In today's modern world, people are increasingly turning to psychologists and psychological self-help books in search of ways to deal with their worries and anxieties. It has even reached the point where in many enlightened countries, a self-respecting person must maintain regular contact with a psychologist or therapist as an integral part of normal life. Far from being considered a sign of weakness or abnormality, having a regular confidant or consultant is considered a sign of status: it indicates that the person's life is sufficiently complex to warrant regular analysis by a trained professional, that he can afford this, and that he is concerned enough with the quality of his life to be responsible about taking care of it.
This is not necessarily a negative thing. In fact, in various forms, all well-functioning traditional societies have instituted the role of life-mentors and consultants as part of their psychosocial system. This seems to stem from a basic human understanding that people cannot and should not attempt to tackle all of life's problems by themselves, and that there is a therapeutic efficacy in seeking help and advice from the right people.
In the socio-religious system that has grown out of the teachings of Chassidut, which in turn is based on the teachings of Kabbalah, the role of the psychologist may be filled either by the leader of the Chassidic court (the Rebbe), an elder chasid, a close friend, or some other mentor. Every chasid is expected to find himself such a mentor, who is expected to help him work out his problems and anxieties by discussing them with him regularly.
Despite their similarities, however, there remain many fundamental differences between the Chassidic and secular approaches to counseling, just asChassidut and secular psychology profess very different visions of what psychological well-being is and how to achieve it. Central to understanding these differences is how each understands the role of self-knowledge in mental health.
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