Baffling, cunning and confusing addictive thinking ruins lives.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Sober Thoghts

Flights of Fancy

A philosopher once said, 'Think like a man of action, and act like a man of thought.' Science classifies humans as Homo sapiens, creatures with intellect. Although this is an incomplete definition of humans, it is undeniable that a unique characteristic is our intellect. To act without thinking is, therefore, being something less than fully human. Animals act according to whatever biological urge they have. We should first filter our urges through our mind, and select only those actions that are appropriate. Just as it is important to act according to thought, we should also think according to our actions. Some people escape into fantasy, like a Walter Mitty, who lived in a make-believe world because he was dissatisfied with reality. Chemical dependency and fantasy are both escapes from reality . While daydreaming is not toxic the way chemicals are, it can also be quite destructive if we so indulge in fantasy to neglect reality. Problems in the real world can be resolved only by taking action. Except for brief periods of innocent fantasy, we should limit our thoughts to what we can do.

Rabbi Dr. Abraham Twerski


Keep It Simple

One of the slogans of the 12-step program is "Keep it simple (stupid)". It is important to keep things simple. We make things difficult by complicating them.

"Simple" does not mean "easy." A command to lift a 100 pound weight is simple, it's just very hard. If we keep things simple and are willing to do hard work, we can triumph.

Before Rebbe Yohanan ben Zakai died, his talmidim asked him for a bracha. He said, "May you fear Hashem as much as you fear other people". There are things a person would be ashamed to be seen doing by others, but is not ashamed to be seen doing them by Hashem."

People who would be afraid to look at pornography in a smut store because someone might see them there, have no shame in being seen by Hashem. The first paragraph in the Shulchan Aruch instructs us to constantly be aware that we are in the imminent presence of Hashem and behave accordingly.

That is simple. There is nothing complex about it. It is just very hard to do.

We must work hard to attain yiras shamayim. Mesilas yesharim points out that we must work diligently to get it, "like one who searches for silver and digs for treasure." If you don't find the treasure at first, you don't give up. You continue digging, even exhausting yourself in order to find the treasure. That's how we must work for yiras shamayim. It is not going to just drop down from heaven.

Pray hard and tearfully for yiras shamayim. Our lives depend on it. Read the essays in mussar on developing yiras shamayim. This is a prayer that is always answered, provided that we really want it.



Don't Isolate Yourself - Defense mechanisms are not always benign. Some of our body's defense mechanisms can cause more harm than good. For example, if we have a joint inflamed, the body heals the inflammation by forming scar tissue, but this scar tissue immobilizes the joint, so that the healing process causes the deformity of arthritis. The same is true of our emotional defenses. If we are sensitive and afraid of being hurt by others, we will defensively isolate and withdraw-other people can't hurt us if we avoid them. But this avoidance results in a loneliness that is even more painful. We have to undo the defense mechanisms that backfire. Doctors prescribe medications to prevent scar-tissue formation. Similarly, when we feel ourselves withdrawing and isolating, we must make a deliberate and conscious effort to relate to other people. While we all crave companionship, some of us may be too frightened to have it. Belonging to a recovery fellowship can be advantageous, because the empathic and loving support of the group allows us to emerge from our isolation in a protective environment.


The dangers and pitfalls of alcohol from Yehuda Mond Foundation on Vimeo.