Spiritual Growth, Authenticity & Psychological Counseling – Preparing for the New Year

by Dr. Simcha Sheldon

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This article appeared in “Connections” magazine. September 15, 2006.

Spiritual Growth, Authenticity & Psychological Counseling –
Preparing for the New Year

By Dr. Simcha Sheldon

© 2006 All rights reserved.

Living the Torah life is a process of becoming whole, healthy, G-dly, peaceful, and joyous. Particularly during this time of year, we evaluate our past and look towards our future. We confess our transgressions in our relationships with Hashem, our fellows, and ourselves. We ask for forgiveness. We work towards our betterment and towards being authentic.
Yes, we will take our prayers seriously, but what additional pro-active behaviors (hishtadlut) can we engage in to fulfill our deep desires to become who we really would like to be? Many of us may feel spiritual, emotional, and psychological pain and remorse, as we think about our shortcomings. We may have glimpses of how we could be to experience inner peace, have better relationships with our spouse, children, families, and friends; overcome our fears, impatience, anger, anxiety or depression; or to simply know what it is to really experience living and celebrating life – rather than just going through the motions and feeling somewhat empty.
Being authentic is a challenging task. It requires self awareness, honesty, discipline, willingness to change, and lots of effort. Although, sometimes we feel or know that there is something bothering us deep inside, we may be afraid to really let ourselves relate to it, out of fear that we either will not be able to solve the problem, handle the pain, or make the necessary changes. Perhaps we were taught not to ’rock the boat’ or we feel obligated to live up to others’ expectations.
Many individuals are willing to do the work of self-improvement but they believe that if they improve in keeping Torah u’mitzvot, this, in itself, would be sufficient to resolve their personal difficulties. This belief is often incorrect. Chaza”l teach that when one is depressed it is difficult to do teshuva and tikun.
Many difficulties we experience are caused by inner dynamics, feelings, and beliefs that we may not understand or which may not even be accessible to our conscious minds. Sometimes we are stuck in bad habits, other times we lack information or positive models of positive thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, and sometimes we need to just learn how to communicate more effectively to avoid hurting others inadvertently.
The process in preparing for the psycho-emotional-spiritual journey through Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, and Sukkot involves becoming more open, self-aware, clear, knowing, self-evaluating, improving relationships, and creating a picture of present and future growth. Many people work on this kind of improvement with friends, relatives, rabbis and within themselves. Counseling with a well-trained, experienced (and licensed) therapist who integrates spiritual and psycho-emotional growth can help a person to transform and grow even more deeply and effectively.
There are many ways that good psychological counseling can help in one’s spiritual, psychological, emotional, and physical well-being. Counseling provides a safe and confidential place and time in which to be more open and honest with ourselves. It is an opportunity for self-discovery, to share one’s deepest thoughts and feelings, to alleviate one’s pain from the past, and discuss positive dreams and goals for the future – without embarrassment, without negative judgments, and with caring support, practical insight and guidance.
Counseling can help to increase our awareness and understanding of our innermost feelings and beliefs; provide new tools and healthier approaches towards life; teach us techniques to overcome our fears, help us to communicate more effectively, manage stress, overcome obstacles, increase intimacy, create positive visions and goals, deepen our connection to life, make our tikunim, and enjoy life.
Learning to use meditation and self-hypnosis with a qualified licensed therapist can be particularly helpful in increasing self awareness, overcoming difficulties, facilitating meaningful prayer, and providing chizuk for making positive changes.
Elul is a time for becoming close in a loving way, as the letters of the month abbreviate Ani l’dodi v’dodi li I am for my beloved and my beloved is for me. It is a time during which we increase unity as we prepare for the Day of Atonement literally the day of “at-one-ment. “ Being shalem (whole) with oneself facilitates our being B’shalom (in peace) with oneself.
May we all be blessed to love and to be at one with ourselves, our loved ones, Klal Yisrael and Hashem in a way that brings us inner peace, peace in our homes, peace in Israel, and peace in the world.
Shana Tova U’mituka, Ub’Shalom

Dr. Simcha Sheldon is an Israeli licensed Clinical Psychologist, Medical Psychologist, and Hypnotherapist, a U.S. licensed Marriage, Family, and Child Therapist, and Clinical Member of the Israeli Society for Sexual Medicine, Israel Medical Association. Dr. Sheldon practices in Hashmonaim and Modiin. (08-976-1056). www.drsimcha.com
© 2006 All rights reserved.

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