Spiritual Deficiency Syndrome and What You Can Do About It
Take this important annual spiritual checkup before Rosh Hashanah.
Are you suffering from what Rabbi Dr. Abraham Twerski calls Spiritual Deficiency Syndrome?
In his book, Happiness and the Human Spirit: The Spirituality of Becoming the Best You Can Be, he writes:
Recognize that you have a body and a spirit. If your body lacks something-let’s say iron – you develop iron deficiency anemia. You’ll go to the doctor, and he’ll prescribe supplements. If he gives you extra vitamin A or niacin, it won’t help. It has to be iron. It’s the same with spiritual deficiency syndrome. If you try to cure it by amassing wealth, going for a cruise, taking a drink, taking another drink, you’ll feel better for a while. But you won’t be happy.
One of the beauties of being human is that we can realize we’ve made a mistake. Once we realize that we’ve been undermining our own spirituality, we see that we’ve been using the wrong things to fill the void.”
What are the signs of spiritual deficiency syndrome and what can we do to treat it?
1. Boredom. Pascal once said, “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” Feeling bored isn’t just a result of having nothing to do; we are afraid to face the silence both within ourselves and the world. The silence that asks us to face ourselves and the hard questions that life raises. Instead of struggling with the answers we turn on Netflix or our ever-present phones and fill the silence with noise and distraction.
To help overcome this spiritual block take a few moments and write down your answers to the following questions:
If I wasn’t afraid, I would…
Who was I created to be?
2. Lack of empathy. A significant symptom of spiritual deficiency syndrome is being wrapped up in our own problems to the extent that we cannot see or feel one another’s pain; this means that we are not relating to the infinite light that resides within each of us when we encounter others. Being able to give and listen to others is not only what makes us spiritual; it is ultimately what makes us human. There is no greater spiritual exercise that getting out of ourselves and giving to others.
Sometimes our own daily challenges make it hard for us to see the bigger picture, but thinking about these questions can help us gain more perspective:
Who do I know that may be struggling with loneliness, pain or grief? How can I help that person?
What are three ways I would help make the world a better place today if I had unlimited resources?
3. Preoccupation with the physical. We often attempt to fill our inner spiritual voids with more and more things that we don’t actually need, which ultimately deepen the emptiness we feel within. We may try to alleviate that emptiness with overeating, surfing the internet and binge watching movies, but the temporary relief is always followed by disappointment because we are not feeding our souls what they really need.
Spiritual Deficiency Syndrome is in some ways a gift. It’s our soul telling us that it’s hungry and needs to be fed, not with empty calories but with genuine meaning and purpose that fills our inner core.
Rosh Hashanah is the time to get clarity about what really matters to us. As the new year begins we have the opportunity to examine who we really are and who we ultimately want to become.
Think about: What is the legacy that I hope to leave behind? If I died today what will I regret not saying or doing?
Each of us has an infinite core filled with light that we yearn to pour into the world around us. When we ignore that light, we will feel the emptiness and try desperately to fill it. This year fill the soul with what it really needs: purpose, connection and meaning.