WHAT IS ATTITUDINAL HEALING?
Perhaps the biggest gift
that humankind has been given
is the choice to decide
what thoughts and attitudes
we put in our minds.
RESISTANCE TO CHANGE
When a friend or a person at one of our lectures or workshops asks us to describe the principles of Attitudinal Healing, I (Jerry) often think of the example of my own life and how certain beliefs that I have held in my mind came very close to destroying me.
From 1925 to 1975, the first fifty years of my life, I felt that I was the victim of my own faulty attitudes and bad habits. And try as I might, I did not seem to be able to change either my very critical thoughts about myself or my behavior.
I felt unlovable, and no one could convince me otherwise. Although there was part of me that wanted to change, there was another part that strongly resisted any kind of change. I felt that if I dared to open myself up and become vulnerable, people would find out what I was really like, ensuring that I would be rejected.
I seemed locked in a battle with myself, and that battle frequently resulted in provocative behavior that made it very difficult for other people to be in my company. I hated myself and was paralyzed with the fear of being rejected. Although I might have looked tough on the outside, my heart felt weak and wounded, and I continued to build a sharp picket fence around it so that others could not get close to me. I underwent many kinds of psychotherapy. I even tried psychoanalysis, but nothing seemed to work for me.
It was as if my attitudes, my behavior, and my habits were locked in a vise or stuck in cement. I had convinced myself that I was incapable of changing and that I was doomed to a life of failure. This became my belief, and I succeeded in making myself right by continuing to see myself as a failure. This resulted in my being unforgiving to myself and others.
As I look back on it, I can now see that my negative and fearful attitudes about myself penetrated every area of my life. Although I attained great success professionally—as the world measured it—my inner life was anything but successful, filled with conflict and chaos.
My attitudes were like dark shadows that followed me everywhere I went, playing havoc with my schooling, in sports, and in my role as a parent and spouse. These attitudes played a painful role in my relationships with legal professionals during my divorce proceedings. My fear, along with my unforgiving and unloving attitudes toward myself, seemed unshakable.
I was scared of love and intimacy. I was afraid that I would be hurt. With thunderclouds of guilt I vacillated between finding fault with myself and finding fault with others. I seemed to be most unsuccessful whenever I tried to control people and events around me. So many of my thoughts were centered on the idea that I was a victim of things outside of myself.
I realize now that I was not alone in how I looked at the world. There are many others who go through life with feelings just like the ones I described.
A COURSE IN MIRACLES
In 1975—during a period when I was destroying myself with alcohol—I felt that I was beyond any help. I was a militant atheist and not the least bit interested in anything spiritual. It was then that a miracle happened to me. My friend Judith Skutch Whitson gave me a copy of an unpublished manuscript entitled “A Course in Miracles.” The Course is about the power of love and forgiveness and how these offer us everything we could possibly want. As I became a student of the Course, my life began to change dramatically, and it began to take on a totally different meaning and purpose.
I began to discover that it was not my behavior that needed changing. What needed changing were my thoughts, my beliefs, and my attitudes. As I recognized that it was my thoughts that created my reality, I found that healing my attitudes began to create a new reality for me. When I started letting go of my attachments to fear and guilt and became more focused on “giving” rather than “getting,” I also started to experience an inner peace that until that time I never would have thought possible.
As my “me first” attitude began to dissolve, I took a leap of faith and made the choice to trust in a Higher Power to direct me. I began to experience the power of love and forgiveness bringing me happiness. Relationships that I thought might never be healed began to be healed. As I let go of my compulsion to control others and let God direct me, miracles of love began to happen in my life.
WHAT IS ATTITUDINAL HEALING AND HOW DOES IT WORK?
Attitudinal Healing is based on the belief that it is not people or conditions outside ourselves that cause us to be upset. We are not victims of the world we see. Rather, what causes us conflict and distress is our own thoughts and attitudes about people and events. Further, we are not only responsible for our own thoughts, we are responsible for the feelings we experience, and through exploring these feelings we can eventually heal them.
Attitudinal Healing involves correcting our misperceptions and removing the inner obstacles to experiencing peace. This begins with having a willingness to find another way to look at the world, at life and at death—to have peace of mind as our only goal and the willingness to forgive as our main function. It is discovering the value we have placed on holding on to grievances, blaming others, or condemning ourselves, then making new choices to no longer find value in them.
In Attitudinal Healing we believe that the purpose of all communication is joining, not separation, that happiness is a choice, and that our natural state is one of harmony, creativity, and happiness. We create the disharmony and unhappiness we experience because of the attitudes we hold in our minds. The separation we experience in our lives comes from projecting these thoughts and feelings onto people and events outside us. We begin to heal that sense of separation when we strive to ask ourselves, in all of our encounters: “Is this communication for joining or separation?” and “Do I want to be happy or do I want to be right?”
Attitudinal Healing is a retraining of the mind and an opening of the heart, removing whatever blocks love’s presence. It leads to freedom rather than bondage. Attitudinal Healing is about teaching and demonstrating love, not fear, in both our professional and personal lives.
Attitudinal Healing is based on the belief that it is possible to choose peace rather than conflict and love rather than fear. It is based on the belief that love is the most important healing force in the world.
Attitudinal Healing is a process for letting go of painful, fearful attitudes. When we let go of fear, only love remains.
As we begin to apply these principles throughout our lives, we find it helpful to think of “health” as inner peace and “healing” as the process of letting go of fear.1 This process is based on the premise that each instant provides us with a new opportunity to reexamine our lives and to once again choose what it is we want to experience—love or fear, peace or conflict.
The term Attitudinal Healing came into being when we started the first Center for Attitudinal Healing in Tiburon, California, in 1975.
THE CENTER FOR ATTITUDINAL HEALING
Not long after becoming introduced to A Course in Miracles, I became concerned with the plight of young children who were facing catastrophic illnesses and the possibility of death. I had noticed that children in hospitals often did not seem to have anyone to talk with about these problems. I felt an inner direction to start a small center where these children could come to have their own support group. We called it the Center for Attitudinal Healing. It would be a center where no fee would be charged for direct services, and to this day that policy continues. In the beginning the Center worked only with children who were facing life-threatening situations. Later we extended the program to siblings and parents and after that to adults with catastrophic illnesses, to people wishing to heal their relationships, and even to those with AIDS. We have “pen pal” and “phone pal” support networks—all guided by the principles for Attitudinal Healing.
Even though the Center started out working only with children, we found that the same principles carried over into every area of our lives—in healing our relationships with ourselves and in ending the battles that so often go on in our minds.
Guided by the principles, most of the people who work at the Center go through important transformations in their lives. Out of the sorrow and grief that they might experience, there is frequently an unfolding of a new spiritual awareness. They find themselves wanting to serve others and help them through their difficulties, which in turn helps them through their own. They discover that giving and receiving are the same. They become witnesses, allowing others to see and trust that there truly is another way to look at life and death.
Copyright © 2009 by Gerald G. Jampolsky MD. and Diane V. Cirincione. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.