All of the defense mechanisms which we developed when we were children were in order to survive. We were small and lacking strength and dependent on grown-ups who didn’t always see us and who many times didn’t understand and requested and pressured and got angry. We didn’t have a choice, we were forced build for ourselves walls of defense of resistance in order to survive.
HaRav Israel Asulin
Translated by Moshe Neveloff
Tuesday, 28th of Cheshvan 5776
What is the connection between boredom, disconnection, aggression, anger, cynicism, vulnerability, forcefulness, argumentativeness, tiredness, appeasement and being too polite?
The connection is that all of the above come from opposition.
What is opposition?
Every one of us wants other people to fulfill our will. To honor us, listen to us, consider us… and in general, that everything will flow well and pleasantly according to our dreams.
What happens when the opposite happens?
When our will clashes with the opposing will of someone else or with a reality which ruins the flow of our plans, opposition is awakened inside of us.
The simplest example of this can be found on a crowded road, where there are annoyed drivers who honk at the traffic light with all of their strength and swear at the roads and those who paved them.
What is actually happening here?
There is a driver and he has a will- that the road will be open, that the traffic will flow and that he will arrive as soon as possible to his destination. This traffic jam clashes with his will and ruins his plans. The automatic reaction is opposition, here comes to expression his anger and nerves.
To whom is the opposition intended? To the traffic lights? To the police officers? To the drivers in front of me and behind me and to the sides? To the wife who is waiting for me impatiently with a baby in her arms?
On the surface that seems to be correct.
However, deep down, the opposition is to the feelings which threaten to overcome me when I’m stuck in a traffic jam. The opposition is to something much deeper that the traffic light, it is to the fact that my plans did not progress as I expected. I wanted something. I planned something, and they’re bothering me! A power stronger than me is blocking my path and messing up my plans! I can’t feel the helplessness which spreads over me, when I am trapped, feeling small in the middle of a giant and busy and stuck road, and I can’t do anything to be rescued from it and take off already to the baby who is waiting for me at home with a tired mother and an ear infection… I’m not able to feel myself so helpless! So I honk with all my strength and get annoyed in a loud voice… I’m feeling opposition.
Rebbe Nachman teaches us: “And the main part of teshuva is when he hears his ridicule and he is silent and quiet…” (Likutei Moharan, 6th Torah)
Listen, sweet friend, don’t object. Not to others who ridicule you and not to the internal feelings which are awakened inside of you as a result. Don’t oppose! I know it’s difficult; it’s not for no reason that you escape from the feeling of opposition. It’s not simple for you to experience the pain, like for example the pain of losing control which you felt in the traffic jam, and you have justified reasons. But understand, if you want to be healed, you have to stop opposing the pain! Be with it, experience it. Don’t oppose!
Why not oppose? Why allow the pain to overtake me without pushing it away? What is the reason to feel the pain? What do I receive from this? Behold it’s not for no reason that I developed such perfected ways of opposition; they came to protect me at the times when I was the most exposed and vulnerable! Why break through them all of the sudden?
It’s true, all the ways of defense that we developed as children had the meaning of survival for the child that we were. We were small and helpless and dependent on adults, who didn’t always see us and who many times didn’t understand us and they requested and pressed and got angry at us. We didn’t have a choice, we were forced to place upon ourselves defensive walls of resistance in order to survive. We learned to feel boredom instead of rejection and tiredness instead of sadness and pressure instead of fear and anger instead of helplessness. We covered the most exposed and sensitive parts inside of us will bullet proof vests of resistance.
We are like the same scared child who was deeply injured, and from so much fear and horror he runs to cover the injury. The main thing is not to see it. Time goes by and the injury bleeds and becomes infected, and with every painful stabbing like this the child adds another layer of opposition…
However, we are not children anymore, and the time has come to remove the layers of band aids and to treat with a fundamental treatment the festering wounds. “Silent and quiet”- to be silent is also to give a place for it to bleed. There is no possibility to skip over this stage on the way to true healing.
Yes, the way to be healed from the difficult feelings which we absorbed and felt scared and closed inside goes through experiencing again all of those feelings which we repressed. This is the entrance gate to the world of personal growth, to experience and feel again all of those feelings. To feel the pain with them. To cry because of them. To understand what really happened there. To ask for mercy. To scream to Hashem. To feel the pain and feel the pain and feel the pain. Until the complete purification.
How do we stop opposing and begin to feel the pain?
The first stage is to not oppose the oppose.
What does this mean?
To admit that I feel opposition right now. Not to deny the opposition and not to connect it to the external reality. Yes, correct, I identify, I feel opposition now. This is my automatic reaction to pain. It’s true.
There is no reason to fight the opposition. Just like the opposition itself, so to the opposition to the opposition diverts our attention from the pain, and it’s a shame. Be courageous and receive the fact that you feel opposition.
When I receive the fact that I’m in opposition, I can try to search inside and clarify in a gentle manner- why I am opposing right now? What feeling is inside of me and threatening me? What am I trying to block? From what am I afraid? What I am going through? Ah, I feel helpless in the midst of an arbitrary and inconsiderate occurrence. That’s so painful, to feel helpless… ah…it hurts… it hurts!!!
This is the first and very meaningful stage in our path to removing our opposition. The more that we work on being “silent and quiet” in the face of humiliations, Hashem will help us, and in the merit of his great mercy and with the strength of the Tsaddikim who pray for us, we will merit soon to full healing, complete teshuva and the redemption may it come speedily.