The Kabbalah Approach to Mental Health

Kabbalah and Psychology: Anxiety Relief – The Kabbalah Approach to Mental Health – Part 17 – Detailed Contemplation`

The common denominator of the three exercises in contemplation described in the previous chapters is that they are of a general, synoptic nature. The emphasis is on the overall mental experience of the topic being surveyed rather than on the significance of the individual details that make up this picture. Hassidism contrasts this general type of contemplation with detailed, specific contemplation, which more fully engages the individual's mental powers and whose effect is therefore much more far-reaching.

The emotional response elicited by general contemplation makes a deeper impression on a person's consciousness than does a direct emotional experience. Nonetheless, it is still not truly long-lasting. This is because the lack of attention to detail leaves too much of the mind untouched and therefore unconvinced and unchanged. The mental structures the person has grown accustomed to using in the ongoing process of interpreting and reacting to life are not affected by the broad brushstrokes painted by a general, vague survey of a particular aspect of life. In our case, the synoptic contemplation attacks only the symptoms of the ego, the egocentric thoughts that give rise to anxiety. The unconscious root of the ego itself remains fully entrenched and unaltered.

However, through the detailed and thorough contemplation of some facet of the truth together with all its implications, ramifications, and applications the individual transcends his self-awareness and becomes entirely absorbed in the experience of this truth. Painstaking examination of the details of a truth brings the individual face to face with a clear, lucid perception of the truth's inner depth and essence. Thus, the detailed contemplation enhances and even radically illuminates the awareness gained by the general contemplation.

Secondly, the effect of being engrossed in this form of contemplation is that the person begins to adopt the perspective implied in this truth as part of his psyche. In this way, he gradually rewires the circuitry of his mind according to his enlightened awareness and forges new ways of thinking that will, in time, profoundly affect his emotional and behavioral responses to life as well.

Specifically, detailed contemplation begins with the in-depth study of the greatness of G-d in His creation of the universe and providence over it. The classic texts of Kabbalah describe in great detail the full spectrum of stages of the creative process, from the primordial, infinite light of G-d to our lowest of worlds. Hassidism enhances the ability of man to grasp each of these levels by relating each of them to the experience and Divine service of the soul. In virtue of the experience of the light inherent in the perception of the greatness of G-d, one is able thereupon to turn to himself and witness, in detail, his flaws and know in infinitely greater depth than before his existential nothingness.

With regard to the individual's inherent imperfection, the general contemplation of this idea is not enough in and of itself. The person must proceed to examine all his faults and shortcomings, which express themselves as his anxieties and fears. As he reviews them one by one, the absoluteness of his existential nothingness is driven home more and more graphically. The cumulative effect of facing instance after instance of one's own lowliness is a psychological black hole that sucks up the person's ego, annihilating it piece by piece.

Before, contemplating the infinity of G-d and the nothingness of creation in general led to the conclusion that creation is insignificant and possesses no independent existence whatsoever. When, however, one begins to contemplate his own shortcomings in all their graphic relief, he will realize that not only does he not possess the intrinsic reality G-d does, but that his present psychological condition is in fact an antithesis of that reality. His material orientation renders his whole life a denial and affront to the omnipresence of G-d. He is not only non-significant, non-real, and non-intrinsic, he is anti -significant, anti-real, and anti-intrinsic. He is in truth a spiritual black hole of anti-matter, a negative blotch on the perfection of G-d's creation.

At this stage, the person is too occupied with facing his own crassness and vulgarity to rectify or heal any of his anxieties. All he can do, and should do, at this point, is be amazed at the depth of his own depravity as it unfolds before him. This ability to examine ones anxieties without feeling trapped within them is a portent of the second phase of submission, as will be explained.



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