By Chana Rosenblatt
The etymology of the word ‘psychology’ derives from psychi, the Greek word for ‘soul’, coupled with the suffix –ology meaning ‘science of’. Psychology, in its original form, means science of the soul. And that makes a lot of sense to me. Teach people about their own innate G-dliness and surely you can restore them to mental health. Because mental health resides in the soul; no matter how much someone is suffering the soul is always pure, never tainted.
It must be clear to any maamin that a neshama, created butzelem Elokim cannot be depressed; it does not know what the word means as it feels an intimate connection to the Infinite Source of joy. A neshama cannot possibly be anxious; it trusts in Hashem and knows that all will be OK. A neshama cannot suffer from OCD – obsessive compulsive disorder – it has but one obsession, and an incredibly healthy obsession at that, to be daveik to Hakadosh Baruch Hu. The Rambam says (Hilchos Teshuva 10:3) that being obsessed (literally ‘sick’) with ahavah is actually the most fitting way to serve G-d. And a neshama has no trauma about the past – because it lives only in the present. It walks with Hashem right now and has no time for what happened one moment ago, let alone last week or last year. It follows then that if you awaken the spark of G-dliness, the neshama, in human beings, you can open a channel for sustainable mental health.
Try to help people solve their ‘problems’ and you find yourself at their side in the midst of a raging battle. Forget their ‘problems’ and aim towards awakening their spiritual core – and suddenly they find the wherewithal to resolve their own problems; if their problems even look like problems anymore. When you help people realise that they are not lost and broken human beings, rather that they are wise and beautiful spiritual beings having a human experience, life starts to look very, very different to them.
Taking someone through this process is the difference between trying to get to a location on foot when the roads are overgrown with thorn bushes and nettles, versus stepping into a hot air balloon and floating over all of the obstacles. Go in on ground level and you may eventually reach your destination – but every step of the way is a battle and you will arrive bruised and exhausted. Let go and allow the balloon to carry you – and you can sit back and enjoy the ride.
We cannot solve our own problems. We Jews know that. And that’s actually really good news; because we have a Ribono Shel Olam who does it all for us instead. Yes, He wants hishtadlus. Yes, He wants partnership. But what does that partnership look like? Is it a partnership of taking hold of this world and attempting to do the job ourselves? Or is it a partnership of letting go of the ego, in an act of faith/emunah, and allowing Him to take the reins? A partnership of abdication and humility – the greatest of all human middos? God wants our hearts. He wants us to be lishma, to call to Him genuinely and open our hearts sufficiently to allow Him to heal us.
All very well, you may say, but how do we teach this? How do we introduce people to their own innate G-dly essence such that they experience a genuine feeling of G-d’s presence in their lives?
For almost 10 years now I have been teaching an approach to mental wellbeing known as Innate Health. It does precisely this. And I have seen miracles happen. I have seen people who have suffered for years wake up to finding G-d in their lives in moments. And Hashem’s presence lifts any pain and heals all mental suffering.
My point is that whilst every frum Jew knows that Hashem runs our day to day lives, they don’t always appreciate that this means He runs our psychological lives also. He is consistently providing us with thought as the experience of life. Our psychological experience is not set in concrete; it’s actually incredibly fluid and flexible – because Hashem is recreating it from moment to moment. When someone learns to see their experience in this way, the world looks less and less substantial and Hashem looks more and more real. And it opens people up to a deep sense of Hashem’s presence in their lives.
Rabbi Michel Twerski of Milwaukee said about Innate Health, ‘I would implore you to take a look at this because it will enrich your lives in ways that will be extremely meaningful to you as an individual and your family.’
Over the next few weeks, I plan to explain how Innate Health works and why I believe it is providing a route to wellbeing that is rooted in genuine dveykus for so many people.