Working with emotions

... as a part of your ACIM forgiveness practice

Hi, my name is Maggie.

I’ve been a student of A Course in Miracles for 20 years, and I have worked as a licensed mental health counselor for the past 7 years.

I have been offering one-on-one coaching services to fellow ACIM students for a little over a year now.

In joining with other students, I have been able to notice patterns that come up in the struggles one may have on their spiritual path.

I am happy to be able to share about what I have noticed in order to be truly helpful.

I find that sometimes students of ACIM struggle in their practice due to attempts to spiritually bypass their emotions.

To spiritually bypass refers to efforts to dismiss or avoid or “side-step” challenging emotional states, typically using spiritual understandings, explanations, and metaphysics in order to do so.

In my experience speaking with other students of ACIM, this tendency is especially present for emotions that are fear-based, or judgment-based, or limitation-based, such as anger, regret, disappointment, and even grief, sadness, and loss.

Instead of trying to spiritually bypass and avoid our emotions, I think it's helpful to understand that emotions are actually the fodder for a forgiveness practice that is in alignment with the principles of A Course in Miracles.

A more helpful way of dealing with emotions is to see them as the fodder for your forgiveness practice.

A lot of people view emotions as pesky interruptions or burdens that get in the way of them trying to get things done. This tendency is not limited to spiritual students. Many of us have been directly taught to view emotions in this way, through our upbringing and culture.

When working one on one with clients, I find they often view emotions as something they should be able to control or remove from their experience.

I believe a more helpful way of dealing with our emotions is to see them as the fodder for your forgiveness practice.

By leaning into emotional states, even challenging ones, we find the evidence of the false beliefs that are ready to come up from the unconscious mind and be brought to the Light.

Through first looking at and acknowledging that which is being felt, one is more easily able to shift and clear the experience. Sometimes through doing this some inner guidance is accessed, sometimes an emotional state is simply cleared without any new insight coming through.

We're not getting rid of or controlling the emotion, we may experience it again when it is helpful to experience it again. But there is often a sense of something having been shifted, having moved through, and then successfully cleared.

There are two distinct choices we have for how to view and interact with our emotions.

The two distinct choices are defined in A Course in Miracles as right-minded thinking with Spirit vs wrong-minded thinking with the ego.

Which choice we make will determine whether or not we feel like we successfully helped the emotion move through and clear or if we feel like the emotion got stuck. In other words, I believe that looking at your emotional experience with Spirit instead of ego IS the practice of forgiveness, which naturally results in feeling happier and more at peace.

Many psychological theories, philosophies, and spiritual thought-systems mention some sort of true Self, higher Self, inner wisdom, inner guide, inner knowing, etc. In fact, this concept is a core part of what makes an individual psychologically healthy in many theories. I see these many references to some sort of “Self” as similar to what ACIM calls “right-minded thinking with Spirit.”

I find there is less reference to an opposing “Not-Self” in many of the therapeutic models I have learned. I believe it is helpful to offer my clients an explanation and definition for both Self/Spirit as well as the diametrically opposed Not-Self/Ego.

There are certain words that can help us understand when we are choosing Spirit vs choosing ego. I have borrowed words from one of my favorite therapeutic models with a concept of Self, decided to call that Self/Spirit, and have naturally found opposing words for Not-Self/ Ego through the one-on-one work I do with clients.

There are qualities that we can look for to help us understand when it is time to choose again.

I have borrowed the Self/Spirit words from the IFS concept of Self. The Not-Self/Ego words have naturally emerged through my one-on-one work with clients.


Self/Spirit is always available within. It cannot be lost, only blocked. It is only ever blocked by the experience of Not-Self/Ego.

Choosing again is as simple as noticing the qualities of Not-Self/Ego and remembering that it is possible to simply “step back” or “turn towards” the qualities of Self/Spirit instead. Only a little willingness is needed.

Choosing to look at emotions with Self/Spirit is practicing forgiveness.

Self is acknowledged in IFS and other similar therapeutic models to be naturally healing.

This is because “looking” at your experience (including your emotions!) with Self/Spirit is practicing forgiveness.

That which is looked on and acknowledged with compassion (and the other qualities of Self/Spirit) is more naturally given up to the Light. You can tell because you feel the emotion move through you and clear.

That which is looked on with criticism (and the other qualities of Not-Self/Ego) tends to be further complicated. You can tell because you feel like the emotion and thoughts/story connected to it are stuck and cycling around in you without resolution.

ACIM tells us that our function (forgiveness) is our happiness. I have found that understanding forgiveness as a “looking at with Self/Spirit” helps my clients to experience that this promise from ACIM is indeed true.

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