The Kabbalah Approach to Mental Health

Kabbalah and Psychology: Anxiety Relief – The Kabbalah Approach to Mental Health – Part 24 – Three Phases of Separation

The separation phase of therapy is that in which the person ignores his anxieties, problems, or evil thoughts which plague him and replaces them with positive thoughts. This phase is necessary in order for the final phase to occur, that is, articulation and discussion of the problem through which the problem may be healed and rectified altogether.

In order to relate to something objectively and analyze it truthfully, the person must first be released from his subjective ties to it. When a Jew concentrates on some concept in Torah, including theological issues such as the nature of G-d, etc., he is creating an abstract vantage point from which he can assume an impartial relationship to his own problems and complexes.

It is in fact explained at length in Hassidic thought that the Jew's ability to rectify the world and transform it into a dwelling place for G-d is dependent on his ability to feel that he himself is not subject to the inherent constrictions and limitations of the world. Detachment is prerequisite to influence. When a person feels detached from the world in this way, something of a stranger in a strange land, he can view the world objectively and see what needs to be fixed and, to a greater or lesser extent, how to fix it. Without this detachment, he himself is trapped in the unG-dliness and natural laws of the world. Thus, before we proceed to the stage of sweetening, wherein the obfuscation of G-dliness that informs this world will be ultimately transformed into the Divine revelation it was meant to be, we must first pass through the stage of separation.

It is tempting to think that this separation phase in the psyche begins only when a person begins to learn Torah. He is then filling the empty pit of his mind with life-giving water, as we described previously, and learning how to distinguish between good and evil. However, the truth is that the separation phase begins much earlier than this, virtually from birth.

The Torah commands that every Jewish male be ritually circumcised eight days after he is born. Women are considered circumcised from birth, that is, a female possesses whatever spiritual completion a male acquires through circumcision from the moment she is born.

Circumcision implies that the foreskin interposed between man's nerve-endings and the world outside man is a spiritual defect which has to be removed. This overgrowth of self-insulation from others' feelings is the physical manifestation of innate egocentricity that, if left in place, will become the root of all the evils that may plague a person in life. Circumcision is the act of sensitizing a person to others feelings and neutralizing his ego.

This is of course not to say that a circumcised man or a woman is immune to ego and its attendant ills. A person can, of course, re-acquire his egocentricity, either through external influences or through identification with his animal nature. This is called tarnishing or marring the covenant of circumcision. The fact that the person was circumcised as an infant (or born circumcised, in the case of a woman) gives him the capacity, throughout his life, to fundamentally rectify and sweeten his subconscious if only he makes the necessary effort. His circumcision is his power to reveal the dark, hidden depths of his soul in heartfelt confession to a trusted confidant. Doing away with the shell of egocentricity makes it possible for him to attain an objective view of his own problems.

Within the separation phase of therapy we may identify three sub-phases, just as we did with regard to the submission phase.

The first stage of separation is when the individual admits his own inability to directly attack the multifarious problems, anxieties, neuroses and psychoses that he identified within himself in the submission phase. Concomitant with his realization of his existential lowliness and degradation is his realization of his powerlessness to confront and defy his plethora of problems on his own. His first recourse, then, is simply to ignore them. This admission of inadequacy is the sub-phase of submission within separation.

The awareness and subconscious effect of circumcision on a person's psyche is that he knows that he is essentially good, and existentially separate from the problems and anxieties that beset his mind. He can, at any time, avail himself of G-d's help, since G-d is always standing at his side, as it were, ready to save him from the onslaught of dark, evil thoughts constantly attacking him. In this sense he can always consider himself above the misery of this world. This is the sub-phase of separation within separation.

The sub-phase of sweetening within separation is when the person actively fills the empty void of his mind with positive thoughts of Torah and/or optimism.

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