to be seen to be managing. I did two things here; instead of defending myself I spoke directly and civilly to the manager when I felt he was out of line e.g. invading my work space or expecting me to adopt practices that I knew would not work with a particular client, while at the same time taking care to explain to him, in some instances, what I was doing with some clients, and why. I figured this would check his ego based power plays around the office while at the same time give him enough information to reduce his anxiety about not knowing what I was doing. As I proceeded down these lines I found that, lo and behold, the manage sometimes had something to say that was useful. Surprise, surprise.

I was surprised by the resistance I felt toward initiating this process and by the strength of the desire to prove to myself that I was right in any given circumstance, and that my manager was wrong. Surprised because I have been a student of the Course for some decades and felt I should have mastered all that stuff. I was also aware that my manager in some respects reminded me of the relationship I had with my father, and I knew, at a level that I was not keen to acknowledge, that my manager was really offering me an opportunity to finish off the work I needed to do in relation to my deceased father. Work that I believe relates to past lives. I guess wherever I am is exactly the right place for me to be. Not always easy to see at the time,though.

Anyway, if you're willing to read a little more I'll tell you that the manager and I are never going to be 'buddies' for we have very little in common, but we have both developed a new-found respect for each other. I don't think forgiveness means we have to love others, we just have to accept them and not blame them for our so called problems. Team spirit has lifted, and not only that, BUT, I am impressed with the realisation that judgement and blame and ego fights generally are like trench warfare " no-one really makes any progress. It just goes on and on forever. However, as you move out of ego warfare and let the spirit lead, new opportunities and possibilities present themselves. This in itself is a challenge; all change requires a movement through the curtain of fear, at least at the level I'm working at. Sometimes it seems easier to deny the truth, blame someone else for our troubles, and stay in the trenches lobbing handgrenades at each other. But I guess the Course offers us a way to get out of the trench, cross no-mans land and have a chat to the guy in the opposing trench, who is really no happier in his trench than we were in ours. After all, happiness the responsibilty of a Son of God.


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