Until I find a ‘source’ for my ideas or insights in Torah, I always suspect they may be wrong, or ‘faulty’ in some way.
Torah is truth, and if our modern ideas of how things work somehow clash with the Torah’s ideas, we can be sure that the problem is by us.
So, a little while ago I started getting all of these insights that trauma is what’s causing mental illness, and that in particular, there are four types of ‘stress response’ that most people fall back into, that then causes them to act out in negative ways.
These ‘4Fs’ are the basis of every single one of our bad middot, and every type of mental and emotional disturbance. That’s as far as I got on the ‘secular’ side of the picture, and it tied in very nicely with all the information and insights I had about the Erev Rav, which I wrote up in the book: Unlocking the secret of the Erev Rav.
Still, much as it made sense to me 100%, I hadn’t yet found the source in Torah, so I wasn’t completely sure I was on the right path. Until last week. Last week, I read Rav Berland’s Parsha Sheet talking about Tu B’Shevat, and there were the ‘4fs’ clearly described, from Torah sources.
Here’s what the Rav said in his shiur:
“…on a spiritual level, the year is divided up into four parts, corresponding to the four evil forces (klipot) which are:
1) The storm wind – corresponding to Nisan, Iyar and Sivan
2) A big cloud – corresponding to Tamuz, Av and Elul
3) A volatile fire – corresponding to Tishrey, Cheshvan and Kislev
4) Noga [the klipa that is ‘mixed’ between good and bad, and is the hardest to clarify] – corresponding to Tevat, Shvat and Adar.
“Some people are hot tempered ‘volatile fires’ – they embarrass others and are complete fanatics. Some people personify the ‘storm wind’ – they are fast like the wind, his whole being is a whirlwind, a tornado, hurling everything in his path. Some people are dreary like the ‘big cloud’ – they are grey and gloomy like a cloud, always depressed, always sad….Hashem doesn’t want these three personality types….
“Only after overcoming Noga, the mixture of good and evil, does one merit to reach the ‘still, quiet voice’ [of Hashem – i.e. the soul’s true voice]. To overcome Noga means knowing when to be silent and when to speak.”
If you take a look at the infographic I did on the 4Fs, it’s hopefully obvious how each ‘klipa’ stacks up to each stress response.
FIGHT is the volatile fire.
FLIGHT is the storm wind.
FREEZE is the big cloud.
FAWN / FLATTER is klipa noga.
These are all just ‘klipot’ – i.e. mechanisms that the force of evil is wrapping our innate goodness in, to try to keep us away from Hashem – and they can be overcome!
To put this another way, mental illness and emotional disturbance is simply another way of describing the kabbalist term mochin dekatnut, that’s used to describe a situation of ‘small mindedness’ or ‘constricted consciousness’.
This is SO different from how mental illness / emotional disturbances are treated by secular psychiatry!
Writing in Hilchot Teshuva 5, the Rambam writes:
“Every person has the ability to lead a good life and be a Tzaddik, or to lead an evil life and be a rasha…This is a fundamental concept underlying the whole Torah and its mitzvot….You have the ability to choose between all types of human action, whether good or bad…If this were not so, what place would there be for the Torah? With what justice could God punish a rasha or reward a Tzaddik if each does not have perfectly free will to choose his own path?”
This point cannot be stated too strongly, because the Western world, and modern psychiatry, is going all out to push a ‘broken brain’ model of emotional disturbance that basically says all mental illness and emotional problems are rooted in genetics / chemical imbalances, and that they are permanent states.
The corollary of this is that many people believe that as soon as they’ve got some sort of official ‘diagnosis’, that then lets them off the hook of trying to work on their bad character traits, or trying to build up their emuna, or trying to strengthen their spiritual connection to Hashem.
But that’s not at all what Judaism teaches!
Judaism makes it clear that all of us will go through bad patches and have crazy moments where we can mamash act like a psycho. We’re taught that ‘man doesn’t sin unless a spirit of insanity enters him.’ Literally, that means that every single time we do something against Hashem’s will, or against the Torah, or that we lose our temper, or lash out at another person, on some level we’re ‘insane’!
The crazier we are, the crazier we act, the MORE effort we need to be putting into overcoming the bad middot and lack of emuna that’s actually causing the problem in the first place.
This isn’t my idea, btw. Writing in the ‘Garden of Healing’, Rav Arush explains that:
“Anyone who lacks emuna has some form of insanity. Whether one has worries, depression, or fears, all these are mental illnesses, illnesses of the soul. A person who has emuna lives with the reality of the Creator and is filled with joy and contentment. Therefore, talking about emuna and studying it heals the soul.”
Writing in Likutey Moharan I:72, Rebbe Nachman tells us:
“…the evil inclination of most people, which comes from the turbidity of the blood, is great foolishness, insanity and stupidity, as our Sages said: ‘A person doesn’t sin unless a foolish spirit enters him. (Sotah 3a).’”
To put this in different words, Rebbe Nachman is saying to us: “If you’re not a perfect, flawless Tzaddik, that means you’re still doing things wrong, and you’re still a little crazy!”
NEWSFLASH: We’re all a little bit crazy in 2017, me included!
The key is to know that our ‘craziness’ is truly just a ‘klipa’
– something that’s actually external to who we really are, and that we CAN overcome if we accept what we’re actually dealing with, we continue to work on identifying and uprooting our bad middot, and we work on our emuna and keep asking God to help us.