The Kabbalah Approach to Mental Health

Kabbalah and Psychology: Anxiety Relief – The Kabbalah Approach to Mental Health – Part 23 – Three Phases of Submission

The first stage in the rectification of the psyche is submission. The assertive I is the source of all physical and spiritual evil, and its neutralization is the sine qua non of the rectification process. The greater a person's ego, the more and greater his worries and troubles. The more a person experiences his own self and occupies his consciousness with his own feelings and self-image, the more intimidating anything which poses a potential threat to the perfection of his self-perception. He deserves everything, and he lacks everything.

Thus, the most primary and basic stage in healing the psyche is submission. Submission is the simple awareness and natural existential experience of not being perfect. Every person knows at some level that he possesses an animal soul, a repository of base and selfish urges and drives. Although we generally like to identify ourselves with somewhat higher pursuits than these, the truth is that most of the time we identify with this soul; we consider its perspective, way of thinking, and aspirations our own. Once a person realizes this, the logical conclusion is that, in contradistinction to his initial assumption, he really deserves nothing! He in fact is no better than anyone else, and the chances are even quite good that he is worse than most people.

This being the case, all the person s anxieties vanish in a puff of smoke. He no longer deserves anything, and nothing poses a threat to his self-image anymore. His knowledge of his innate baseness makes him aware that he is naturally prone to acquire all sorts of psychological complexes and disorders. The dark side of his personality, which he now realizes dominates his consciousness, will naturally act as a magnet for every imaginable psychological and physical malaise there is.

If, then, there is anything positive about his life, it can only be an undeserved kindness that G-d has bestowed upon him. His response to this act of Divine grace will be unmitigated happiness and thankfulness to G-d. Whereas an egocentric person always considers the good in his life to be insufficient and therefore cause for complaint, the egoless person always considers the good in his life to be above and beyond what he deserves and therefore cause for consummate happiness and gratitude.

In this light, the egoless person will be able to consider whatever happens to him to be good, since everything comes from G-d and everything G-d does is good, for such is His nature.

The object of self-refinement is to reorient our emotions towards Divinity: G-d should be the sole object of our love, the only one we fear, and so on. In order to accomplish this, however, a person should not attempt to change the orientation of his emotions directly, by seeking out experiences that will inspire him to love and fear G-d. He may indeed succeed in temporarily reorienting his emotions this way, but the effect will be ephemeral. As soon as the experience passes, the emotion it engendered will pass with it. The much more effective way to change the orientation of the emotions is indirectly , by harnessing the mind and forcing it to contemplate truths that will give rise spontaneously to corresponding emotional reactions.

The extent to which a person is able to nullify his ego is a function of what he contemplates and how he chooses to contemplate it. He must first consider his own existential nothingness as well as that of the universe in general. This, however, is not enough in and of itself. He must continue to examine all his faults and shortcomings, which express themselves as all 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 worthlessness is a psychological black hole that sucks up the person's ego, annihilating it piece by piece.

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 one's anxieties without feeling trapped within them is a portent of the second phase of submission, as will be explained presently.

In the course of contemplating the infinity of G-d and the nothingness of creation in general, the reality of this truth will so impress itself upon the person's mind that he will begin to consider creation insignificant. As he continues to consider this reality more, he will conclude that creation per se possesses no independent existence whatsoever, as it is written, there is nothing beside Him.

When he begins to contemplate this truth in all its details, however, considering 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 he 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 not only possesses no intrinsic reality, he possesses negative reality. He is in truth a spiritual black hole of anti-matter, a negative blotch on the perfection of G-d s creation.

After this intensive contemplation on his shortcomings, the person turns to G-d in prayer, crying out from the depths of his heart. He beseeches G-d to uphold him and, in His infinite mercy, bridge the abysmal chasm that separates him from Him. Every detail of the person s unmasked depravity becomes the cause and subject of another prayer, another cry directed toward G-d.

We have thus identified three distinct sub-processes within the overall process of submission. In accord with the principle of inter-inclusion these are the three sub-levels of submission within submission, separation within submission, and sweetening within submission. The general quashing of the ego is submission within submission. The detailed examination of shortcomings and anxieties is an act of separation, as it serves to separate the person from his problems, and divorces him from his identification with them. Heartfelt and humble prayer to G-d, the private conversation between man and his Creator, is similar to the sweetening stage of confiding to a trusted. It thus may clearly be identified here with the stage of sweetening within submission.


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