Emotional Wellness – The Strangers Among Us

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Rav Wolbe (Alei Shur Vol. II, p. 248) quotes the Gemara (Shabbat 105b), based on the verse,לֹא יִהְיֶה בְךָ אֵל זָר There shall be no strange god within you (Tehillim 81:10). The Gemara asks: What is the strange god inside a person?  The Gemara answers: It is the yetzer hara. 

 

The Evil Inclination – A Foreign God 

Simply speaking, the yetzer hara, evil inclination, is like a foreign god, because we listen to what it dictates instead of listening to the One and Only Gd. But Rav Wolbe takes it further. The evil inclination has the power of zarut, of strangeness, making us strangers to spirituality and to our own souls, Torah, and Gd. The evil inclination disconnects us from everything holy, without letting us recognize all the good inside of us, leading us to think that the emotions and feelings inside of us are really us, when they are not. 

Let’s say someone has a meltdown or demonstrates road rage. After calming down, he may excuse himself by saying, “I was not myself.” He realizes that the force of anger was not him, but rather was a force inside him that fooled him into thinking it was him.  

 

Our Thoughts Are Simply Thoughts 

Many people are ashamed of some of their thoughts, believing that if anyone were aware of these thoughts, they would be considered crazy. What they fail to understand is that all of us have countless thoughts a day that may seem strange, inappropriate, or scary. Yet this does not mean we are strange, inappropriate, or that others should fear us.  

That would only be true if we acted on those thoughts. If we chose to give in to all of our desires, impulses, grandiose ideas, then certainly it would be concerning for others, and for ourselves. The more we comprehend the fact that thoughts are just thoughts, the less we internalize them and the less we see them as a part of us. 

 

Hold on to Your Thoughts 

Of course, there are times that we will fall, that we might engage in actual behaviors that we are not proud of.  And this can apply to all kinds of detrimental behaviors. In order to be patient, and to tolerate people or events that threaten our equilibrium, we must learn to hold the thought of impatience or intolerance.  Because that is all it is, a thought, not us. 

The power of evil makes us strangers to ourselves. The job of humanity is to become aware of the strange gods inside of us and to identify who we really are, to peel ourselves away, and to realize that the strange gods are not us.  This is the first step towards emotional wellness. 

 

TAKEAWAY  

The next time someone annoys or irritates you, try to imagine the anger boiling within you as an outside force, one that you can choose to let in or to keep at bay. And then keep it at bay. 

Or, if you hear your phone ding while you are trying to learn or pray, remind yourself that the desire to check your texts is also an outside force, which can be tamped down, as well. And then tamp it down until you are finished learning or praying and are ready to check your texts. (Then turn the phone off so it does not happen again.) 

That is a way of being your true self.