The Kabbalah Approach to Mental Health

Kabbalah and Psychology: Anxiety Relief – The Kabbalah Approach to Mental Health – Part 28 – Sweetening the Subconscious

The third stage is the ability to sweeten anxiety by articulating it and discussing it with a second party.

This stage is alluded to allegorically in the prophecy of Ezekiel. In depicting the Temple that will be rebuilt as the center of Jerusalem in the Messianic era, the prophet describes a wondrous spring whose waters will flow out of the Temple's inner chamber. The water will become a mighty river and will sweeten (that is, make drinkable) all the salt water in the world. Trees will grow on the banks of this river, and each tree's fruit will be for food and its leaves for healing rest. (Ezekiel 47:12).

Healing rest is the relaxation that provides release from the tensions and pressures that accompany fears and anxieties. When a person is relieved of this friction, proper flow is restored to both the physiological and psychological systems of his body. Relaxation is thus the sine qua non of mental and physical health. Part of this relaxation process is, of course, the psychological permission granted the person to freely express and release his worries and fears. This process ultimately leads to his psychological healing.

The source of this healing rest in the imagery of Ezekiel's prophecy is the leaf. A leaf, when compared to the tree itself or its fruit, is of secondary importance, a minor detail that is often not appreciated, even though it performs the crucial function of photosynthesis. Similarly, we generally ignore our subconscious minds and pay little heed to the crucial way it affects our lives. The leaf is therefore an apt metaphor for the subconscious.

The leaf, the unconscious, holds the key to the ultimate healing of the psyche. In the future, leaves will become edible, like fruit. With the complete transformation of evil into good, the subconscious will be able to be fully expressed. All the strictures and cautions surrounding its articulation will be relaxed.

The beginning of the book of Psalms also makes use of the imagery of the leaf in the context of the tree to which it is attached: Psalms 1:1-3.

Happy is the man who has not followed the advice of the wicked…

But rather desires [only] the G-d's Torah …

He shall be like a tree planted beside streams of water,

which yields its fruit in the proper season,

whose leaves never wilt,

and whatever it produces prospers.

Here the righteous individual is likened to a tree planted beside life-giving water. The leaf that does not wilt is his subconscious, which has been articulated and sweetened. This has been accomplished after the phases of submission (not following the advice of the wicked; distancing himself from negativity) and separation (desiring and learning G-d's Torah).

It is told that the Ba'al Shem Tov, while still a boy, recognized G-d's providence over all his creatures by observing the way a leaf was blown along the ground. By paying attention and taking note of a seemingly insignificant factor in the great scheme of creation, he discerned the truth that was to serve as the cornerstone of his theological system. This system is based on the existence, development, and tapping of the extra-conscious bond between man and G-d.

In a similar vein, our sages use the imagery of the leaf to symbolize the mundane conversation of Torah scholars. In contrast to the worldly chatter of the unlettered, the mundane conversation of someone who is filled with the wisdom of the Torah is itself a lesson in holy living and is even considered a subject worthy of study. The lessons of life that surface in the mundane conversation of the Torah scholar reflect the way he has rectified his subconscious mind. By absorbing the attitudes expressed in his words, the ordinary person can absorb something of his positive, constructive outlook on life. As such, his mundane conversation, his leaf, can serve as a source of optimism and healing for the ordinary person. 


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