I started my career as a really serious student of psychoanalysis and its founder Dr. Freud: After all - I came by it naturally – my mother was a psychoanalyst. That meant that I was raised to believe that nobody is normal – rather - the world is divided into three clinical categories: psychotic, borderline-psychotic and neurotic – normal people simply don’t exist and it is beyond the scope of science or even the best parents to raise normal children.
Who cared if Freud wasn’t so optimistic – I was still determined be the highest functioning neurotic that I could be.
Following my acceptance into a post-graduate psychoanalytic training program and armed with my sparkling new 27 volume set of The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud – I was sure that the gates of happiness were about to swing open for me. I was about to enter a great new world of clarity and understanding about myself and others – my secret claim – that all of my doubts, conflicts and neurotic preoccupations would be removed and that I would be privy to the wisdom to cure many people. I couldn’t wait to embark upon my career as a psychoanalyst.
Let’s jump ahead 32 years and thousands of patients to see what happened to old Zev. Did I get to fulfill my personal and professional aspirations? Did a through training in behavioral sciences lead to the realization of my cherished ideals?
Just ask any therapist who has been around for a while – the severity of mental illness in the world has sunk to an unprecedented low - There has likewise been a steady decline in the overall mental health of people seeking psychotherapy. Today, there are disorders listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manuel of Mental Disorders that we didn’t even have names for years ago - The internet alone is driving multitudes of people into unspeakably bizarre forms of insanity that no one could have anticipated. We are living in a nightmarish world where a million people a year are being murdered by their own hand – that’s about one every 40 seconds – and the truth is – that without emuna – we therapists don’t have a clue of what to do about it.
We are living in a Sodomite-world that is so flooded with increasing crime, murder, terrorism and the threat of nuclear war – while the atheist movement, spearheaded by very learned and renowned academics in psychology, and other fields continues to thrive – blaming G-d rather than themselves for the mess they have made of the world.
Isn’t it time that we stopped believing in a profession whose founder called religion the opiate of the masses while he was himself was writing under the influence of cocaine? In his book Civilization and its Discontents, Freud came to the mindboggling conclusion that Moses, our Teacher, was an Egyptian!
Freud’s biographers tell us that just before his death in 1939; Freud had profound regrets about straying from his mother’s Chassidic roots; for his assimilation into German society, and for his anti-Jewish writings. Although he had attended cheder (a Jewish school), as a child – Freud completely forgot the Hebrew alphabet and admitted to an Israeli psychoanalyst that he could not read one of his books that was translated into Hebrew.
The turning point, for me, came when I discovered the “The Path of the Just” a Jewish Ethical work, published in 1738 by Rabbi Moshe Chayim Luzzato. Rabbi Luzzatto wrote: “only teachings that are based on the Torah have the power to cure human problems. The only reason why Torah has any power at all is because G-d bound His most precious influence to it. If G-d had not made it so, then the Torah would be no different from any other educational book. These [secular] books may contain accurate and valuable information, but they do not incorporate any significance and excellence into the soul of a person who reads, recites or comprehends them. Books such as these have absolutely no power to rectify creation.”
The confessions of a psychotherapist
* Self-Doubt and doubt about the existence of G-d is the primary weapon of the evil inclination. Once doubt is allowed to enter a person’s mind, it can manifest itself in numerous forms of psychopathy.
* Any form of psychological treatment that is not based on emuna will at best, lead to very temporary results.
* Psychology can never be separated from morality. It is only through the study of Jewish Law that we can determine what is good and what is not.
* Restlessness, irritability, impatience, anxiety, low-mood, obsessive thinking, impulsive behavior, aggression, competitiveness and sadness– are all reduced or eliminated when one lives in alignment with the Spiritual Truths than run the universe.
* Becoming conscious of one’s unconscious will not lead to psychic liberation.
* There is no such thing as a neutral and unbiased therapist. His morality is still speaking to your unconscious mind.
* The curative value of a “therapeutically corrective relationship” with the therapist is a myth.
* Ventilating and catharsis of rage only serves to reinforce and strengthen it.
* “Therapeutic regression” to the scene of a trauma can be more dangerous than helpful.
* A therapist’s abstinence and lack of gratification to his client is not helpful.
* Most psychotherapists have had very dysfunctional childhoods.
* Most psychotherapists have not had psychotherapy on themselves.
* The theoretical underpinnings of psychotherapy are mostly heretical and come from unclean sources.
* A person cannot have mental health without being part of a community.
* Conventional psychotherapy encourages dependency.
* Psychotherapy only makes addictions worse.
* Many people go into debt because of the expense of psychotherapy.
* The Talmud strongly warns us that everyone must be paired up with someone else (a peer) who they are willing be completely honest with and to give and receive advice from.
* One who is aligned with his true purpose senses the enormity of his mission and how unimportant his “problems” are.
* Submission to Hashem, the Torah, Tzadikkim, and a spiritual guide brings immediate relief.
* There is no need for obsessive compulsive symptoms in a person who knows how to decipher what Hashem’s next right step for him is.
* The industrial revolution and the effects of the haskala, (the enlightenment) have poisoned our minds and severely weakened our knowledge and certainty of the Truth.
* We have inherited doubt from our parents and grandparents. Our environment is saturated with the effects of atheism which without Spiritual awareness, we habitually and continually internalize.
* Without happy, living role-models whose personalities and lives are imbued with Torah values and Wisdom a person will be lost.
* The most common source of suffering is sadness. Nothing evokes such severe judgments as dissatisfaction with one’s lot. The Torah says that sadness is the root cause of life’s curses. Many conventional therapy sessions lead to sadness.
* Continued philosophical questioning without truthful answers leads to illness. While we cannot ignore or deny our questions about life; we must search for the Truth as Abraham did and remove ourselves from the psychopathology of conflict and doubt.
So when Hashem in his loving kindness sends us tribulations to help us grow stronger in emuna, instead of immediately turning to a therapist, why not turn to someone who can really help to you. Emuna can not only give you immediate relief, it can lead you to a way of life that will immunize you against further problems.
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Zev Ballen, LCSW has been a practicing psychotherapist for 32 years. He is licensed in Israel and the State of New York. Zev has the endorsements of prominent Gadolei Yisrael such as the Nikolsburger Rebba, Shlita, Reb Yitzchok Fagelstock, Shlita, The Kasaner Rebbe of Forshay, Shlita, Rav Shalom Arush, Shlita, and Rabbi Lazer Brody, Shlita. He resides with his family in Jerusalem where he learns in Rav Arush’s Kollel and maintains a part-time practice. You can write to Zev Ballen at: firstname.lastname@example.org or call him at: 845-362-8600 (US line) or 054-840-9499 (Israeli line).