Anat Ghelber
Anat Ghelber

Psychotherapy and How It Relates to Judaism

I am currently attending social work school and learning more about both psychotherapy and healing. Doing so has led to me being surprised at how similar they are to Judaism.  I would love to share some of my knowledge explaining not only how they relate to Judaism, but also to give you guys some tips that could save you from spending a long time in therapy.  To begin, how they relate: Judaism says we are in this materialistic world, what some may consider “this temporary world,” to learn about who we really are and what truly matters. Money, fame and friendships might end but, ultimately, there is something that always ends up staying, that doesn’t die.  This is your Neshama, which is part of the Almighty.  It’s the consciousness.  It’s who we are. It never dies.

To summarize, in this distorted, fake world we are here to find out our holiness, the realness, which is the truth. Its like being in a 3D movie and feeling all these sensations and yet, still knowing it’s a movie.  This is one of the goals of psychotherapy.  Everyone has three main beings inside of themselves: our parents (caregivers,) our inner child, and the adult.  The adult is the most authentic you.  In Judaism, they would call it, “The Neshama.”  So, our duty is to find out, from amidst all this un-realness, “Who am I? What can I do to live my life to the fullest?”

A lot of times we have jobs and friends that are not really suitable to who we are as people.  But we chose them, according to psychotherapy, because of a lack of a sense of self, because of a lack of who is the adult in us.  That adult is the wisdom that comes from within when we are most calm.  When you say or do things that just feel right.  It doesn’t have to be predicated by anything external.  One way of finding out who we really are is simply by asking ourselves the question of, “Who is it that’s making this or that decision? Is it my parents? Is it the inner child? Or is it me? Who is it that’s worried about this or that thing?” Now, it doesn’t mean that you have to let go of all the beliefs and ideas that your parents integrated into you, or the needs and wants of your inner child.  Some of what your parents might have taught you, for example, could definitely be of service. You might want to do it with the awareness that it didn’t come from you.  The parents inside of us give us clues about the way we were treated as children.  The inner child inside of us gives us clues about how we were as children.  The inner child isn’t necessarily immature, it’s just a part that feels, more than thinks.  It’s that part that might need stroking from the outside world. If that part is mostly happy, sad, or angry, then that gives you clues about how you felt as a child.

Then there is that part I’ve mentioned before which, again, goes back to who we really are.  Reaching this part is the goal of both psychology and Judaism.  That part is the adult, the authentic self. It’s the part inside of yourself that knows exactly what to do and knows exactly what’s best for you.  That part IS you.  To discover that, always ask yourself, “Who is doing the thinking? Who is doing the deciding? Who’s in charge inside of myself? My parents or inner child?”

As for Judaism, this is exactly the purpose of it, to find out the holiness and what matters truly in every situation.  The saying, “Ein Od Milvado” reminds us that whatever we may go through is so temporary and our job is to learn to be objective with everything because there is a higher purpose that lies behind all of this chaos that is Hashem, that is the Neshama.  If you want to use more modern, scientific language that would be “you,” the conscious being learning to go with the flow and doing what you love every single moment without being attached to it.

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