The Validity of Fulfilling Psychological Needs


1. Western prejudice against fulfilling psychological needs.

2. Torah sources

            a. Charity even to procure horse and servant for newly poor

            b. Embarrassment at disfigurement justifies operation

            c. Shemona Perakim: esthetic stimulation on a par with good nutrition           

3. Pales Maagal Raglecha: a means to high quality service of Hashem

a. Justified stopping Torah study - not just biology, but also to feel happy, strong, optimistic, self-confident, joyful - emotional health

b. Emotional health requires esthetics, nature, relaxed conversation, physical pleasure

            c. Luxury is still forbidden - how to draw the line?

d. If drawing the line will cause anxiety, self-doubt, depression, don't draw the line, just do!

e. The reason: HASHEM WANTS HIGH QUALITY SERVICE with all your strengths, abilities, sensitivities etc. and you won't be able to give your all if you are not       emotionally healthy

f. Yaakov read Shema when greeting Yosef: he recovered his powers and so was more and hence had more to give to Hashem (Bostoner Rebbe)

4. The bottom line: satisfying psychological needs is not selfish; it is A BETTER WAY OF GIVING - just as we don't feel guilty for eating or sleeping (because if we don't eat or sleep we will not be able to give effectively), so we should not feel guilty for satisfying our psychological needs

5. Examples

            a. observing the sea to restore psychological balance of posek

            b. Mozart for Rosh Yeshiva

            c. Letter #35 of the Chazon Ish:

Know my dear one that there is here no sin or guilt. It is the law of nature to become tired, and it is not appropriate to despise nature, for what we call "nature" is just the more constant aspect of Hashem's will. Therefore you are obligated to stop learning entirely for two weeks and eat well, sleep more, travel, and other matters of batolo (doing nothing) (!)....Happy are you that you toiled in Torah and grew weak over it....

The same applies to the care of the child with special needs: just as the talmid chachom temporarily stops learning in order to continue to learn better, so must you take breaks from giving care so that you can give better care.

6. The justification to others is the same as it is to yourself: I need this so that I can give better to all. When help is required from others, this too is a legitimate need.

7. The real self vs. the ideal self: your real self needs; you are striving to be a better person, but until you are, your real self is your standard of need.

8. Guilt is appropriate when you deliberately or irresponsibly chose wrongly, and when the guilt will help you improve. But if you could not have known better, or the guilt paralyzes you, then it is inappropriate to feel guilty.


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