The Rebbe of Peasetzna, ZTZ”L HY”D, wrote about the difference between symptomatic treatment and healing.
An analogy would be someone with a gastric infection that causes him to regurgitate. If he visits a quack doctor who treats only the symptoms, the infection itself will not be healed. The infection will continue to spread, pus and poisoned blood will increase. The underlying causes will overcome the suppressing drug, and the patient will again regurgitate. And now it will be more difficult to heal the wound. But if instead he visits a true healer whose wisdom can get to the cause, then with God's help, this doctor will find and heal the infection at its source....
Each of us is responsible for healing the dysfunction of his own soul, the root source of his disturbing thoughts, and not just for keeping them out of his mind and heart...
Let us return to the analogy of gastric infection. The quack is satisfied to suppress the symptoms, while the healer aims to heal the wound. There is no assurance, though, that a new infection will never arise. Still, the present wound can be thoroughly healed and the infection expelled. This is the difference...
What I ask of you is that at this moment when that untoward thought, desire, or emotion rises to your consciousness that you not just deflect it and suppress it to your subconscious. Do not celebrate victory over your symptoms-your inner dynamics have not changed. You've just covered your mouth so that your spew remains inside. Heal your soul deep inside where the infection is. Even though another thought or desire may arise again, each time one does, deal with it then and there.
But how do we heal the soul? …[T]ake responsibility for yourself to find your own personalized solution... Advice and commands from superiors are insufficient: you must devise original plans for yourself. Outside sources can only be a guideline.
The path outlined by our holy Sages of all generations is not to be strayed from, but within it you must carve your own way...
Besides your many plans of action that you should use until you have healed your soul, you can also take advantage of our Sages' advice based on the verse in Proverbs 12:25: "When a person has a heavy heart, let him speak it out to others" (Yoma 75a). The Sages make no mention of what the listener should do to ease the distress of the other. That's because just talking about it and getting it out in the open are so healing and prevent the need for self-deception to numb the buried pain... You can experience this with your own anger or upset: you may feel that the emotional pain has subsided, but it's only from your conscious world. Inside, the poisonous emotions still hide. If more events continue to evoke those same emotions and you continue to suppress them out of "sight," eventually your emotional bank will be bursting and will explode when even slightly provoked.
This is the reason depressive people become depressed at the drop of a hat. There is no evident cause for their mood swing beyond the evocation of buried pain by associated ideas. This would not happen if they had a trusted friend before whom they could pour out their hearts.
(To Heal The Soul, The Spiritual Journal of a Chassidic Rebbe, translated by Yehoshua Starrett, Jason Aronson, 1995, pages 8-12)
"And I stand between God and you" (Deuteronomy 5:5). The Baal Shem Tov explained this to mean that the "I"-the ego, the sense of selfness that we feel and that drives us to seek only our own selfish needs-is what stands between God and one's true self-the soul.
But how do we get past the barrier imposed by the ego-self? Only by mutually nurturing relations with other human beings-you cannot do it by yourself. This is also alluded to in the verse "And I stand"-when I stand by myself, then there is the barrier "between God and man."
Now the dynamics of experiencing oneself so intensely-to the point that all senses, emotions, and desires revolve around providing only for this self seems to be a psychological, ego defense system. This develops as we grow and unconsciously perceive how everybody else is just out for himself, something that makes us feel alone and abandoned in the world. "Who will care for me if I don't stand up for myself?" So this lonely self learns to strengthen its defenses in order to provide for itself. Gradually, a thick protective shell of selfishness grows around it: the I, the me, the myself, besides which there is nothing else.
Maybe for this reason women and children are more compassionate toward others, more so than adult men. They basically have someone who cares and provides for them: a husband for his wife and parents for their children. Not feeling abandoned in this world, they have no need to build a protective shield around the self. And because their sense of selfness has not been blown out of proportion, they are more able to see through to the predicament of others and to have compassion for them.
So the way to minimize and even dissolve this "I," this selfishness that separates you from God, is to seek out close friendships with like-minded spiritual seekers. Each one should be as concerned about the other's welfare as his own. Share each other's worries and joys, help and guide each other on the spiritual path. Eventually the feeling of loneliness and abandonment will disappear, and it will be easier to uproot this self seeking from within you.
(Ibid. pages 139-140)
Parents who work on healing their souls become the trusted guides for their children’s spiritual journey. Share their worries and their joys. Their loneliness will disappear. They will be secure in your love and you will feel theirs.
Rabbi Yitzchak Shmuel Ackerman is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor with specialties in marriage, dating, and parenting.
He is the author of Confident Parents, Competent Children, in Four Seconds at a Time Available at bookstores and on Amazon.
He can be reached at 718-344-6575.