Friday, October 8, 2010

The World is a Mirror

Denial is a psychological term referring to a person's inability to see reality. Denial is a frequently occuring phenomenon, and is one of the many psychological defense mechanisms, whose function is to shield a person from an awareness that would cause him distress.

A very common form of denial is a person's inability to see his own character defects. The reason is obvious: awareness of the presence of this defect in oneself is too much for a person to bear. Yet unawareness of these defects will result in one's doing nothing to improve upon them. Even a dedicated soul-searching may fail to reveal one's own shortcomings, since denial obscures their existence from him.

The Baal Shem Tov said that G-d provided a way to circumvent this denial: "The world is a mirror" said the Baal Shem Tov. "The defects you see in others are really your own."

While denial prevents a person from seeing his own character defects, it does not prevent him from seeing defects in other people. Quite the contrary, we are experts at detecting faults in others. All we need to do, then, said the Baal Shem Tov, is to realise that these are but a reflection of our own shortcomings. We do not see defects in others that are non-existent in ourselves.

"Love covers all offenses" (Proverbs 10:12) has filtered down to the colloquial aphorism that "Love is blind". It is common knowledge that we may be oblivious to defects in someone we love, although they may be blatant to other observers. Just as we may not see that which we do not wish to see, so it is conversely true that we only see something which, for some reason, attracts our attention. The Baal Shem Tov states that when we see defects in others, the reason for this recognition is that, in one way or another, they represent our own defects.

This principle is a major dynamic in the effectiveness of group therapy. In treatment of some types of emotional disorders, group therapy may be far more effective than individual therapy. A therapist pointing out a particular character defect to a client may be rejected, with the patient's denial preventing the necessary insight. In a group session, the client is very likely to note this very defect in another group member, and the group may then help him realise that he too has this particular characteristic, and this is extremely effective in overcoming one's denial.

It is the persistence of denial that constitutes a major obstacle to therapy and corrective action.

Rabbi Dov Ber of Lubavitch was receiving his chassidim, when he abruptly told his assistant to close the door and not allow anyone entry. Some of the chassidim, eager to understand the Rabbi's sudden desire for solitude, put their ears to the door and heard the Rabbi reciting Tehillim with heartrending tones.

The Rabbi later explained that whenever a chassid asks him for guidance to do teshuvah for a transgression; he immediately searches for that transgression within himself, according to the Baal Shem Tov's teaching that the world is a mirror, and had he not been guilty of the same thing, even in a much more diluted form, it would never have come to his attention. The discovery of an analogous defect within himself then allows him to make the necessary amends.

"When one chassid told me about something he had done wrong, I promptly began searching for a similar shortcoming in myself. However, I was unable to find it. This meant that I was deceiving myself, and that somewhere there was a dereliction of which I was unaware. Being oblivious of this would preclude my taking any corrective action, and I therefore had to pray intensely for Divine guidance to help me discover this defect in myself."

What a wonderful world it would be if every time we saw some defect in another person, we would do some soul-searching, and take corrective actions for self-improvement, rather than being critical of others and denoucing them.

[extracted from "Not Just Stories" by Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski M.D.]

1 comment:

Lea Farkash said...

kol hakavod for this beautiful article. To my opinion it is the essence of Judaism because this is the way to a true connection to Hashem.
With your permission I copy it to my weblog.