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A new vision of behavior

I had an epiphany while working on this month’s A Better Way article. The article is about the importance of behavior in the Course. I got tired of hearing that the Course is not interested in our behavior and decided to write something about it. I did a lot of investigating and gathering of passages. And as I went over what I had collected, I realized that there was a whole new picture of behavior in there—at least new to me. This new picture is going to go into next month’s newsletter, as I had to break the article into two parts, but I’ll communicate the gist of it here.

The Course first points out what we already know—that behavior is goal-oriented. It is designed to accomplish something for us. You could picture it in terms of a river. This river starts with a sense of need. This need then flows into a drive or impulse. This drive then flows into a behavior that expresses the impulse. And then this behavior hopefully flows back around and actually meets the need.

This, of course, is not news. We are constantly following impulses or drives to behave in certain ways so that we can fulfill certain needs or desires. Behavior is there to get something for us, to fulfill our needs. This is why it’s so hard to change behavior. In our mind, changing behavior means letting those needs and desires go unsatisfied.

I’ve long realized that the Course was asking us to replace these getting behaviors with giving behaviors, so that our goal wasn’t to get something for ourselves but to give something to others. Our attempts to get from the world are at the root of our unhappiness, so we need to stop all that. We need to deinvest in the motions of the body, so that we can use the body to give miracles instead.

All of that is correct. But the material I collected on behavior added a hugely significant new twist. The new twist was that right-minded behavior still has that same exact river as wrong-minded behavior. There is a need, which gives rise to an impulse or drive, which in turn motivates certain behaviors, which then fulfill the initial need. In miracle-minded behavior, all of that is still in place. The needs, drives, behaviors, and fulfillment are different, but the basic structure, the basic river, is still there.

The difference is in how we fill in the blanks. The initial need is my true need—to solve my separation from God, to wake up to who I really am. This gives rise to a drive, but it’s the miracle-drive. It gives rise to impulses, but they are impulses to do miracles. This drive and these impulses motivate behaviors, but the behaviors are the giving of miracles. And these then loop back and fulfill my need, my true need to wake up and be with God.

This idea had a huge impact on me. I couldn’t get it off my mind. The significance of it was that I am not called to unhook my behavior from my needs and drives. It is not meant to be some free-floating shell that just dispassionately serves God’s plan. My behavior is still there to meet my needs, to fulfill my goals, to obey my impulses. It’s still there to obey and satiate a deep drive in me. It’s just that the real way it can do that is by me “releasing the miracle-drive, which has been blocked.”  My real drive is to work miracles. My truly natural impulses are to extend miracles. Obeying this drive and these impulses is a genuine matter of personal fulfillment. If I don’t obey them, I am denying myself. I am not being true to myself. As a result, tension builds. Only by obeying the drive and impulses in my behavior can I find real fulfillment. But obeying my natural impulses means giving, not getting. It means miracle-working, not serving my separate self.

I am trying to figure out why this had such an effect on me. I think it’s because I have unconsciously assumed that generous, helpful behavior meant walking away from the whole idea that my behavior should obey my natural impulses and thus fulfill my needs. Now I realize that it doesn’t mean that. I just had a mistaken idea about what my natural impulses are, what my needs are. Maybe my natural impulses are to give. Maybe my need is to give. Maybe that’s what really fulfills me. Maybe that’s what meets my needs.

So for the last few days, I have been saying to myself over and over the phrase “the miracle-drive,” or “releasing the miracle-drive.” I have been asking “How does my miracle-drive want to move through me right now?” It is an extremely different way to look at situations. It gets me out of the constant bind of “should I be there for the other or for me?” It means that being there for the other is being there for me. The two are one and the same. Being there for the other is how to be true to myself, how I obey my most natural impulses, how I use my behavior to fulfill my needs, how I live from my deepest drive—the miracle-drive.