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Every Jew is likened to a holy Temple. Let's start rebuilding by repairing our inner fragments.
Tisha B’Av, the 9th day of Av, commemorates the destruction of both the First and Second Temple and is designated to be “the saddest day of the year” on the Jewish calendar. It's also one of the most challenging because I have a hard time summoning the appropriate emotions and feeling “sad” on command. Life is hard enough these days without having to pile on.
It’s not that I’m callous, but in general, I resist negative feelings and emotional discomfort. Especially in this season, many of us are enjoying long-awaited vacations and no longer confined by shutdowns. We don't want the light to darken, even for a day.
If you find it hard to relate to events that broke the Jewish people over two thousand years ago, here's a suggestion on how to tap into the energy of Tisha B’Av. Ask yourself these questions: is there nothing broken in your world, in your community, in your relationships, or your family? And what about you? Is there nothing shattered, damaged, or fragmented in your own heart that needs healing? The soul of every Jew yearns for peace. But how can we possibly achieve that if we have no inner peace?
Every Jew is likened to a holy Temple. So, whether you long for rebuilding the Third Temple or just a better and kinder world with less hate and greater consciousness – perhaps you should start with yourself. “Think global – act local,” as the saying goes. And one way is to repair the brokenness within, the places where we are fragmented, like a house divided against itself.
The “good child,” “people pleaser,” “savior, hero, or rescuer,” “emotional caretaker,” “risk-manager,” “critic,” etc. – do any of these personalities resonate? They are all examples of sub-personalities we created as children when we had to curtail normal needs, emotions, or even talents and abilities or suffer the wounds and negative emotional consequences of rejection.
Our "Shadow Self" is everything about us that we can’t see.
As children, we are dependent on our parents or other caretakers for our very survival. We think rejecting these parts keeps us safe, loved, wanted – or maybe just tolerated. Therefore, it is not just a defense mechanism but a brilliant coping strategy that ensures our survival when we reject, disallow, or hide the parts of ourselves that don’t please those on whom our existence relies.
And we have hidden these parts so well that over time, even we don’t know they are there, to the point where we cannot reclaim our identity. However, these parts never disappear; instead, they live in what psychologist Carl Jung calls the “Shadow Self.” In a nutshell, the Shadow is everything about us that we can’t see.
And here’s the rub. As adults, our Shadow Self can cause dysfunctional behavior, negatively impact relationships, and shape a warped view of reality. When we get upset at other people, we are often upset at the very behaviors that we have going on inside of us – that we won’t admit are there. This behavior is known as “projection,” meaning we project onto other people our own “hidden” deficiencies, (which by the way, everyone knows is there but us). This tendency is so strong that sometimes we even project negative behavior when the other person is objectively blameless. It’s the proverbial pot calling the kettle black – even when the kettle is white.
If the Shadow Self is everything about yourself that you can’t see, how, then, can you integrate what you can’t see? It sounds like a joke. Don’t be discouraged, however, because that which causes pain is also the key to healing.
Think about behaviors you find offensive and irritating, especially someone with whom you experience a perpetual conflict. Your emotional reaction is a big clue to your inner world.
If you have a persistent emotional response, there’s an excellent chance that you are reacting to something that is mirroring an aspect of yourself you cannot see. A simple example - behind every person who “can’t stand to be controlled” is often someone who is very controlling, who doesn’t own their behavior. In no way am I excusing, justifying, or minimizing anyone’s offensive conduct. However, if their behavior triggers you repeatedly, there is something for you to learn about yourself.
It may not seem obvious on the surface, but if you drill into the deeper aspects of hot button issues, chances are you will find some element that may apply to you now or in the past, where you were insensitive to someone else in the same or similar way.
The point of this inner self-awareness is not to beat yourself up or to turn the finger of blame against yourself, but to have compassion for the other person – and yourself - by recognizing the commonality or universality of the struggle. Instead of holding others to an impossibly high standard of perfection (while you let yourself slide), you go from: “That’s you – but not me,” to “That’s you – and me too.” Or maybe it’s just you.
When our judgments soften and anger subsides, and we accept the inevitable flaws of others and ourselves, we begin to build peace.
When our judgments soften and anger subsides, and we accept the inevitable flaws of others and ourselves, we begin to build peace. And maybe we can realize that what we perceived as childhood flaws or fears, such as being emotional, vulnerable, or self-affirming (which were never safe to feel), are not flaws but strengths. Or just part of the human condition.
In his poem, “Song of Myself,” Walt Whitman writes, “Do I contradict myself? Very well then, I contradict myself. I am large. I contain multitudes.” We have all multiple facets to our personality. Everyone is a mixture of positive and negative characteristics that manifest under different circumstances. When we learn to integrate our unconscious and rejected parts into our consciousness and allows those parts to express themselves positively, we can heal from our wounds and become more whole. As Carl Jung so beautifully said, “There is no light without shadow and no psychic wholeness without imperfection.”
May we behold ourselves and others with less judgment and more compassion, empathy, and kindness. May that which needs healing be healed, and may we send that healing into a broken world. May we know redemption. May we suffer no more. And may we know peace.