Rebbe Nachman of Breslev writes (Likutei Moharan I:173) that the soul and emuna are one aspect. Consequently, one’s emotional health is directly related to the level of one’s emuna. We therefore conclude that emotional disturbances result from a breakdown of emuna.
Emotional confusion results from confused emuna. Emotional weakness is the outcome of weak emuna. This is a rule of thumb for all mental illness.
Allow me to clarify: I’m not referring to such mental handicaps from birth such as autism and Down’s syndrome. These are the result of Divine considerations and soul reincarnations, neither of which we are capable of understanding.
Yet, when we see that a person is born healthy, but at a later age succumbs to fear, anxiety, depression, and even schizophrenia, or any other mental or emotional difficulties, the root of the problem is a blemished emuna. But here’s the good news: if an emotionally-disturbed individual learns all about emuna and prays for emuna, he or she will recover from the ailment. The more a person corrects and strengthens emuna, the more he or she will enjoy mental and emotional health.
Every person – even the so-called “normal” person – suffers from emotional problems to a certain degree. In addition to fear, anxiety, and depression, people are plagued with boredom, lack of satisfaction, anger, worries, nervousness, and extreme mood fluctuations, just to name a few. Emuna cures all these ills.
What are you afraid of?
People are frozen with fear. They fear other people, their bosses, the IRS, terrorists, other motorists – the list is long. Any time they get a muscle spasm, they envision some imminent crippling or terminal disease. All these fears are expressions of a lack of emuna, particularly the lack of emuna that everything Hashem does is for our very best.
A person with emuna doesn’t fear anything, for he knows that he’s in Hashem’s care and that everything Hashem does is for the very best. This saves tons of emotional wear and tear; since Hashem does everything for the best, then there’s nothing to worry about.
A person than devotes an hour a day to self-evaluation, teshuva, and personal prayer especially has nothing to worry about. If a person is making his best effort at self-improvement, then why should Hashem punish him? Such a person doesn’t need wake-up calls, because he’s daily arousing himself to teshuva and to self-improvement. The result of an hour a day in personal prayer is increased happiness and decreased stress and worry.
Stringencies in religious observance are madness; therefore, no one should be too exacting with himself. Don’t worry about whether your performance of a mitzvah is perfect or not, just do what you can with innocence and with simplicity of thought and intent. Remember that the Torah wasn’t given to angels, but to human beings with human limitations.
Those who demand angelic deportment from themselves are therefore candidates for frustration, gloom, and disappointment that results from the arrogant feeling that they should be doing everything perfectly. A person connected to the truth is happy serving Hashem the best way he or she can, without going into hair-splitting stringencies.
Belief in our wise men
Rebbe Nachman of Breslev teaches (See Rebbe Nachman’s Discourses, 67) that, “Ignoring the wise can cause insanity. A person acts insane only because he ignores the advice of others. If he would take rational advice, he could act normal. His mental state might rationalize his need to do such things as tearing his clothing and rolling in the garbage. But a wiser man than he tells him not to do these things. If he would only subjugate his will to the wise, his actions would become completely rational. Insane behavior therefore results only from ignoring the wise. Understand this well.”
The above teaching obligates any rational personal to heed the words of the wise, especially of our renowned spiritual leaders. Belief in their words together with emuna in Hashem is the key to mental health. The Torah praises the children of Israel during their flight from bondage in Egypt when it says (Exodus 14:31), “And they believed in Hashem and in His servant Moses.”
Rebbe Nachman of Breslev, probably the greatest doctor of the soul that ever lived, also teaches (see Abridged Likutei Moharan, I:1) that “by learning Torah, one is saved from madness.”
The Yetzer Hara, the evil inclination, wants to drive a person crazy. Our sages teach us that a person doesn’t sin unless the spirit of insanity enters his brain. As the evil inclination (EI) wants a person to sin, he injects that person with a dose of insanity. The EI has all kinds of ploys to trap a person, and uses a number of different temptations and confusions to twist one’s better judgment. The only way to guard against these pitfalls is by strengthening Torah learning and strengthening emuna.
“Evil thoughts and contemplations of lust make people crazy” (Likutei Moharan I:60). There is a very strong correlation between personal holiness and mental health. The opposite is also sad and true, that the more a person succumbs to lust and lewd thoughts, the less sane he becomes. People notoriously do insane things to fulfill their lusts, whether it be squandering hard-earned money, risking the wrath of the irate husband of the woman they covet, or breaking up their own home and ruining their own lives as well as the lives of their wife and children. Pornography adds to this insanity.
Therefore, guarding one’s eyes and mind from lewd and forbidden input is just as important as guarding one’s mouth from swallowing poison. In fact, it’s easier to poison the mind that it is to poison the body.
Torah learning, learning about emuna, sincere teshuva in the area of personal holiness, extensive personal prayer, and guarding one’s eyes especially from impure books, movies, magazines, and websites are conducive to escaping the pitfalls of the type of evil thoughts and contemplations of last that make a normal person insane.
A person should pray for happiness. Happiness and good mental health go hand in hand. True happiness comes from enhanced emuna.
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