This is the second article in a three-part series about Internet Addiction with Dr. Naftali Fish. The first article introduced “The Internet Challenge” and discussed our society’s addiction based culture, and the challenge facing our society today in light of Sigmund Freud’s teachings.
The axiom of Dr. Fish’s book “The Internet Challenge” is that the western world today has become external due to an overpowering of the societal “id”, pleasure seeking principle, resulting in a culture of addictions.
Dr. Fish has defined the internet challenge as one facing everyone in the era of the internet, and therefore he stresses the necessity of practicing the Nachas Ruach meditation for all, in order to lead a balanced and internet-addiction-free life.
Nachas Ruach is a meditation technique developed by Dr. Fish in order to assist the greater population today in maintaining inner balance in the era of the internet.
How does Nachas Ruach meditation address internet addiction?
The world is about immediate gratification which is so mesmerizing, but extremely toxic. Immediate gratification does not facilitate long term growth, which is what is needed in order to have a fulfilling and happy life, full of strong meaningful relationships.
It is so important to know how to experience pleasure in a positive and spiritual way without becoming addicted to it. The Nachas Ruach meditation facilitates a person in achieving inner peace through a connection with Hashem.
It helps the person meditating to gain self love and to be able to feel connected to their pure spiritual essence.
Once you have developed a better relationship with yourself, and you have a sense of your inner spiritual essence, you will be able to form healthy relationships with other people, and experience healthy forms of mental, emotional as well as physical pleasure through these relationships. This is the necessary formula for avoiding internet addiction.
In order to meet this need you developed the Nachas Ruach meditation technique, can you describe what it is?
The Nachas Ruach meditation method is a meditation that I developed based on the Kabbalistic concept of Tiferet.
The concept of Tiferet means experiencing inner balance, compassion for one’s self and others and facilitates healing.
This, combined with several techniques recognized in the broader world of clinical psychologists as being helpful for achieving relaxation and positive inner peace, is what makes up the technique of Nachas Ruach.
How would one practice your meditation technique? What are the steps involved?
Find a quiet space where you will not be disturbed. Sit still, eyes closed, and get comfortable with what is going on in the present moment. Do not think about the past or the future. This step helps to achieve mindfulness. The next stage is to take ten breaths, slowly and consciously through the nostrils, holding for several seconds, and then exhaling from the mouth.
Now is the time to introduce the Jewish spiritual dimension into the meditation bringing a deeper sense of awareness. The following sentences should be thought or said out loud; Every heartbeat is the expression of Hashem’s will that I be alive in the present moment. Hashem loves me as an individual. Hashem created me in the Divine Image.
This knowledge helps to internalize in the deepest way the true foundation for developing positive self-esteem.
What is the next stage of the meditation?
In the next stage, the meditation suggests paying attention to the thoughts going through your mind for a minute.
This is important because a person really is where his thoughts are and we want to gain awareness of our current self. After a minute of this, the meditation suggests focusing on one word that you repeat for the next three to five minutes.
This mental exercise was developed by Dr. Herbert Beson in the 1980’s, who discovered that focusing one’s mind on any word for ten minutes, sets off a natural relaxation response. This is opposite to the natural stress response when one is anxious or threatened.
From this place, a person can be more in touch with his inner-self, in a simple but transforming way. From this inner place one moves into the next stage of the meditation- talking to Hashem from one’s heart about everything on his mind.
This last step is a method of prayer advocated by Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, who revitalized this basic way of connecting with Hashem, as was practiced by King David in the book of Tehillim.
Is there scientific evidence to support the benefits of this technique?
It is scientifically proven that a person who practices meditation of any kind at least three times a week is able to achieve a state of relaxation and a sense of serenity at a quicker pace. This is true for Nachas Ruach as well.
After the mediation, a person is able to go back to his outerlife being more grounded and able to cope with life’s challenges in a better way. It helps a person learn how to meet his basic needs for pleasure in a healthy and wholesome manner, to be involved in his relationships in a constructive way and to be less likely to try to falsely satisfy these needs in a negative platform through the internet and social media.
You have been working with this technique with thousands of people since 1988. What is your most revolutionary finding?
In light of the reality of how difficult it is for all of my patients to meditate for even five minutes, which I have seen throughout all my years of practice, I would say that achieving the ability to be present with oneself is revolutionary in of itself.
In a world that has become so external, everyone should take one to two minutes a day to close their eyes, take deep breaths, go inside themselves and connect to their inner voice by means of talking to Hashem, to maintain balance within themselves. Be present with yourself. It’s revolutionary to achieve this ability.
It’s so simple, so helpful and so healing. Just a couple of minutes a day without any external stimuli.
Why, in your professional opinion is it so difficult for people to meditate today?
Many people today are uncomfortable by themselves because they are so accustomed to being stimulated by external sources.
Even in the era of television, prior to the internet, people would leave their televisions on for background noise so that they would not have to sense being by themselves. if this was the reality twenty years ago it is true all the more so today. With options ranging from music, movies, TV shows, chat, social media, news and texting, and all with a click of the finger, people’s inability to sense themselves is far greater.
Twenty years ago when sitting at a bus stop one had no option to switch on their television set for background noise and so one would read a newspaper perhaps, or strike up a conversation with the person sitting next to them, or simply sit and think in silence.
All of those options require a certain level of inner peace and a sense of self love which comes from self awareness.
Nowadays everyone has a smartphone and with it unlimited access to stimuli and therefore never give themselves the time to sit in silence.
A concept which was a natural part of human nature up to about twenty years ago has now become something we must put effort into to achieve.
What are some of the extreme outcomes of internet addiction that you see today?
This addiction to the internet, like any other addiction has become life threatening. Even when crossing the street people can be seen looking down into their smartphones as opposed to taking precaution for their lives by looking around them.
Even drivers today are texting or checking social media while they speed down roads, disregarding the safety for their own lives and for the lives of those around them. You tell yourself you won’t use your phone while driving, or while crossing the street, or while supervising your children, but then you realize that you just did it.
I developed the Nachas Ruach meditation method for this purpose. Everyone who uses the internet must practice Nachas Ruach if they want to make sure they do not become addicted.
At first glance, people will think that “The Internet Challenge” is for individuals who already have a problem, but what I hear you say is that it’s relevant for the general public.
Yes, absolutely. It’s for everyone.
Whether you have an addiction or not you must gain awareness so that you can manage your life with internet usage.
If you are a responsible person you will practice Nachas Ruach, be it to manage your already existing addiction or be it to prevent one from creeping up on you.
I also want to mention that my book is relevant to all people of all levels of observance, secular, dati, haredi, hassidish etc.
What are some guiding questions to help your audience gain self awareness and align their online activity with their value system?
To gain more self-awareness I developed the following basic questions:
For what purposes do I want to use the internet?
For what purposes do I not want to use the internet?
Do my reasons for using and for not using the internet fit in with my value system?
Don’t be afraid to answer. It is important to be honest with yourself so as to prevent a downward spiral.
What kinds of questions should someone who already has an addiction ask themselves, and what actions should they take to help themselves?
First of all it’s important to know how to detect if you have a problem. If you feel you’re on the verge of developing an overuse of the internet, you have a problem. Let’s assume you have an addiction, ask yourself the following questions:
Do you find yourself setting boundaries that you’re not necessarily able to maintain?
Do you think that you need help?
What do you gain from using the internet, and what do you lose?
The answers to these questions will propel you to realize that you need to take action and to seek help.
Can you give an analogy to help people understand how to organize their use of the internet with their value system so as to manage their cyber activity?
I have found that it is helpful for people to look at the world of internet and media as if you are entering a highway with traffic lights set up at every website: “Green light”, “orange light”, “red light”.
“Green light” is parts of the internet and social media that seem to be okay all of the time, such as educational classes. “Orange light” is okay some of the time. “Red light” is never okay and it is completely off limits.
Similar to driving with passengers and traffic cameras, make your activity on the internet public. Sharing your activity with a loved one can greatly facilitate avoiding any “traffic violations”.
Your value system will directly be reflected in the way you define what your different colored lights are.
The orange light can be the hardest to define because it changes “color” based on your activity. these are websites or cyber activity that you have decided to avoid or to limit your usage of based on personal reasons as opposed to your value system.
When you are surfing these “orange light” websites you will choose to continue or to stop depending on certain factors.
For example if someone likes to watch movies the first one might be OK, but when it turns into an all-night movie marathon, which you did not set out to do in the first place, it becomes a red-light for you. You must be aware of your activity and your traffic lights and abide by the “laws”.
The focus is that you are maintaining awareness of what you are doing and why you are doing it.
Why is awareness so important?
Addictions develop when a person loses awareness. I have to stress that getting on the internet without awareness is no different than handing the keys back to a drunk driver. Just as it is not the person, but rather the alcohol taking the wheel, so to it is not you but rather your “id personality” guiding your hands over the keyboard and mouse. Without awareness the internet will become a roller-coaster that takes you where it takes you.
Coming Up Next
For our next article in the Internet Challenge series we will discuss parenting in the era of the internet with Dr. Fish; how to detect and cope with internet addiction in children.