Specialness in Relationships

The core of Jesus’ teaching in A Course in Miracles centers on our relations and interactions with each other. They can range from joy to despair; especially between long-time committed partners. Relationships are our most vivid example of duality here in our dream of being separate from God.

Jesus does not mention marriage in ACIM. Instead he focuses how important it is to be aware of the devastation of our egocentric interactions. He uses the term “special Relationships” to describe them, and further divides them into special love relationships and special hate relationships. Jesus’ teaching leads us to form Holy Relationships in which we accept each other as sinless sons of God. However, that it is possible only after we fully recognize that we make our special relationships, and are solely responsible for them.

During the 1970s Thomas Harris, M.D. wrote about human relations in, “I’m OK, you’re OK.” His ideas were inspired by his association with Eric Berne founder of “Transactional Analysis.”

Harris offered three variations of his title; 1. I’m OK, you’re not OK, 2. I’m not OK, You’re OK, and 3. I’m not OK and you’re not OK.  These three chapter titles could be construed to agree with ACIM’s special relationships. The book title, I’m OK, You’re OK, could describe a Holy Relationship. However, in ACIM Jesus goes deeper into relationships by explaining them in spiritual terms.

Helen and Bill began scribing ACIM in 1965 and the first edition was published in 1973. I feel it is a coincidence that Harris wrote about interpersonal problems just as ACIM was published, but it is interesting. I don’t wish to compare Harris’ work with ACIM; only that it’s valuable to remember it.

In ACIM Text Chapter 13 (as a preface to later “specialness” chapters), Jesus teaches that the Holy Spirit will transform all special relationships into holy relationships through the processes of salvation/Atonement and forgiveness. Discussions of specialness are also found in Text chapters 15-19, 21, 22 and Chapter 24 The Goal of Specialness. Jesus devotes several chapters to relationships which shows their importance to course teaching.

A basic component of specialness is: we each make our relationships by projecting our needs outward from our mind to those to whom we relate. Hence, problems caused by this dynamic are not are not done to us. We make them. Therefore, we can change relationships, but only after we see them as they are and take full responsibility for them.

One of Jesus’ most compelling metaphors is The Two Pictures. One depicts special relationships and the other a Holy Relationship. Gaudy symbols portraying the madness of our confused, complex, insane, made up world frame the picture about special relationships. The frame distracts us from the ego’s malicious gift by surrounding it with,

the most imposing and deceptive frame of all the defenses the ego uses [with] all sorts of fanciful and fragmented illusions of love, set with dreams of sacrifice and self-aggrandizement, and interlaced with gilded threads of self-destruction.”
[T-17.IV.8.1-3]

We must look at the picture. Ignore the frame. Thus we stop, look carefully at our special relationships and see them as poor substitutes for our true relationship with God.

The second picture depicts, “a miniature of Heaven, sent to you from Heaven.” [T-17.IV 11.1] The frame does not detract from its content. It focuses our attention on the simple beauty of Heaven allowing us to see the picture for what it represents.

One concept which Jesus uses several times in the Two Pictures metaphor is the “Holy Instant,  to which he devotes all of Chapter15.
The following Course excerpt describes the Holy Instant’s relation to the “Two Pictures” metaphor.

The holy instant is a miniature of Heaven, sent you [from] Heaven. It is a picture, too, set in a frame. Yet if you accept this gift you will not see the frame at all, because the gift can only be accepted through your willingness to focus all your attention on the picture. The holy instant is a miniature of eternity. It is a picture of timelessness, set in a frame of time. If you focus on the picture, you will realize that it was only the frame that made you think it [was] a picture. Without the frame, the picture is seen as what it represents. For as the whole thought system of the ego lies in its gifts, so the whole of Heaven lies in this instant, borrowed from eternity and set in time for you. [T-17.IV.11]

I my next post I’ll discuss The Holy Instant, how we can feel them as they pass through our mind; and find peace therein in our daily lives here. Holy Instants are passing refuges from the difficulties we make in our special relationships.