Saturday, August 28, 2010

PREPENT5771 Day 19 8.28 Thinking Therapy

High Holy Days Journey with Amichai Lau-Lavie: 40 ways in 40 days to find your focus

Did the young Freud attend High Holiday Services in Vienna? Not that I heard of, but I like to imagine that he went with his grandparents, who were Orthodox Jews, and sat there, observing and perhaps even participating in the ancient Semitic ‘talking cure’ in action, Austro-Hungarian style. There’s a ton of research on the complex relationships between Freud and Judaism and psychoanalysis, once more commonly referred to as ‘the Jewish science. Freud aside, I just find it fascinating that a formalized, ritualized procedure for what we now may call ‘therapy’ has been handed down through generations, reshaped and resized – sometimes repetitious and sometimes full of rapture. Maybe in some weird way these Jewish atonement techniques, 2000 years old, left an impression on young Siegfried (or Shlomo, as he was called by his grandfather Yakob) and thus influenced all of us today, or at least those of us who are, or were, in therapy.

Similar process, similar questions.

The similarities between therapy and teshuva – the Jewish method of self-examination and improvement are vast. Also shared are the big questions – does it work? Is the process of therapy and/or teshuva truly helpful, accessible, effective? And what’s the definition of effective here? What’s success?

Is it worth it?

So I’m thinking about therapy on this quiet Sabbath morning. It’s the 19th day of a 40 day journey –midway - taking quiet time out for reflection on this journey itself, as a whole – this attempt at ‘therapy’ - a contained process of self reflection and successful improvement of self, time sensitive and with a deadline – the day of judgment.

We’re half way there. Nu? Are we here yet?

What’s ‘here’ here?

These are the kind of questions I remember asking in therapy sometimes, or asking myself on the way home.

And today I’m taking the time to think about therapy in my life – how has it helped, what can it do for me now. Examine this modern method of mental-emotional check-in as it is in my life and evaluate: satisfying, compelling, more, less?

Daphne Merkin, whose grandmother Jenny was sister to my grandmother Celine, just wrote a powerful description of her My Life In Therapy in the NYT magazine a few weeks ago. great read.

She writes about it as the ‘curious and slippery business of self-disclosure.’ After at least a dozen therapists over the years she comes back to reaffirming how is some ways, therapy, in some form, in essential to our wellbeing:

“ I recognized that therapy served me well in some ways, providing me with a habit of mind that enabled me to look at myself with a third eye and take some distance on my own repetitive patterns and compulsions. In the offices of countless therapists — some gifted, some less so — I sharpened my perceptions about myself and came to a deeper understanding of the persistent claim of early, unmet desires in all of us.”

Shabbat shalom.

20 min. Gym.

Please feel free to share your thoughts and ideas as we move forward and, as always, you may find more information about our High Holy Day services by visiting,

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