Question: When events beyond our control cause pain and suffering, how can such wounds ever be healed? Is it a matter of just becoming strong enough so that the pain doesn't destroy us?
Answer: We mistakenly perceive life as a series of things coming at us. Everything about us is oriented outwardly, and it appears to us that our lives are being determined from the outside in. We don't see the importance of our inner states – the ways in which the content of our thoughts and feelings actually determine how we interpret what we see. We believe that the things we see coming at us are either good or bad in and of themselves. Then we believe we must make choices based on what we see coming at us, not realizing that our very interpretation of what we see is a choice we have already made without knowing it. So, in the mistaken belief that we're at the mercy of external events, we then define strength in terms of our ability to meet and handle them. This is why our wars never end. They can't. When both sides of the battle are in one person, the only peace he or she knows is the temporary silence that falls between thinking that everything's handled and then finding out it's not.
Life does not come at us from the outside in, even though that is the way we've always seen it. Naturally enough, our behavior is based on what our mind identifies as the cause of the problem. We keep fighting the exterior challenge as a means of healing ourselves, but we keep getting hurt. A wound that is covered over too soon fails to heal from the inside. In the same way, as we try to fix the psychological wound from the outside, we interfere with the natural healing process, which must be an internal one. Because we don't understand the nature of the wound, we rend it again.
For example, perhaps a woman believes that the pain she feels is caused by cruel men. She vows never to be hurt again. Her attitudes toward men become hardened, but at the same time she secretly becomes more desperate to find a kind man who will cure her pain. To her dismay, she continues to attract cruel men through the unconscious signals she sends out. The hardened attitude that she takes as her strength is really her weakness, and it perpetuates the problem. As long as she continues to look at her problem from the outside in, there can be no genuine solution.
Instead of focusing her energy on trying to protect herself from the falsely perceived enemy of men who will hurt her, she begins to see that her real enemy is the intimate, invisible one buried in her false beliefs that: (1) without someone to love her she will never know real love, (2) unless she finds a man who will be strong for her, she'll always be outmatched by an uncaring world, and (3) that her happiness and security are dependent upon something outside of her own True Nature.
With her new knowledge of the real enemy she would no longer hate or fear anyone. Her true understanding of herself would also give her a new and compassionate understanding of others, including those who had hurt her before. And with her new perception paving the way, she would never again get involved with a cruel man in a desperate search for acceptance. For the first time it would be possible for her to have a nice relationship with a nice man. Her life would have been healed from the inside out, and now the outer would reflect the genuine strength and contentment of her developing inner being.
When we see this world as a hostile place, where new attacks are constantly launched against a shaky self, it only seems natural for us to take self-protective action. We put tremendous amounts of energy into developing and carrying out our plans for defense. In a way, you can think of it as though we have built psychological bunkers for ourselves from which we peer out at the world, wondering from where the next attack will come. Whenever we find ourselves hunkering down in those bunkers, building our defenses and planning our attacks, it would be an excellent time to remember this new view of our lives: that we are actually unfolding from the inside out, regardless of the perception we have that the problems lie in threatening enemies that charge us from outside. This means that instead of putting our attention on what others have done or said, or what the news of the day is, we turn our attention inward. When we see the "attack" coming, we turn our attention around to see that it is only our false view that perceives an attack. And when we see that the "threat" we're about to battle is really just a shadow — cast off from a false idea we hold about ourselves — then we meet the event from our True Self, our own Awakened nature whose Higher Understanding realizes that the perceived "attack" upon us has no power of itself. It is only our reaction to it, our belief in the insulted or hurt self it gives rise to, that gives it any power over us. In the past we accepted the cruel remark of a thoughtless person as being something real with the power to hurt us. Our wrong thinking created the problem, and therefore could never solve it. It was not separate from the problem. Now, as our new and higher awareness refuses to give our life energy to perpetuating the wrong thinking, the problem must fall away of itself.
To achieve this state, we must first become tired of fighting all these battles and trying to be strong from our own idea of strength. We can be that rare person who says "I won't try to be strong anymore. I'll just watch. I'll start to participate in my life in a whole new way." This means working to see that our life is created from the inside out. When our tricked perception sees something as threatening we are tricked into another battle. When our conscious awareness sees that there are only passing events and does not get involved, there are no battles. The only critical issue is what unfolds inside of us. We cannot change, control, or be stronger than anything our mind says is outside of us. But we can be inwardly awake, conscious of the fact that we don't need to be stronger than what we see because we aren't really separate from what we see. We just need to start seeing more accurately. Then we will understand that there is another kind of strength altogether — a Higher strength — of which we can partake. Resting in that strength means we don't have to try to win anything outside at all.
The next time you experience any kind of pain, you can do something that will turn it into a new and different experience. Each time you catch a pain, admit that you don't understand it. You thought you did. You believed it was caused by another person or some event that thwarted you. As a result of those beliefs you did many things to get rid of the pain, but it always came back. So now, admit that your beliefs may be all wrong, and simply say, "I don't understand the pain."
This amazing method works by changing our fundamental relationship with both the pain and the Truth that can set us free from it. It means that we see that we've fought one losing battle after another with the pain, none of which has done anything to resolve it. We know our failure was due to our complete misunderstanding about the pain. So now we will do nothing about it. In essence, by turning our pain over to the Truth, we're asking the Truth to show us the facts about our pain, which is the same as inviting Reality to rid us of it. And it will.
What a relief. Now we don't have to pretend anymore that we're wise or strong. Now we've turned the pain over to the right department and it can be handled by something other than our old, pain-based solutions. What an amazing revelation this is. It puts us in the right relationship with Truth. When we tried to handle everything on our own, everything we did perpetuated the pain. All we succeeded in doing was fueling its life with our own. Now we don't want to do that anymore, but we know that our old mind doesn't know any other way to respond to the challenges we meet each day. So we stop making the familiar response and just go silent. We turn it all over to Truth. It alone can show us that we never had to do anything about the pain because it never had anything to do with who we really are. The brilliant philosopher Henri Amiel confirms our finding: "My true being, the essence of my nature, myself, remain inviolate and inaccessible to the world's attacks."
So, for now, just remember this: Admit that nothing you've ever done about the pain you experience has brought you the peace or the healing you say you want. The pain always returns. Therefore, maybe you don't really understand its cause as you thought you did. To find out the truth, just stop doing everything the way you have been, and instead simply say in full honesty, "I don't understand this pain." Then wait for the exciting revelations that Truth will show you. And don't listen to the false voices that try to accuse you of taking the easy way out. It's just the opposite. We take real responsibility for our pain when we stop trying to deal with it in the old way, and instead try to understand it in a new way.
The experience of every moment of our life is a direct reflection of our nature. We never experience anything that does not arise directly from our own inner life. Life always happens from the inside out. What we know and perceive and look for is what we get. And just as wounds to our body heal from the inside out, so too must we be healed psychologically.
Life really is a special kind of journey whose each and every day can present new vistas to our eager perception. Instead, we live in an unhappy world created by our misperception. But one of the marvels of our lives is that they can undergo a natural healing process when our wish for an awakened consciousness allows the Truth to shed its curative light. When that happens, even our pains become marvelous, because each one provides a fresh opportunity to learn more about what we have been doing against ourselves. This new knowledge gives us the power we need to cease this self-betrayal forever.
Excerpted from The Intimate Enemy