Kabbalah and Psychology: The Kabbalah Approach to Mental Health – Part 29

Sweetening within Sweetening

The purpose of articulating anxieties to another party is to turn them into joy with a good word. This good word offered by the confidant may be some sound advice, or it may be some deep way of understanding the root of the problem. Alternatively, it may be an even higher level of resolution to the problem, which we will now discuss.

Articulation of the anxiety or evil within the psyche effects sweetening on three levels: First, the simple articulation of the problem itself sweetens it to a certain degree. It is explained in Hassidic thought that the power of speech carries within it a subtle experience of pleasure, and that talking therefore taps the source of pleasure in the soul. This sweetens or injects an element of pleasure into whatever it is the person is talking about. Talking reveals the person's power to expose the secret realms of his soul, and the experience of talking teaches the person that he is not alone but rather enveloped by G-d's mercy. By virtue of G-d's mercy, a person may remain connected to Him despite the deep shortcomings in his psyche. This experience is achieved mainly thanks to the concerned confidant who judiciously refrains from recoiling in horror when he hears the confider's confession, but rather lets him know that although he has uncovered difficult points, they themselves do not constitute a threat to his relationship with G-d.

The good advice offered by the confidant continues the sweetening process. It paves the way toward rectifying the problem and dissociates the sufferer from his suffering. Once a solution has been proposed, the person can see himself as standing above his situation and consider objectively his options regarding how to rectify it and redeem it.

The final sweetening, however, occurs when either the confider or confidant hits upon a new, insightful perception of reality necessitated by the existence of the problem. This new perception enables them at once to understand the real, inner process that led to the existence of the problem in the first place. With this knowledge, the confider may adjust his way of living so that he will no longer fall prey to this entrapment.

This new insight into the nature of reality, having been preceded by the separation stage of complete submission to the authority of the Torah in deciding what is good and what is evil, is a revelation of a new dimension of understanding the Torah. Our sages call the Torah G-d's blueprint for creation. It is His plan according to which He created the world, the inner circuitry hardwired into reality. Any new true understanding of reality, then, is in essence a new insight into the Torah.

The existence of evil, anxiety or fear within the psyche is just a symptom of a more general disease: the imperfect picture or interpretation of reality. We are born into a world of apparent dissonance; maturation is largely the process of sorting out the myriad contradictions reality presents to us and developing a comprehensive world-view that can explain how the apparent disharmony in fact reflects the underlying unity within creation. The success a person can expect to have in this learning process is in direct proportion to how much Torah he has learned, for the Torah is the one unchanged, unadulterated statement of G-d's plan of creation. Conversely, the farther a person has to go toward adopting the mode of thinking and conceptual categories of the Torah, the more the contradictions and discords of life will irk him.

Whereas the good advice of the confidant addresses the confider's problem directly, the new insight does not. It is born of the tension created by the problem, but its focus is on something much bigger: the root of the problem, the inconsistent, immature perception of reality that allowed the problem to exist and develop.

The challenge of transforming the bitter into the sweet is perhaps the unique calling of our generation. Previous generations were either not so plagued by deep-seated neuroses as we are or were not as capable of dealing with them directly and therefore dealt with them by ignoring and repressing them.

We have thus identified three stages in the sweetening phase of therapy, which themselves may be seen as the inter-inclusion of all three phases within sweetening:

submission within sweetening; articulation of the problem, separation within sweetening; advice for directly dealing with evil, and sweetening within sweetening; transforming (the root of the) evil into good.

The third, consummate level of sweetening, the flow of new depths in a person's understanding of reality in general and the Torah in particular is an expression of the deepest aspect of the Jew's Divine soul. Kabbalah teaches that G-d, the Jewish people, and the Torah are in a sense one entity. By virtue of the complete annihilation of his own ego, the Jew can experience himself as one with G-d and with the intellect through which He created the world, the Torah. The result of this tripartite identification is the spontaneous flow of new insights into the meaning and relevance of the Torah. Connected to the Torah at its source, the Jew's Divine soul serves as a conduit for the Torah s revelation into reality in the context of his individual personality.

Anxiety Relief – Table of Contents   

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