How important is it to delve into my childhood in order to understand myself?

Q. I am beginning to feel that so many things about myself can be explained by what happened in my childhood. I don’t see where the Course talks about this, but I wonder if it is just assumed. The scribes were, after all, psychologists. My question, then, is: How important is it to delve into my childhood in order to understand myself?

A. This issue isn’t addressed in the Course, you are right. However, the author of the Course addressed it at some length with Helen Schucman and Bill Thetford. The first place was in guidance to Bill about his parents. (This is from the Urtext in the equivalent of what is now Chapter 3.) I’ll quote from it at length:

There is little doubt that you can explain your present attitudes in terms of how people used to look at you, but there is no wisdom in doing so. In fact, the whole historical approach [understanding a person based on past history] can justifiably be called doubtful.

As you have so often said, no one has adopted all of his parents’ attitudes as his own. In every case, there has been a long process of choice, in which the individual has escaped from those he himself vetoed, while retaining those he voted for. Bill has not retained his parents political beliefs, in spite of the particular kind of newspapers that constituted their own reading matter in this area. The reason why he could do this was because he believed he was free in this area.

There must be some acute problem of his own that would make him so eager to accept their misperception of his own worth. This tendency can always be regarded as punitive [the desire to punish his parents]. It cannot be justified by the inequality of the strengths of parents and children. This is never more than temporary, and is largely a matter of maturational and thus physical difference. It does not last unless it is held onto.

The next is from guidance about reincarnation and karma in the equivalent of what is now Chapter 5. (This is recorded in Ken Wapnick’s Absence from Felicity, pp. 294-298). Again, I’ll quote at length:

It is true that this [course] will lead to something quite different [than past-life readings] because they [the notes—i.e., the Course] point only to the future. They lead to a future that you will know. There was a past, but it does not matter. It does not explain the present or account for the future. You both went over your childhoods in some detail and at considerable expense, and it merely encouraged your egos to become more tolerable to you. I would hardly want you to repeat that same error….

If this is in the future [going to God], why would you care at all about the past, except to the extent that your ego objects to your rightful destiny? Are you interested in healing insanity, or in studying its past? That is of concern only if you believe that something that could remedy it happened in the past. Even My personal history is of no value to you except as it teaches you that I can help you now. But no history of irreconcilable viewpoints is helpful in establishing truth. The Soul [i.e., one’s true  nature] has no history, being the same yesterday, today and always. The history of a split mind is not a constructive focus for those who are being trained in an integrated and true concept of themselves.

As you can see, this material is surprisingly negative about using one’s childhood to explain oneself. The comment about doing so in psychotherapy is particularly pointed: “You both went over your childhoods in some detail and at considerable expense, and it merely encouraged your egos to become more tolerable to you.” This material is something of a surprise to me. If I didn’t know about it, I am sure that my perspective on this kind of pursuit would be more positive. 

One could write a great deal of commentary on the passages above, and perhaps one day I will. But for now I’ll just very briefly try to summarize what is said. From the Course’s standpoint, the important thing is claim our power of choice and use it to leave the insanity of the past behind, come into the present, and enter a new future—a future that is all about awareness of our true nature, which “has no history, being the same yesterday, today and always.”

Explaining ourselves based on the past leads in the opposite direction. It identifies us with the insanity of the past and makes us a product of it; particularly of the misperceptions of others. We thus seem to have no power of choice, so that we are doomed to endlessly repeat the past. Rather than relinquishing our ego, it just becomes more tolerable to us, as we come to understand that it is not our fault, but is merely the natural result of many years of callous circumstances beyond our own control. So, we may be chained to that history, but at least we have the comfort of knowing it’s someone else’s fault.

It’s really a question of who we are. Are we just an ego shaped by forces outside of us, or are we something that transcends history, and even time itself? If the latter, then why mire ourselves in the former? As this material says, “The history of a split mind is not a constructive focus for those who are being trained in an integrated and true concept of themselves.”

 

Browse the FAQ archive. FAQ Topic: . Bookmark the permalink. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

2 Comments