The Kabbalah Approach to Mental Health

Kabbalah and Psychology: Anxiety Relief – The Kabbalah Approach to Mental Health – Part 26 – Permissiveness vs. Simplification

Secular psychology does not possess the Torah, and therefore possesses no clear definition of what is permitted and what is forbidden. It therefore inherently tends toward permissiveness, the attitude that everything is essentially permitted. (This is especially evident with regard to sexuality, the non-restraint of which is seemingly not at all harmful to society.) According to the secular outlook, the best way to solve psychological problems is to be as free and unrestrained as possible, and to allow man's natural lusts free reign to seek out their fulfillment.

In contrast, the permissiveness achieved in the third, sweetening phase of therapy as guided by the Torah, which is carried out only after the preliminary phases of submission and separation, does not constitute a release from any of the prohibitions legislated in the Torah. This despite the fact that the person enters into the realm of darkness in order to transform it into light.

(The truth is that there are extremely exceptional cases in which the Torah itself enjoins the individual to temporarily perform a normally forbidden act or refrain from performing a normally permitted act. In the words of the Psalms: It is time to act for G-d; abrogate the Torah! Psalms 119:126. These cases are, however, quite rare, and therefore outside the scope of the present discussion.)

The reversal that occurs, then, between the separation and sweetening phases of the Torah-defined process of psychological therapy is as follows:

During the time that a person is going through the separation phase of his spiritual makeover, he must refrain from indulging in any worldly pleasures for his own private purposes. True, the Torah allows a person to indulge in worldly pleasures as long as doing so involves no overt transgression of any of its prohibitions. However, at this stage, the individual is not yet spiritually mature enough to allow himself this luxury. He must rather follow our sages' advice for people at his stage of consciousness: "Sanctify yourself [even] with regard to that which is [otherwise] permitted to you." He must abstain from any sensual pleasure this world offers him, unless it forms an essential part of the observance of some Divine commandment. An example would be fine food and drink in honor of the Sabbath. But even here, since he has not yet reached spiritual maturity, he is advised to exercise restraint to the greatest extent possible.

In contrast, when a person has reached the stage of sweetening and has extricated himself from the self-orientation of the unrectified ego, he may indeed begin to savor the delights G-d has placed in the world for our enjoyment. In this context, the just-mentioned advice of our sages would take on the meaning of "Infuse your holy attitude towards life in all the pleasures permitted you." This is Hassidism’s interpretation of King Solomon s directive, "Know Him in all your ways," (Proverbs 3:6.) and our sages assertion that man will eventually be called to account for all the pleasures that he could have enjoyed in this world and abstained from. All a person's deeds at this level are truly for the sake of heaven.

This Torah-sanctioned sweetening of life is depicted as giving G-d great pleasure, so to speak, for He created this world as a vehicle through which to afford pleasure to His creatures. Still, it must be kept in mind that it is impossible to enjoy the world in the way that G-d intended unless we maintain constant consciousness and awareness of His presence in our lives.


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