I majored in psychology as an undergraduate and continued the study of psychology in graduate school. It never ceases to amaze me that the insights of modern psychology are nearly all rediscoveries of ancient wisdom and insights discussed, perhaps in different parlance, within our rich tradition. This makes sense of course. If we believe that G-d created man and that the Torah is the definitive guide book to make sure man not only functions ethically, but also efficiently and happily within the world, then it is no surprise to find man’s psychological profile embedded within the tradition. There are three questions that follow. Is it really there or are we drawing bullseyes around the arrow? Secondly, if we can get the information in modern psychology in plain sight, then why do we need to decode the same information from hints in the Torah? Finally, is there a difference between the insights of psychology and the insights in the Torah?
The answer to the first question will be shown in subsequent posts. When verses, Rabbinic statements, and parables are filtered through the tradition, the insights will be clear. We are not using modern ideas and artfully interpreting verses to make it land. On the contrary, the insights are clear and sharpen the psychological perspective. What I mean by sharpening the psychological perspective is that because the Torah is coming from a normative place, that this is what we should do, it creates a more powerful paradigm for us to follow. Furthermore, because it is a divine insight as opposed to a human one, there is more confidence in its efficacy. Finally, the difference between psychology and Torah is that Torah includes the soul and purpose. These are critical dimensions of mental health that are often ignored in most psychological circles, and therefore, the insights within psychology will always lack a complete picture.
Before the pandemic came, a different pandemic existed- the mental health pandemic. The rates of depression and anxiety within the modern world were astronomical. These have been severely exacerbated by the current pandemic. Given that to be the case, it is time to mine our rich tradition, which I believe, if practiced externally and internally correctly, provides a great boost and protection to our mental health.
Stay tuned for short insights that will build our mental health.