Lessons From Psychology

I’ve been reading Irvin Yalom’s book “Love’s Executioner.” It’s a collection of true stories from his experiences being a therapist. For someone who is in training to be a counselor, it’s an inspiring set of stories and points out many key points in the development of an outlook to dealing with patients and one’s own issues as a therapist.

In one of Yalom’s stories, he describes a woman who has come from a very difficult background. She discloses a lot of information about her background to him, including parts of her younger years when she did many things that she wasn’t particularly proud of. After divulging this information, Dr. Yalom asks his patient how it feels to tell him all these things. His patient says that she feels a mixture of being relieved and being afraid he will judge her and lose respect for her because of the information she has revealed. Dr. Yalom responds that she has no need to worry. He says, “The more I hear from you, the more I like you. I’m full of admiration for what you’ve overcome and what you’ve done in life.” (p. 146)

I think it’s similar to the life of a Ba’al Teshuvah. Many are afraid to unveil information about their past lives, because they are afraid people will judge them because of it. I have been hearing lately about how it’s harder in shidduchim because I’m a Baalas Teshuvah, because people don’t want someone who comes from such a background.

But the truth is, people should have Dr. Yalom’s outlook. They should see how much work a person has to do to move beyond their background, their past. Those things that they aren’t necessarily proud of just show how far they have come, and how much work they have done. People should judge them on the changes they have put effort into making in their lives, rather than what happened before they even knew what Torah was about.

Baalei Teshuvah should be proud of who they are, because of how much they had to overcome. And it shouldn’t be held against them, for shidduchim or otherwise.

21 comments on “Lessons From Psychology

  1. Rabbi Schwartz , a jaded essence is crystalized as a direct result of harsh rock bottom reality/ actual experience/literal logic/figuretive understanding and long lines at amusement parks for the more thrilling roller coasters – a combination/cocktail of chachmah and binah (with a wedge of lime for perspective souring and balancing) – not sure what depth level that would be classified under probally Maskona-conclusion …. so basically ure saying that there is room for two more depth levels after the conclusion- the not easily attainable Omek-deeper understanding and the Omek lifninm Meomek-a profounder depth of understanding -which sound emotional based and laced .but doesnt the intellectual perspective override the often fickle emotional perspective on stuff .logic based on intellectualism is usually more accurate than that which is based on emotion .Or is the depth of Omek and Omek lifninm Meomek so profound on the intellectual and emotional levels combined that it usually escapes the figuretive vision and perspective of the naked eye .which would render the the jaded Maskona conclusion valid in and of itself and not classified as moral ignorance and stupidity by default- not by general absence of a more in depth analysis but by the fact that the next two levels are unattainable by the common jaded individual .

  2. “Where’s token FFB when we need him(her)?”

    LOL that was me. I dropped “Token” from the handle (for no particular reason except laziness!).

  3. Jaded wrote-
    “If there were valid intellectual components involved in the crystalizing of the jaded essence that wouldn’t necessarily be classified as moral ignorance or stupidity” ………”

    When studying Talmud there is a Hashkafa Rishona (first superficial glance), a Hava Ameena (what I might have thought) a Maskona (conclusion) an Omek (a deeper understanding) and an Omek lifninm MeOmek (A profounder depth of understanding).

    IMO the point is that when we arrive at “the deepest depths” level of wisdom and consciousness the erstwhile “valid intellectual components” are exposed as shallow shams-superficial misconceptions- and rendered invalid.

    Can’t know for sure as, to be redundant, I haven’t been close to that place myself. But I take it on faith from the Chasid Ya’avetz and the Posuk itself- “V’Amaikh Kulom Tsadikim-And your nation are all just”. Call it a sudden outbreak of Emunas Chachomim.

  4. Is it really true that most FFBs judge BT negatively based on their past? Is it possible that people are confusing hesitations about shidduchim with BT (which I believe, justified or not, stems largely from fears about culture gap) with *judgement* that the person has done “immoral” things (or some such)?
    I may, of course, be insensitive/unsensitized to such reactions – but just haven’t noticed this (as you can tell from my handle, I am FFB so can only judge second-hand from what I see of FFB reactions to BT).

  5. Rabbi Schwartz -thanks for your insights – awesome verbiage and nounage usage and your threading of creative multifaceted anologies are way cool as is your fluency in precious and semi precious stone colors, shades and hues . Definitely no need for apologies (I have the hardness of a pink diamond ) I was just referencing my name as a side-tracking note of interest …… the connnection clicked by default as I was pondering your point on the jaded outlook being moral ignorance and stupidity …

    As for your question regarding the definition of “end user specific” basically its my reference for the actual individual utilizing jaded as their inner essence as opposed to just a general outlook . If there were valid intellectual components involved in the crystalizing of the jaded essence that wouldnt necessarily be classified as moral ignorance or stupidity ………

  6. Jaded or Optimistic…

    I apologize for my insensitive word choice. I was responding to Shoshana’s original post. When using the word jaded I had no intention of criticizing either your blogonym or comments. I presumed that the “Jade” in Jaded Topaz referred to an emerald shade of topaz rather than a cynical take on things.

    In any event it’s worth clarifying that IMO the wisdom that the Chasid Ya’avetz refers to is not something that precedes world-weary skepticism but that supersedes it.

    When we are young we typically tend to accept everything at face value and have a rosy colored vision of people around us. At some point in adolescence, usually beginning with the shocking discovery that our parents are flawed human beings after all and not the superheroes of our childhood, we begin the long withering process of reevaluating (and mostly downgrading) everyone and everything. Most of us never experience another attitudinal sea change similar to this one that demarcates the passage from childhood to adolescence.

    I’d hazard a guess that the wisdom that the Chasid Ya’avetz describes is a consciousness that strives towards a third, deeper, level of understanding that fully and profoundly appreciates people’s souls and their connectedness to G-d. I can only speculate as, sadly, I’m far from achieving that kind of wisdom myself. No doubt it is attained by working hard at the mitzvahs/middos of loving others and judging them favorably. Anecdotes from the advocacy on behalf of K’lal Yisroel by Rav Levi Yitzchok of Berditchev are good illustrations of this kind of wisdom and consciousness.

    By the way could you explain the term “end user specific “?

  7. Jaded,

    I may have to change names, hows Optimistic Opal


    Maybe you can join our schizophrenic club. Just repeat after me (I mean, us):

    Roses are red
    Violets are blue
    I’m schizophrenic
    And so am I.

  8. Shoshana, you are absolutely right. And Ezzie makes a good point, as well. None of us have the right to judge anyone. We should be able to look at people for who they are and how far they have come.

  9. Rabbi Schwartz ,interesting threading on the equating of a jaded outlook with moral ignorance/stupidity ( I may have to change names, hows Optimistic Opal ). This particular definition though may not apply to all levels and variations of jaded. It would definitely be end user specific in addition to the variables involved on how the jaded in question was actually crystallized.

  10. Yaakov Astor,lol great poetry ….just as an FYA , its happy hour tonight at Jaded’s Tavern buy one shot of Haldol get a shot of Risperdal or Depakene combo for half price !! Risperdal / Cogentin combo buy one get one half .There is also the Serouquel or Depakote special half price tabs …..Medicating the soul tuition has never been so inexpensive….its all in the cocktail gotta know what to mix and when to stir and when to never judge ….

  11. addendum: This applies to the internal dialogue as well. While it’s OK to be suspicious of our underlying motives if we ALWAYS judge ourselves negatively we aren’t just being unkind to ourselves we’re being foolish! It’s another trick in the Yetzer Hora’s bag. He isn’t called an “old foolish king” for nothing.

  12. The Chasid Ya’avetz has an unusual take on the word Chachomim=the sages in the Mishnah in Pirkei Avos (1:17)-

    א,טז [יז] שמעון בנו אומר, כל ימיי גדלתי בין החכמים, ולא מצאתי לגוף טוב אלא שתיקה

    Shimon his son [i.e. of Rabban Gamliel] said, all my life I have been raised among the Sages, and I have not found anything better for oneself than silence..”

    He explains Chachomim to mean those who see the good in other people and judge them favorably. R’ Shimon is teaching us that even when speaking to those wise listeners who have the wisdom and generosity of spirit to hear others being praised without cutting them down to size, excessive speech is not a good idea. How much more circumspect (re silent) should we be when speaking among non-Chachomim i.e. people who are cynical and negative and don’t accord others the benefit of the doubt.

    I find his commentary eye-opening in that he equates a jaded outlook of humanity with a kind of moral ignorance/stupidity. How anti-Torah is the conventional wisdom that equates cynicism and skepticism about the positive qualities and motives of others with mental acuity and the capacity for judging others favorably with, immaturity, naiveté and just not being on the ball.

  13. Awesome post !!!! and about my favorite author in the whole wide world!!!!! Irvin D Yalom M.D. has got to be one of the most perceptive ,intellectual , humorous and talented writers of all time in addition to being what sounds like an awesome psychiatrist.He definitely has the best perspective on stuff .I just discovered his books last month “Loves excecutioner” was amazing so was “The gift of Therapy”. He’s actually comin to New York for a speaking engagement sometime in mid-september …

  14. Oh no, you found me out.

    Mark, what are we going to do now?
    Yaakov, I don’t know.
    How about we sing our song?
    Good idea.

    Roses are red
    Violets are blue
    I’m schizophrenic
    And so am I.

  15. Isn’t the very fact that FFB’s would judge BT’s for having come from those kinds of backgrounds a remarkably strong statement about the FFB/ Orthodox world?

    It says they’re human beings.

    God didn’t say, Thou shalt not murder to angels, but to human beings who had the potential to murder. The vast majority, of course, will counter the natural tendency to judge negatively with Torah teachings. However, not all will. And even those who do will not necessarily do anything in the world of action about it.

    Nevertheless, the fact that a community, frum or otherwise, consists of human beings should not come as a surprise to anyone. If we were perfect and naturally angelic we wouldn’t need a Torah.

  16. “Isn’t the very fact that FFB’s would judge BT’s for having come from those kinds of backgrounds a remarkably strong statement about the FFB/ Orthodox world?”

    Not really. Human beings have weaknesses, judging unfavorably is one of them and that’s why Hashem commanded us to judge favorably.

    The FFB/Orthodox world is filled with hundreds of thousands of good people, but that does not mean they’re perfect. Like all Jews, FFBs have what to work and over the past 20 years I would venture to say that things have improved markedly. Again not perfect, but improved.

    (Note: Yaakov and I posted our comments at about the same time and neither one saw the other’s comment before it was posted)

  17. Isn’t the very fact that FFB’s would judge BT’s for having come from those kinds of backgrounds a remarkably strong statement about the FFB/ Orthodox world? What good does all that study of Torah do if you’re not going to be a good person with it? And a good person doesn’t bash people over the head with circumstances beyond their control (such as having grown up in a secular household).

  18. That’s all well and fine, but while a good therapist will not judge you for your past the average Tom, Dick and Jane very well might. A person has to have a strong self-image, which many BTs do, to withstand that judgment. However, the children complicate the issue because even if one has that strong self-image your children may be judged (for shidduchim and other things) for your past. It’s unfair and even rotten. But it is the reality.

    I say, be confident, develop your self-image, share yourself with others, but be discreet about it. The world, including the frum world, may not be on the level we wish it was.

  19. Excellent, excellent post. It’s not just for BTs, either – too many people I know are judged for who they were and not who they are. [The judging in general is pretty sick, but that’s another story.]

    Heh – I just scrolled up to see who wrote this; unsurprisingly, it’s Shoshana. Another good one, keep it up.

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