The Course makes a fundamental distinction between extension, which is of God, and projection which is of the ego. The product of the first is always love, and that of the latter is, just as inevitably, always guilt and fear.
We all feel guilty about our self-imposed separation from God, although we are not usually consciously aware of it. Instead, we attempt to get rid of our pain and guilt by projecting our hurt onto others. In doing so, we believe that we have disposed of the guilt inside us. We feel instantly relieved, but only temporarily. The other person is now the focus of our displeasure, or even our outright hatred.
“It is X [my partner, spouse, parent, boss, the government, etc.] who is making me feel unhappy, and they are the cause of all my problems. If only they would be different, then I would be happy.’ The Course uses the term ‘special hate’ for this ego-motivated approach to relationships, both with people and with material possessions.
And so the world winds wearily on! Political parties blame each other for the economic recession and criticise their opponents bitterly. A husband and wife accuse one another of losing interest and causing a rift in the marriage. True solutions are never offered, and the separation is maintained. We feel vindicated for a while, until the next transgressor comes along to disturb our peace.
The relief we feel when we believe we have disposed of our guilt by projection is only temporary. The feeling is soon replaced by guilt once more. In fact, the effect of projection is actually to make us feel even more guilty; guilty for having condemned our brother. As we condemn him, we condemn ourselves.
The ego uses ‘special hate’ to keep us separated from our brothers and sisters, and we may be willing to acknowledge these feelings in our own lives. More painful and challenging is the recognition of the reverse side of the coin: ‘special love.’ This is far more subtle in its workings than ‘special hate,’ but it is equally devastating in its outcome.
In the case of special love, instead of openly attacking someone, I claim to love that person. Following my separation from God, I have perceived a lack within myself which only they can fill. As long as the other person acts in accordance with my expectations, I love them dearly and I may even speak of a match ‘made in Heaven.’ In return, I offer them what they are looking for — their expectations! Yet this ‘love,’ as the world calls it, can easily change into hatred when such a fragile coalition is disturbed.
It is not really love at all but imprisonment: we trap the other person with our expectations, conditions and demands — and whoebetide them if they break any!
However, our relationships can be transformed into ‘holy relationships,’ as the Course calls them. With the help of the Holy Spirit, these relationships (long-term or short-term) can then become opportunities for learning forgiveness and setting ourselves free.
A Course in Miracles calls us to become aware of ‘special hate’ and ‘special love,’ and to choose differently. The projections of the ego offer merely darkness, while a lasting solution to our problems can come only from God’s love:
“Make way for love, which you did not create, but which you can extend. On earth this means forgive your brother, that the darkness may be lifted from your mind.” (T-29.III.4:1-2)
By forgiving ourselves and each other, the separation is undone and the way Home is clear before us. Our function is to learn how to express forgiveness in this world, so that we may finally move beyond the world. We learn this in our relationships, and in each decision we make in this life.