I know SO many people in the Jewish community (frum and not frum….) who are in complete and utter denial that there is ‘anything wrong’, despite the fact that multiple family members are on anti-depressants, and / or are often chronically ill, and / or the kids are struggling tremendously in so many different ways, and / or people are walking around like superficial, depressed, stressed zombies with zero real joie de vivre, or simchat chaim.
Jews aren’t immune to trauma. In fact, there is no single people in the world that has been through more trauma than the Jewish people.
For the last two decades, Rabbi Pinchos Yehoshua HaCohain has been heavily involved in issues of substance abuse, kids-at-risk, domestic abuse and violence and the treatment of trauma and molestation within the orthodox Jewish community.
In a recent essay called ‘Chosen People and Abuse’, that appeared in the first volume of a work called ‘Child & Domestic abuse: Torah, Psychological and Legal Perspectives’, Rav HaCohain identified the following three major issues, which he believed was leading to the explosion of abuse and emotional difficulties in the frum community:
1)Rabbinic and communal distrust of science – both theoretical and practical – and therefore ignorance of how to deal with these types of problems.
2)Misunderstanding of Torah obligations and values.
3)Pervasive superficiality of our spiritual endeavors.
(As an aside, I’m not sure I agree 100% with his first point, because more and more rabbis are being taken in by the ‘pseudo-science’ that surrounds so much of modern medicine, and particularly psychiatry. But I digress.)
Particularly in connection to this last point about how superficial so much of even the observant Jewish community has become, he wrote the following:
“My study of these issues has made it clear to me that we, as a people, have become overcome, almost as if possessed, by a compulsion to maintain a façade of infallibility and perfectionism.
“At all costs, as if our very life depended on it, we need to protect our public visage, and put a ‘positive spin’ on any and all of our action. Being somewhat less than perfect or slightly blemished is just simply intolerable. Never mind what we feel like inside, it’s the countenance that counts!”
Later on in the same essay, Rabbi HaCohain continues:
“Those who have studied the [subject matter] realize that these behaviors are none other but manifestations of the classic symptoms of a traumatized person (and people). (I.e., simple, repetitive, rigidly-structured, status quo activities with little or no depth and certainly no motivation to grow or change.)
The names we choose to call the problem, be it ‘Erev Rav behavior’, personality disorders, Complex-Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or even plain old ‘suffering’ is far less important than the recognition that something has gone drastically awry in the way most Jews now relate to themselves and the world, ranging across the physiological, emotional and spiritual realms.
The first, and most crucial part of this process is to stop sticking our heads in the sand, and to recognize the enormous challenge that we, as a people, are up against.
Rebbe Nachman told us exactly what was going on, more than 200 years’ ago. In Likutey Moharan II 8:2, he taught:
"When Daat is blemished, compassion is diminished, and kindness is replaced by cruelty. People in this state become insensitive to the feelings of others, and negligent towards property. Damage and abuse become commonplace. Worse still, compassion is totally misplaced, so that one's compassion is often spent - and wasted - on those who are unworthy."
That emotionally-absent parent, that phony, abusive Rebbe, that nasty neighbor or bullying boss that unfortunately every single one of us knows - or perhaps even, is – they aren’t just a little bit eccentric, or exceptional: They - we - are all the unfortunate by-products of a people who have been traumatized to our core, and who have lost touch with who we really are, and our true spiritual dimension.
When you’ve been through as much as every single one of us has - and remember, trauma can also be inherited from our relatives, especially if it wasn’t probably dealt with at the time - then that severely impacts our ability to empathise with others, and our ability to feel remorse, and our ability to grow and change.
But things can change!
Things are changing, as more and more of us understand what’s really causing so many of the people we love and care for (including ourselves…) to crack up and close down.
Spiritually, ‘daat’ is defined as an innate knowledge that God is running the world. You could swap the word ‘emuna’ in for ‘daat’, and get to roughly the same place. To boil it all down, the more genuine emuna you have, the more daat you have, the more compassion, empathy, sensitivity, happiness, ability to learn new things and depth you also have - which are all those things that go missing in traumatized people.
Our sages teach that when Moshiach shows up, the world will be full of daat, and cruelty and anger will disappear.
Here’s a short-cut to how you can get there already:
- Pull your head out of the sand
- Stop denying what’s really going on (and pretending that pills are going to solve the problem...)
- Work on your emuna
- Educate yourself about how many of yours (and other people’s…) bad middot and emotional issues are really just rooted in trauma and a lack of real connection to God.
- The link between trauma and eating disorders
- How to tame the 'inner critic'
- Why traumatised people make mountains out of molehills
- How to raise emotionally-healthy kids
- The four 'stress' responses and how they shape your emotional reaction to life
- Understanding how C-PTSD is linked to emotional illness: an introduction
I got sent this by my friend Malka, and they are now up to 4,000 women....
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