Friday, March 21, 2008

How I Learned to Love (and Hate) - A Spiritual Path

For some fifty-seven of my eighty years I have been on a quest to find inner peace.

It was, of course, only due to my growing unhappiness that I was driven to seek respite via the route of psychoanalysis. My first attempt failed, for the analyst I chose rarely spoke, remaining passively silent for hours on end (being a conservative Freudian). I gave him up, but I was tenacious in my quest.

Once I was given an opportunity to study at the American Foundation for Religion and Psychiatry, and later to join the faculty there, I was introduced to the British school of Neo-Freudians. Their ideas I incorporated and used in my private practice as a psychoanalyst for many years. (At AFRAP I was grateful to Herb Holt, M.D., Fred Kuether and others.)

During my training I was required to again embark on a period of personal analysis. This time I was fortunate to have chosen Ralph Rosenberg, M.D., a student of Karen Horney. Over the twenty years I spent with him, I learned much about the darkness of my unconscious mind and found some relief from its destructiveness.

Further healing came when my wife Martha and I embarked on a process of couples therapy with Kitty LaPerrier, Ph.D., at the Ackerman Institute for Family Therapy. That experience saved our marriage. Since I saw the efficacy of what I had experienced, I decided to learn it. So I applied at Ackerman for training, was accepted, and learned much there of family systems. I am indebted to my then supervisor and now friend, Ann Korelitz, MSW, as well as Peggy Papp, Lynn Hoffman and Olga Silverstein. Then I decided to travel weekly to Washington and intern with Jay Haley and his wife Chloe Modanes.

Yet with all this therapy and training that was directed to changing the mind, I had not yet found the peace I sought.

The Gift of Martha -

My late wife Martha was the source of many gifts over the fifty-five years of our marriage. Next to her copious love, I consider her greatest blessing to me to have been her introducing me to the spiritual path A Course in Miracles.

It came about in this way. In 1984 we decided to sell our house in Garrison, New York, and our condo in Manhattan and move to Guilford, Connecticut in order to be nearer to our two young grandchildren who then lived with our daughter and her husband in Wallingford.

Once in Guilford, Martha made a new friend in Susan Santora who at the time was a member of a group in Old Lyme studying A Course in Miracles. Martha found the Text, Workbook and Manual for Teachers fascinating. She brought the book to me and said: “You might be interested in this.” I took a quick glance at it and dismissed it, saying: “I think I’m doing fine without it.” Being wisely aware of my capacity to be stubborn (not to mention willful), Martha gently and patiently persisted.

Deciding that I might as well take a closer look, I began seriously reading it. And to my amazement I found I couldn’t put it down. I was hooked! For when I took that closer look, I found a highly sophisticated thought system aimed at retraining the ego mind. Not only that, but the psychology was derived from the very sources I had studied at the American Foundation (now the Blanton-Peale Institute) in the 1950s and 60s. In addition, though it was built on the psychological foundation of psychoanalysis, it went far beyond it—to the spiritual truths which I had been long yearning for but never found.

That is not to say that I have not struggled against the Course, fought it, hated it, and at times fallen asleep while reading it (a sure sign of my resistance). In fact, I believe if you do not hate the idea of giving up your egotistical love of your special, individual self, you are not really ‘getting it.’ The process requires resenting the very idea: “I do not perceive my own best interests.” (Workbook, Lesson 24)

Nevertheless, over the past twenty-three years, as I have gradually come to make the frequent corrections of my “wrong minded” thoughts through “the awareness of Love’s presence” (ACIM, Intro), and the forgiveness which Love promises, I have increasingly found that “light, joy and peace abide in me.” (Workbook, Lesson 93)

Thank you, Martha, for leading me to the source of that peace I have so long sought; a great blessing, indeed.

Copyright 2007 Frank West

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