The Kabbalah Approach to Mental Health: Part 3 – The Way Out

Secular psychology is by definition predicated on knowledge attainable and verifiable through scientific experimentation. G-d, of course, transcends this narrow framework. Thus, secular psychology does not presume to know anything about the existence or affairs of G-d. Although it may not categorically deny G-d's existence, it has to ignore Him as an active determinant in mental health. Moreover, it must ignore the existence of a Divine soul, an entity apart from and transcending the basic human consciousness it recognizes and with which it deals.

This leaves secular psychology in something of a philosophical quandary. If a person is drowning in quicksand, he has to grab on to something or someone outside the quicksand to get out. Similarly, a person beset by problems and anxieties needs to avail himself of someone or something that transcends these problems in order to extricate himself from them. But the most that secular psychology can offer the suffering soul is the helping hand of another human being (or perhaps an untapped human dimension of the patient himself). This may provide temporary respite, but it cannot hope to serve as an ultimate solution, since all human beings are to a greater or lesser degree subject to the same psychological limitations and constraints. If we are all in the same boat, who is there to throw us a line?

Thus, whatever successes secular psychology can achieve in liberating man from the quagmire of his problems are at best only temporary or superficial aids. Impressive though its successes may be, secular psychology by its very nature cannot address or solve the fundamental riddles of human existence. After all, it originates in the same human mind it is attempting to understand.

The awareness of the Divine soul within us, in contrast, is the key to our personal psychological redemption from the forces that threaten to overwhelm us. No matter how low we may think we have fallen, G-d remains with us and is always there, throwing us a rope to grab on to in order to work our way up and out. The more we can sensitize ourselves to our Divine inner essence, the quicker we can extricate ourselves from the worries pulling us down.

To known G-d means to feel His mercy, for the Torah teaches us that G-d’s most essential attribute is His mercy. When a person is aware of G-d's infinite mercy enveloping him at all times, he can safely and objectively evaluate his own psychological health. Knowing he can fall back on His love, he is not afraid to face the truth about himself; he does not feel the need to hide behind all types of excuses or justifications for his behavior.

It is for this reason that until a person has attained some level of awareness of his Divine soul, it is probably better that he not confront the darker aspects of his personality that lay buried deep within his subconscious. Indeed, it is an act of G-d's mercy that there is such a thing as the subconscious, where the evil that lurks in the hearts of men can stay hidden until we are ready to face it.

Secular psychology has, of course, made tremendous strides in helping man understand his own mind and improve his psychological well-being and ability to cope with life's challenges. Judaism views secular science and inquiry positively as long as they seek to complement and enhance the wisdom of the Torah rather than supplant or attack it.

Conversely, the wisdom of the Torah allows us to identify what is true and what is not in the probings of secular inquiry, and associate each truth with its appropriate context in the Torah's own world-view. By doing this, we elevate the sparks of holiness that inhere within all secular knowledge and thus release them from their own bondage of secular orientation. This in itself is an important phase in the rectification of reality that will ultimately usher in the true and ultimate final Redemption.


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