Q #1339 Why do we so often feel like attacking those closest to us?.
Q #1339: I've been thinking about attacking people who are close to me, family, friends, etc. You know the expression, "Familiarity breeds contempt"? What does the course say about us attacking those we depend on?
A: A Course in Miracles is consistent in teaching that attack is always of the ego, regardless of circumstances and the person or persons to whom it is directed. The need to attack others comes from our usually unconscious perception of ourselves as guilty sinners deserving of attack ourselves, because we are unforgivable. We therefore project this self-accusation onto others and feel justified in attacking them: “If you did not believe that you deserved attack, it never would occur to you to give attack to anyone at all. Why should you? What would be the gain to you? What could the outcome be that you would want? And how could murder bring you benefit?” (T.31.III.2:7,8,9,10,11). This section in the text, “The Self-Accused,” summarizes this central dynamic in the ego's strategy to keep our focus from the mind, where our mistaken beliefs about ourselves can be healed, and focused instead on other people's bodies and deeds that clearly seem to be the reasons for our problems and unhappiness.
The hostility we feel toward those on whom we depend is a specific aspect of this dynamic. This type of hostility can be associated with a substance and even medical technology (there have been cases of people who developed hostility toward their dialysis machines). What is triggered in us in dependency relationships is a very deep sense of vulnerability and threat. In other words, being dependent on others exposes the precarious nature of our existence -- that we are not self- sufficient. We therefore would want to attack those who expose our weaknesses and limitations. The conflict can become rather intense because however much we wish to destroy these people, we know we can't go through with it, because we still need them. We therefore will come up with other ways of acting out our hostility, through passive aggression, for example.
Another reason for the hostility, from the Course's point of view, is that we perceive these others as having something we lack, and we would secretly accuse them of having stolen it from us first, the fourth law of chaos in the ego's insane thought system (T.23.II.9,10,11). This ego dynamic would lead us to believe our anger and attack are justified, as a form of self-defense; we would feel completely innocent in attacking to get back what rightfully belongs to us.
We all have to deal with dependency issues, as that is the way the body was made, both physically and psychologically. We all have basic physical and psychological needs which must be met if we are to survive. The ego's secret purpose in this, of course, is to keep us rooted in the world and the body, so that we will never return to the mind where we would have an excellent chance of uncovering the falsity of these beliefs about who we are and what our true and only need is, which is simply to undo our false belief that we separated from our Creator in an act of extreme selfishness. Thus, the ego's undoing begins with our willingness to look with Jesus at the insanity of the thought system that harbors these beliefs and attitudes, and then ask for help to accept his thought system instead. Jesus himself tells us that our dependency on him as our teacher is only temporary, as his aim is to help us get to the place spiritually where we regain our awareness that we are all the one Son of God: “There is nothing about me that you cannot attain. I have nothing that does not come from God. The difference between us now is that I have nothing else. This leaves me in a state which is only potential in you” (T.1.II.3:10,11,12,13).