The Tanya Method

By Gabriel Benayon, Panama City, Panama
Essays 2016

MyLife Essay Contest 2016


The idea is that a person must understand a basic fundamental rule; there are no feelings without thoughts. Positive thinking equals positive feeling, negative thinking equals negative feeling. The problem is that people assume they are one-dimensional so they sense themselves as the source of the negative thoughts. The Tanya explains we are not, and that all negativity stems from the evil inclination. By recognizing this point, one can stop respecting those thoughts and start seeing them as real enemies. Then the person escapes them and stops honoring their message. Also through getting upset with that other soul – the Evil Inclination – the person is able to humble it. By enhancing her devotion and remaining centered in the positive, the person utilizes the efforts of the negative side precisely to perfect her commitment to G-d, which proves to the Evil Inclination that instead of interfering – it´s actually enhancing the service of the Jew – this realization makes it stop and the negativity vanishes.

Finally, a person that appreciates the message of the Alter Rebbe, is able to dignify herself and recognize that – as opposed to what all the other professionals told her – by facing this demons she has the opportunity to rise above the norm, because she can actualize the potential to serve G-d with unconditional joy.

Let´s talk about Esther. She is a 35 year old lady who recently had her first child. Her pregnancy was very difficult, she had to remain in bed must of the time and suffered of great anxiety due to it. In fact the anxiety and obsessive thoughts didn´t start with the pregnancy, she had been married for many years and couldn´t have children, which made her extremely anxious and depressed.

Evidently her sadness and frustration affected her marriage significantly and they used to fight so hard, that more than once her husband actually threatened to divorce her.

When she finally got pregnant, she thought all the problems in her marriage would cease, however with the challenges of a difficult pregnancy – having to stay in bed, etc – her mind began to wander again and both she and her husband started fearing the worst. This brought tremendous negativity which expressed in thoughts like this:

  • What if I lose this child, who I so long anticipated?
  • Will my husband stay by my side?
  • Will I be able to endure such a tragedy?
  • Could this be a punishment from G-d?
  • I definitely couldn´t bear that to happen!
  • What will I do?!

After nine months, with the grace of the Almighty, Esther gave birth to a beautiful and healthy baby girl. At the beginning she felt slightly relieved, but that didn´t last much.

The intense negativity she had build up during the pregnancy, wouldn´t just fade away with the birth. She was full of doubts and insecurities – and they were generating extreme sadness and frustration. To top it all, she realized that her baby was picking on her negativity and that it was affecting her. That made her even more anxious.

Then one night, she had a terrible nightmare in which she saw herself stabbing her baby. She woke up very disturbed and sweating profusely, but after realizing it was simply a dream, she went back to sleep. However the same dream came back haunting her and she awoke terrified.

She ran to check on the baby. Even after confirming she was fine, her anxiety kept building up and the symptoms became obvious: sweating, nerves, depression, tachycardia, and many others. She suffered her first panic attack – “I died five minutes” were her words to me.


I will expound on the approach of the Tanya [Chapters 26 through 29] and how the Alter Rebbe endowed us with the tools to rid ourselves of all negative emotions, not only in a spiritual way, but on a very practical level too.

The Method Tanya

After visiting all sorts of professionals in the field of mental illnesses without success, Esther came to me looking for help.

The first thing I said to her is what the Alter Rebbe teaches in Tanya [Chapter 3[1]]: he mentions that the three intellectual faculties of the soul [Wisdom, Understanding and Knowledge] are known as the three mothers, while the emotional attributes are called offspring. The basic message I conveyed to her is that there can´t be a child without a mother – which means that a bad feeling is not spontaneous but rather it’s the result of bad thoughts.

A lot of people assume that their bad feelings come from nowhere, as a sign of some type of sickness. I told Esther that wasn´t the case at all, it was simple mathematics – bad thoughts were generating bad feelings.

So what we need to figure out is how to rectify your way of thinking and through that get rid of the negative emotions.

The first question you need to ask yourself, is why you give credibility to those thoughts – thinking they can materialize?

I think it´s because you assume that when something comes from within you – it´s sacred and that isn´t right. We tend to belief it is, due to our natural self-love. But we must understand and be aware of the fact that as the Alter Rebbe teaches [Tanya Chapter 28[2]], we are not one-dimensional beings. We are formed by two souls – one of them is positive and always wants to improve our life, the second one is mean and tries constantly to get us depressed and sad. They fight all the time.

If you would be a unified being experiencing fluctuations from high to low, then you could safely assume to be sick somehow, but by understanding this dynamic between the two souls you can realize that there is a sick dimension in every person, and that the idea is to transcend it by activating always the second soul, a Divine Portion of G-d.

So the first thing that you must realize is that you are normal. Don´t allow yourself to get depressed because of this [Tanya Chapter 27[3]] since that is the way G-d created you – a two sided individual. So in truth, all those terrifying thoughts and images are simply the negative influence inside you – which every person has. They are taking advantage of your emotional weakness, family issues and physical challenges, to crawl inside your head and through that into your heart [Tanya Chapter 26].

Since they are a part of you, it´s very hard to consider all this, but once you acknowledge this truth and realize such a force is inside of you, your approach towards dealing with them will change drastically.

Basically that inner voice wants to paralyze you – as a mother, a wife and even as an individual – and the only way it has to achieve this, is by using the two most important elements of your life – your child and your spouse [Tanya Chapter 26[4]].

If the voice would simply come to you saying get depressed, it would fail miserably, so what it does is manipulates the circumstances in your life making you obsessive about your daughter and your husband.

It portraits itself as a friend coming to protect you and inform you that you are in danger, but it´s only intention is to drag you into a deep abyss of depression and sadness.

For this reason it´s so important to recognize what the Tanya says, that we are two souls in one body, because that´s the only way to reject the negative thoughts and what they truly want.

As it mentions in Chapter 28[5], that one shouldn´t even pay attention to what they suggest, because even that alone generates negativity – the one who fights with a dirty individual, gets dirty too. Is not about winning the fight, is about not dignifying the contender to begin with.

We must also remember that the only reason those thoughts are fighting with us, is because we are important and have a very important mission to fulfill and they want to interfere with that holly objective [Tanya Chapter 28[6]].

So now that you know all this, are you still going to treat those thoughts as friends and advisors? Will you just open the door of your home wide open to them?

The “Method Tanya” advices us to treat the enemy as an enemy, not welcoming him with great honor and reverence.  Until today you thought they were your friends, now you understand they are evil and want to steal your life from you and your mission on this world.

What is the proper way to treat those uninvited guests?

The Alter Rebbe in Chapter 29[7] quotes the words of Tehilim, “rigzu veal techetau”, “be angry and do not sin”. The proper approach is to insult those thoughts, to embarrass them for being so ugly, for daring to interfere with the mission of a Jew – an agent of G-d Almighty.

You must scream to them and make them feel terrible, you should channel all your frustration towards them, and you should let them know they will be uprooted for trying to deter you from your Divine objective in life.

Esther´s response to all this was a healthy one, she felt determined about it. However, she had one more question, “And what about my dream? I was stabbing my baby girl G-d Forbid!”

I explained to her exactly what the Alter Rebbe says in Tanya [Chapter 29[8]] regarding bad dreams: when a person is haunted by negative thoughts and feelings during the day, that itself causes her to have disturbing dreams that resemble those thoughts and emotions, dreams packed with anxiety. The negative side in you takes control of your sleeping hours. All this happens when you take those negative thoughts and feelings with you to bed.

At last I explained to her, that in my perspective, the most empowering teaching of the Alter Rebbe in those chapters lies in the fact that a person can find a greater self-esteem precisely because of the negativity she is experiencing. Usually an individual that shows his depressive thoughts to others – even doctors or psychiatrists, ends up looking as a poor person, gaining their compassion and pity.

The Chasidic philosophy in general and the Tanya in particular, understand this person as someone truly special, gifted with a capacity others lack. By facing those enemies this person acquires a greater light, precisely because of them [Tanya Chapter 26[9]].

Until now Esther, you felt less than others due to your challenge with depression and anxiety, you constantly asked yourself why you can´t be normal, like the rest of people. The Tanya says it’s the other way around, the Alter Rebbe teaches you how fortunate you are. I will explain this to you as follows:

All human beings and seeking happiness, most people assume that happiness comes from getting the things you appreciate and desire. That by getting what one wants, he becomes happy.

However, those people can´t be truly called happy, because their feelings are simply a response to their way of living. If they don´t have those things they become miserable.

At this point you don´t have any apparent reason to be happy, now you can attain true happiness, the one that expresses your inner self, your deepest core.

Tell yourself as follows: today I can be truly happy, because I am period, unconditionally. 

Today you can start being happy, there is nothing outside moving you, no music playing around. Now you start from within and that is happiness.

When you decide to do that, just to dance from within, you will see how your inner self surfaces and allows you to tap to the ultimate joy and happiness, the unconditional truth that lies inside of you. Now you will unleash your inner soul and experience ultimate satisfaction.

By behaving this way, the negative power inside of you will realize you are using it to become real, to serve G-d with true intimate joy. It will see that its efforts are playing against it. You end up serving G-d better and that´s not what it wants.

The inner negative voice was trying to sink you in depression and sadness, but now you are tapping to the pure pristine unconditional power of your soul. This is called in Tanya, “The advantage of a light that comes from within darkness itself”.

After only three weeks of Esther applying this philosophy and acting upon it, her negative feelings disappeared completely. It´s worth mentioning that she had done years of therapy and gone to all sorts of psychiatrists and psychologists, but the Tanya healed her entirely.

This happened to Esther a long time ago, now she helps people in distress – that suffer the same panic attacks she endured, her method is the exact system she used, “The Tanya Method”.




[1] The Chabad [Intellectual faculties] are called “Mothers”, because they are the source of the emotional attributes of the soul.

[2] “However, in truth they are two souls waging war against each other in the person´s mind”.

[3] “… but of Beinonim like himself in whose mind there do enter erotic thoughts, whether of an innocent nature [or otherwise]”.

[4] “… Behold if one of them is lazy and sluggish, he will easily be defeated even if in truth he is actually stronger than his fellow”. These negative tools are used by the Evil Inclination to weaken the Divine Soul [which in truth is stronger].

[5] “And to comply with the verse, answer not a fool according to his folly, lest you too become like him…

[6] “Nevertheless he must not be downhearted… on the contrary he should draw strength and determination… to pray with concentration, with even greater joy and gladness”.

[7] “This means that one should rage in his mind against the animal soul… indeed you are truly evil and wicked, abominable, loathsome and disgraceful…

[8] “Let him further consider his dreams… they are “vanity and an affliction of the spirit”, for his soul doesn´t ascend heavenward [during his sleep]… ”

[9] “This sort of joy has a greater quality, like the light that comes from within darkness”.