The Kabbalah Approach to Mental Health

Kabbalah and Psychology: Anxiety Relief – The Kabbalah Approach to Mental Health – Part 9 – Ignoring vs. Articulating Anxieties

We have established, then, that it is salutary and positive for one to maintain an ongoing relationship with a mentor or friend. And so we are taught in the Talmud "Find yourself a mentor and acquire a friend." A person should feel comfortable in discussing any of his problems and insecurities, especially with regard to his relationship with G-d, with this individual.

Furthermore, it is helpful for a person to discuss his inner world of thought and emotion regularly with his friend or mentor even if he is not suffering from any particular anxiety or problem. This is because in the course of articulating his inner thoughts and sharing them with someone else, a person must explore them more deeply and seriously than he might otherwise. He has to sort through them, organize them, and make some initial sense out of them so that he can express them. Everyone has aspects of his inner life that he might tend to ignore or put off dealing with. He must face these and integrate them into the whole picture of himself if his session with his confidant is to be productive and real.

This process of facing and dealing with the less positive aspects of one's inner life entails several stages. The first stage, which quite often is not even performed consciously, is the way a person spontaneously ignores many if not most thoughts that surface from the subconscious. This is a natural, healthy form of suppression, which simply prevents every little negative urge or complex that comes to mind from complicating and derailing the normal functions of living. Often enough, these murmurings are not very deeply rooted in the subconscious and therefore do not warrant any fundamental treatment that would require much attention.

The next two stages are additional ways of ignoring evil. They are both justified by the assumption that the Jew's Divine soul is unaffected by the weaknesses of his animal soul, and that it is therefore possible for a person to rectify his overall psychology by emphasizing his Divine side and ideally enabling it to assume full reign over his personality. Since secular psychology cannot recognize the existence of the separate, Divine soul, it is only to be expected that many schools of psychology disapprove of the apparent evasion of dealing directly with these manifestations of the lower urges we are about to detail.

When a person notices that his dark thoughts do not leave him alone, and ignoring them does not help, he turns heavenward and implores G-d's help. By crying out to G-d, a person at once acknowledges the existence of evil within him and admits that he cannot fight it on his own. Still, there is not at this point any direct confrontation with the evil, nor is there any attempt on the person's part to summon his strengths to combat it.

When crying out is not enough either, the person understands that G-d wishes him at this point to begin to face his inner evil himself, rather than rely on Him to come to his rescue. Before direct confrontation with the evil, however, the person may still try to actively ignore it by replacing his evil thoughts with positive ones. Particularly efficacious in this regard, of course, is the contemplation of ideas from the Torah, especially those that engender feelings of holiness, purity, optimism, and happiness. Thus no room will be left in the mind for evil, confusing thoughts.

What to do when even these measures fail, and evil thoughts continue to haunt the mind? It is then time to articulate, to explore, to dig into the deep crevices of the personality, even the dark, unpleasant ones, in order to uncover the root of those thoughts and anxieties and consciously deal with it.

A person should first try to conduct this verbal excavation process privately, exploring the dark caverns of his soul with his Creator. If this proves insufficiently real, and the person feels that he needs to bare himself before a human ear who can both hear his troubles and advise him how to deal with them, he may articulate them to his good friend, close mentor or trusted therapist.

As we have now described it, laying bare and discussing a person's hidden evil is something of a last resort, which should be attempted only if all preceding means of dealing with the evil have failed.

At the same time, however, it will be noticed that each successive stage in the therapeutic process is as well an advance of sorts, a further state of readiness and daring to defy the evil and transform it into good. The initial techniques of quashing and ignoring are certainly safer in that they avoid unlocking the closet and looking the monster in the face, but they are, ipso facto, less a test of the strength of a person's own inner goodness. There is less a need to tap the inner core of goodness within, and it therefore remains hidden when not challenged by the dark forces that oppose it.

It seems that in our generation, the common conversance with the concepts of modern psychology has rendered all of us experts or at least, would-be experts, in psychoanalyzing ourselves. And in a sense, this is as it should be. Ours is the generation that will witness the ultimate and final Redemption, which will signal the annihilation of evil and the transformation of its inner core to goodness. Since this process will be an essential aspect of the Redemption, we are now called upon and therefore given the power to participate in this process. We must become experts in the transformation of evil into good, even the kind of evil that it was better in the past to ignore or suppress.


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