People who are sincerely seeking a real connection with G-d often ask me. "What am I doing wrong? Why am I still so far from living the spiritual life of emuna that I really want to be living? "
When I get to know these people, I often discover that they are faithfully practicing daily personal prayer, and seem to be utilizing our books, articles and CD's.
So I asked myself: "What's missing here? How is it possible that people whose lives are seemingly immersed in emuna are not feeling fulfilled?
I thought about this and wondered how I could explain or simplify something that I've learned from Rabbi Arush in a way that could help these people feel more inspired and able to progress.
The answer came clothed in something that I learned as a psychotherapist.
There is a simple formula for happiness, and a simple formula for unhappiness.
Happiness, according to this model, occurs when my life conditions match up with my inner blueprint of what I decided my life should be.
Unhappiness results when the conditions of my life fall short of the story that I tell myself that my life is supposed to be.
Let's take a personal example:
Throughout my junior high school and high school years, I was consistently one of the five top players on our school basketball team. When I made the varsity team in high school, I helped my coach and my team to win alot of games in a very competitive division. This made me feel happy and fulfilled.
Why? Because the conditions of my life (excelling at basketball) fit well with my blueprint for my life which was to play basketball on a professional level for the NBA.
But what happens when G-d intervenes and does not allow one's life conditions to continue to match up with one's blueprint for success?
What results is: ANGER, DEPRESSION, FEAR and a whole host of psychological problems.
On the high school level my 6 foot 3 inch 185 pound frame and set of skills enabled me to excel on the court. But when I got to the college level, I found that even average players were not only taller, stronger and heavier than I was but they could run like the wind and had springs in their legs. For the first time in my life I felt inadequate as an athlete.
The conditions of my life no longer matched up with my blueprint, my plan for the future - it resulted in sadness.
I had two choices:
One choice was to change my life conditions - that meant, harder workouts, more practice, a more disciplined diet - in effect - drilling myself until I could excel on a college level.
Choice number two: Change my blueprint.
I choose to change my blueprint because I saw that even with all of my effort and determination I still would be warming the bench on a good college team. This meant that if my blueprint of becoming a professional athlete didn't change, I was doomed to a profoundly unhappy life.
What enabled me to relinquish my inner claim of becoming a star basketball player was simple and yet profound. It is also the answer for anyone who is not succeeding in living according to the spiritual blueprint that he has set for himself.
The answer was to uncover specifically what I was looking for in becoming a professional athlete. The answer was in digging deeper beneath the surface of my blueprint and discover what was really driving me. What emotional need that I was trying to meet?
In my case, the need was to feel: SIGNIFICANT, IMPORTANT and VALUABLE.
Once you know the deepest need that's driving you, it's easy to then paint another picture; to draw up a new blueprint that will also meet that need.
In my case, my blueprint shifted from "basketball player" to "psychotherapist." My perception was that working as a professional therapist could still give me the significance that I was looking for - just in a different way.
We all have experienced times in life when G-d takes away our ability or opportunity to achieve something that is dear to us - something that we ourselves etched deeply into our architectural design. Often the blueprint has the force of a "must" - an implicit demand that we make of G-d.
When G-d does this; when he makes it impossible for us to fulfill the plans that we made for ourselves, then we only have ONE CHOICE. When we see that we are powerless to improve or change our life conditions:
WE ABSOLUTELY MUST CHANGE OUR BLUEPRINT.
This is what Rabbi Arush stresses so often in his talks. The source for it in our Holy Torah is in Pirkey Avos (the Wisdom of the Fathers). There it says that when G-d's Will for you is not your will for yourself, you should pray that your will for yourself will become G-d's Will for you.
Likewise, a person who is not happy with his spiritual progress must ask himself. What inner model am I operating from? What unconscious operating system (the blueprint) is driving me; and is it possible for me to change my life conditions to conform to it or not? If the answer comes back "no", then ask yourself:
"What is that deepest need that's been driving me; that I have been demanding to meet in my way?
The next question that you'll ask yourself is where the magic happens:
"Now how can I meet that need - in G-d's Way?"
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Dr. Zev Ballen, Psy.D. has been a practicing psychotherapist for more than 30 years. He is the founder and developer of Emuna Therapy, a faith-based method of counseling based exclusively on the teachings of Rabbi Shalom Arush. Dr. Zev has the endorsements of Gadolei Yisrael such as the Nikolsburger Rebba, Rabbi Yitzchok Fagelstock, Rabbi Shalom Arush, and Rabbi Lazer Brody. You can see Dr. Zev's live video broadcast every Wednesday at 5pm Israel time here on breslev.co.il. You can write in with questions to Dr. Zev at: firstname.lastname@example.org. You can call him at: 845-362-8600 (US) or 054-840-9499 (Israel). Dr. Zev resides in Jerusalem, with his family, where he learns in Rav Arush’s Kollel and maintains a part-time private practice. You're also welcome to visit Dr. Zev's personal blog, Emuna Therapy.