I was recently asked this question: ‘When A Course in Miracles talks about forgiveness, it says we should overlook the terrible thing that’s going on, and tell ourselves it isn’t really happening. But isn’t that just denial?’
Nope. And I’ll tell you why.
But first, let’s back this up for a minute and take a look at what the world means when it talks about denial.
For this, we’ll take a brief detour into the land of movie musicals. Let’s say you’re a small 19th century boy, and your ship has just landed in Siam. The badass bare-chested chief of security boards the boat and prepares to escort you to the palace of the king.
Terrified, you turn to your mother who offers this sage advice:
Whenever I feel afraid
I hold my head erect
And whistle a happy tune
And no one will suspect I’m afraid.
She concludes by saying that once she’s fooled everyone else into believing she’s unafraid, she finds she’s fooled herself as well. So now she’s no longer afraid.
Or how about this:
You’re a tiny Austrian kid and you’re scared of thunderstorms. So you fly into Fraulein Maria’s bedroom and leap onto the fluffy white coverlet, hoping for reassurance. And the good Fraulein doesn’t disappoint:
When the dog bites
When the bee stings
When I’m feeling sad
I simply remember my favorite things
And then I don’t feel so bad.
The thunderstorm is still raging, but you’re so busy thinking about brown paper packages tied up with strings that you’ve forgotten all about it. At least until the next big thunderclap.
So, in essence, these heroines of the modern musical are both offering the same dreadful advice: Don’t look down at that nightmarish hole beneath your feet. Don’t listen to the horrifying growls of the beast as it plays on your darkest fears.
Instead, grab a rusty, half-rotted plank and throw it across the gap. Stand in the middle of the plank, close your eyes, put your fingers in your ears and repeat after me at the top of your lungs:
So yeah, that’s denial as the world employs it. Not exactly an effective coping mechanism for blotting out pain and fear. The pain and fear are only temporarily disguised, and the source of the pain and fear remains intact.
On the other hand, when A Course in Miracles talks about forgiveness and denial, it’s using denial in a completely different way.
It says: ‘Look down. See that yawning hole beneath your feet? It isn’t real, you know. You made it up. And although you’re tempted right now to be frightened or angry because you believe the monster in that hole is real, you’re completely mistaken.
There is nothing “down there” to get you. There is only one joyous, perfect Self, and you’re it. Look past the illusory image of the hole and its contents, to the loving reality of Heaven.
By choosing to see its Heavenly reality instead of the nightmare story you’ve told yourself about it, you are helping to heal your own perception of that hole. And by looking beyond the frightening image of that dark pit to the light beyond it, you help to dissolve the illusory pit itself.
Deny your dark illusions and trust in Heaven’s truth instead. This is the sure path to peace and safety.’
Ok, so it doesn’t rhyme and isn’t filmed in glorious Cinemascopic Technicolor.
But it works.