Kabbalah and Psychology: Anxiety Relief – The Kabbalah Approach to Mental Health – Part 32 – Positive Anxiety

The conclusion we have reached through our discussion is that although when left untreated anxiety can and most certainly will give rise to negative consequences vis-a-vis a person's mental well-being, proper therapy can bring one to a higher level of mental health than he could possibly have achieved otherwise. Thus, indirectly, anxiety (and even the existence of evil within the subconscious) can be a boon to a person's mental and spiritual development. Anxiety is not something negative per se ; only when left to fester untreated does it become manifest as negative apparitions in a person's psyche.

We will now turn our attention to a form of anxiety that is not only not negative but actually a positive contribution to a person's overall well-being, serving as a source of motivation towards virtuous action.

We will begin by noting that our sages assert that G-d reveals the secrets of the Torah only to an anxious person. Anxiety, then, is a requirement for learning and understanding the inner dimension of the Torah. What this means is that there is some redeeming value in anxiety that makes the person who suffers from it fit to understand and relate to aspects of the Torah that someone who does not suffer from anxiety will not relate to or understand.

The Torah is an extensive body of knowledge, both with regard to the amount of information it encompasses and the types of knowledge it comprises. After the text of the Bible itself, the most basic type of knowledge the Torah encompasses is the proper way a person should conduct his life in fulfillment of the will of G-d. This is the legal aspect of the Torah, which includes the laws themselves, their derivations, the reasoning behind them, and the methodology for deriving new laws. Inasmuch as the same laws of conduct and rules regarding the fulfillment of G-d s commandments apply to everybody, this body of knowledge is also called the revealed aspect of the Torah. The duty to understand and know the law devolves equally on all and is not dependent on any prior moral achievements or special qualities. Simply stated, everyone must know how to conduct his life in accordance with G-d s will, so therefore everyone must study the revealed aspect of the Torah.

Success in the study of this aspect of the Torah is dependent solely on the quality and quantity of effort a person expends in its pursuit. Anyone who applies himself properly to this goal is assured of realizing it.

The inner strata of the Torah, however, deal not with common standards of behavior but with the emotional life of the individual and the dynamics of his personal relationship with G-d. Since everyone's personality is different, this aspect of the Torah is much more subjective and relative than the revealed aspect. It is therefore known as the hidden aspect of the Torah, since its teachings deal with the personal aspect of an individual's life, which are generally hidden from other people.

Effort and dedication are not enough to ensure success in the study of this aspect of the Torah; here the student is required to suffer from anxiety.

This is because the secrets of the Torah shed light on the existential problems of man and the world at large; they constitute a comprehensive answer to the world's most essential and pivotal problems. Now, if there is no question there is no need for an answer. Thus, only someone who is bothered by the incongruities of life, whose soul cries out for a solution to all the seemingly unsolvable questions life presents, can hope to relate to this aspect of the Torah. If a person is not at all bothered by questions such as why was I created and why is there evil (or suffering) in the world, the inner dimension of the Torah will not speak to him.

Suffering from some anxiety thus betrays a level of sensitivity, of feeling, of caring. A person who suffers from no anxiety has no sense of pathos in his life and is thus indifferent to the questions addressed by the secrets of the Torah.


 

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