The Power Struggle: Fear, Inhibitions and Low Self-Esteem
MyLife Essay Contest 2016
In this essay, I would like to share some concepts in Chassidus that really relate to me, and I continue to think about on a daily basis helping me overcome challenges, that come up in day to day life. It really works for me. It diminishes my fears, inhibitions, resentments and so much more, but more importantly, it helps me live a life completely connected and close to Hashem.
Learning Chassidus helped me recognize a struggle for power happening inside of me, and that all my problems originate from attributing power to either:
- The World instead of G-d
- People instead of G-d
- Myself instead of G-d
All I need to do – to live a wholesome, peaceful, content and happy life and rid myself from all of my troubles – is transfer the power from the world, other people and myself to where it truly belongs; in G-d’s hand.
My choice between the World or G-d.
Feelings of fear, anxiety or stress arising out of circumstances in my life exist only when I give the world power to decide my destiny in health, wealth, prosperity and to determine my happiness. When I rely on the world to give me the opportunity to succeed and provide me with security in life, I feel completely helpless without the world’s support and live in constant fear, anxiety and stress of the world failing me.
The solution to these feelings came to me in Yeshivah while sitting in a class on a Chassidic discourse. It was a deep explanation on the different levels of the divine light and an analysis about which level is higher. Concepts that were completely lofty and intangible to me. I remember sitting there and asking myself: How can I possibly apply topics like these to my personal life? Chassidus is supposed to be my inspiration in life. In addition to doing the Mitzvot and Praying with its inspiration, my mundane life should be infused with Chassidus as well. How can I possibly adopt these lofty concepts and implement them in a relevant way to my practical life, while living in a tangible, coarse and complicated world?
After taking a closer look, I realized something very powerful. I detected an underlying message throughout the discourse. I also recognized that it was the same driving message, conveyed and expressed time and again in every concept of Chassidus. The theme being, that the true and only existence is G-d! Nothing else can exist as a separate entity from G-d. Furthermore, the physical world is no more than a small part of a massive system with infinite levels and worlds. And yet, out of all the levels, the only one so ignorant and blind to this phenomenon is the physical world itself. It cannot perceive or recognize G-d, let alone acknowledge that its sole existence is nothing but the essence of G-d. It has no significance or power on its own and cannot control anything, it is simply nonexistent! In the words of Chassidus: “Elokuss BePshitus Olomos BeHisschadshus” G-ds existence is obvious and self-understood. The world’s existence, however, is a novelty that needs to be justified and explained.
Being in the right state of mind through the learning of Chassidus, I can live a peaceful, calm and content life, confidently knowing that G-d is in full control. He is orchestrating, arranging and coordinating all events and circumstances exactly the way they are meant to be.
My feelings of fear, anxiety, stress or despair are only there because I transfer the power to determine my success and prosperity from G-d to the world, the world, in turn, responds and becomes an intimidating place, full of challenges and forces beyond my ability to overcome.
Although it is the cause of my problems, my ego will always gravitate towards giving the world and by default myself a lot of power. By constantly learning Chassidus no matter what the topic may be, I am given the clarity and means to overcome the power struggle and transfer the power I am giving the world – back to where it truly belongs – in G-d’s hand.
My choice between other People or G-d
Even if I accept my circumstances as being designed and orchestrated by G-d, I can still struggle with a stronger form of anxiety and fear- inhibition of other people. I hold myself back from pursuing my ambitions, aspirations, passions and dreams solely out of fear of judgment, giving people the power to define and determine my self-worth. When I rely on people to affirm my existence, I feel completely worthless without their approval, and live in constant fear of their opinion of me. Even worse, I will sometimes resent the people that won’t give me the affirmation I so desperately need.
The solution to these feelings I found in the beginning of chapter 41 of Tanya. It came to me one particular morning, as I was about to recite the Tanya before prayer as per the Rebbe’s directive. A thought came to me: What would happen if I were to recite the Tanya in relatable English as opposed to the original Hebrew? Would I connect to it more? I tried it and it really worked, here is the gist of how it went:
Hashem, you are so powerful and great! You run and control every detail in the universe! You carry the responsibility for every living being and coordinate every circumstance. You are the one responsible for who the next president will be. Who will conquer and who will be defeated in the war against ISIS. You control and are responsible for the companies that join the fortune 500 and the ones that collapse. You have an infinite amount of Angels doing your wishes every day and wishing they could be consumed by you. Hashem, you are infinitely greater than anything in this world. The whole world is for all practical purposes nonexistent to you!
And yet none of that matters to you, all you care about is me! You are completely focused on me! You really need me! You are placing all your hopes on me by asking me to simply accept your sovereignty and serve you in any way I possibly can. You are the one that believes I am truly worthy, capable and necessary to fulfill your desire of making the world conscious and mindful of your existence. I have a part in making the world a comfortable welcoming place for you to rest and dwell.
After having this conversation with Hashem it has become clear to me that regardless of what others think of me, I can always be free, secure and confident, knowing just how needed, wanted, and valuable I am. Hashem’s confidence in me is greater than any power a person can ever give me.
My fears, insecurities or inhibitions only begin when I transfer the power to affirm my worthiness from Hashem to other people. Although it is the cause of my problems, my ego will always gravitate towards giving other people a lot of power. By constantly contemplating on this part of Tanya, I am given the guidance and strength to overcome the power struggle and transfer the power I am giving other people to where it truly belongs – in G-d’s hand.
My choice between myself or G-d
The hardest challenges I face in life are negative thoughts about myself – the feelings of guilt, shame or disappointment. I hold myself back from pursuing ambitions, aspirations, passions, and dreams, out of fear of falling short. I take full responsibility, relying on myself to solidify my future and never err. because I attribute myself the power of perfection, flawlessness, and supremacy, I feel guilty shameful and disappointed when I don’t live up to my false self-perception.
The answer to this false perception I found in the next part of chapter 41 Tanya. Translated into conversational English, it read as follows: Hashem, you know me and are choosing to stand right by me. You know me from my heart and innermost consciousness. You experience my innermost struggles together with me You know that I really want to do your will. Hashem, you accept me just as I am! Not who I wish I could be or think I am meant to be. All you ask of me is to serve you “appropriately” – in the best way I possibly can, with my qualities and with my defects, nothing more!
A part of my “translation” included a part of chapter 27 in Tanya where the Alter Rebbe explains, that Hashem created me with an ego/animal soul that is selfish and self-seeking. By default, it has no interest in anything that would undermine or diminish it, namely serving Hashem. My flaws and temptations that emanate from the animal soul are exactly the way Hashem designed me to be. Not accepting the reality and being saddened by my shortcomings and temptations, is due to conceit, not recognizing who I really am and how powerless I am to change my defects. What Hashem expects of me, is to do the best I can with the tools and strength he gave me. The effort – not perfection, is what really counts!
When I internalize that Hashem is the one who designed me with imperfection and is the only one that can change that, I can live a peaceful and humble life, knowing that the way I am is exactly the way Hashem wants me to be. I am not responsible to change my deficiencies because they are an integral part of my mission in this world.
My guilt and shame only begin when I transfer the power to determine who I am meant to be from G-d to myself. Although it is the cause of my problems I genuinely don’t know any better, my ego only knows how to inflict upon myself responsibility and power. By continuously contemplating on these parts of Tanya, I can have the clarity and strength to surrender the power of perfection I attribute to myself and transfer it to where it truly belongs – in G-d’s hand.
It is only through Chassidus that I am able to have the humility to recognize just how powerless the world, people and most importantly I personally am.
As simple as it may seem to understand the concept of divine providence in the way the world runs, people behave, or the way I am designed, I find it hard to accept this fact and actually surrender that power to its rightful owner. It is, therefore, crucial that I learn and connect to Chassidus on a daily basis so that I can have the strength to overcome the struggles inside of me and transfer the ultimate and only power to where it truly belongs – in G-d’s hand.