Emotional awareness and “Feeling Charts” have gained popularity as a way to help children regulate their emotions. But it can also raise children who are self-absorbed. Where is the balance?
By Rabbi Michoel Gourarie – Director of BINA, Sydney, Australia
Normal or Sedom?
The mishna in Pirkei Avos (5:10) describes four character traits in how we relate to others with the things we own. Two of them are explained in the following way:
“Ha’omer sheli sheli veshalach shalach,” if someone says: what is mine is mine and what is yours is yours, “zu middah beinonis,” this is average normal behavior, “veyesh omrim zu middas Sedom,” and some say: this is the character trait of Sedom (who were evil). “Sheli shelach veshalach shalach,” what is mine is yours and what is yours is yours, “chossid,” is a pious person.
There are a few things to consider when studying this passage.
Firstly, we are taught the way of the “chossid,” as that should be our aspiration: selfless living. Considering that not everyone can always reach that level, the mishna accommodates a lesser but still legitimate mindset “middah beinonis,” normal behavior.
However, the difficulty here is a famous question. How can something that is considered to be normal behavior be labeled by some as middas Sedom? Normal behavior means you’re just not a “chossid,” but still acceptable, whereas middas Sedom is plain evil.
What Are Your Values?
One answer is a novel interpretation of the mishna.
When someone aspires to reach the level of a chossid, but he struggles and is somewhat protective of what belongs to him and treats others similarly, that is normal. However, says the Mishnah, if it becomes a “yesh omrim,” a philosophy of life, something that we teach and preach as an important value, then it is middas Sedom.
In other words, you can have things that are not intrinsically evil and for some it may be okay. But as soon as it becomes a yesh omrim, a philosophy and emphasis of our living, it is the way of Sedom.
This concept could be a general approach of how we navigate many issues and experiences, both for ourselves and for what we teach and promote, particularly in the chinuch of our children.
Rise of Secular Values
But first, a small introduction.
Today, while we live in relative comfort, we are faced with unique and unprecedented spiritual challenges and lack of clarity. In search of solutions, some look to the huge explosion of secular literature filled with attractive new ideas and strategies for self-help.
Sometimes some of these concepts are not entirely bad and may even be in line with Torah thinking. However, often they are not, and they even oppose authentic Jewish thinking. Yet sadly, many of these new-age ideas that come from distorted secular thinking have infiltrated mainstream frum homes, schools, publications, and even the minds of our young children.
As parents and educators, we must protect our core values, our Torah principles, and our mesorah which we believe to be absolutely eternal, nitzchi, irrespective of time and place. When Torah provides us with a way to behave or teach, it never changes.
Now, it must be said that sometimes there are certain aspects, where cultural changes and weaker generations necessitate minor modifications which we apply with guidance from our tzaddikim and rebbe’im. However, the core never changes and remains eternally the same.
Love and Discipline
Here is an example.
The gemara says we educate with “yemin mekareves usmol doche,” the right hand brings close and the left hand pushes away. In other words, there’s love and there’s discipline, boundaries. Both are extremely important.
The Rebbe points out that nowadays in particular, recognizing the fragility of today’s students and generation in general, the “right hand” must always be primary. The emphasis must be on love, closeness, and connection.
But of course, no one could say that today “smol doche” doesn’t apply, because it is impossible for a Torah value not to apply. With the Rebbe’s guidance, the focus and emphasis may shift, but the core formula remains. Indeed, the Rebbe often writes and discusses the importance of teaching Kabolas Ol and boundaries (a part of smol doche).
Let’s examine another educational concept.
Recently in our educational institutions there is a significant emphasis on emotional training. New curricula and parenting programs are popping up to teach these social and emotional programs. This is in line with modern secular literature that places a huge emphasis on acknowledging and accepting emotions, developing healthy emotions, validating emotions, and promoting the idea that all emotions are good. In our mosdos, these curricula often include Torah sources in an attempt to ‘kasher’ the program.
Now, it would be silly to say that there is no source in Torah for the importance of expressing emotion. An obvious example is the halacha of aveilus. When there is a tragedy and a person loses a loved one, Torah mandates the expression of grief. As the Rebbe explains in a letter, Torah gives room to express grief for a certain limited time and then encourages the person to move on, rather than dwell on it.
So, is there a makor in Torah for the expression of emotions? Of course there is. However, there is a fundamental difference between the approach of Torah and Chassidus to that of the non-Jewish world.
In recent times, self-help literature has moved to an emphasized focus on ‘self.’ The trend is one where everything is about self: self-care, self-love, self-protection, creating boundaries, being vulnerable (for oneself), communicating our own needs, and so on. This over-emphasis on self is negatively impacting adult relationships who have difficulty going beyond themselves.
Where is the Emphasis?
Here is where we return to our mishna.
Is self-care, okay? Of course. It’s normal, sometimes important, and occasionally a mitzva.
Despite chassidus promoting bitul, de-emphasizing the whole concept of ‘self,’ we are not always on the level of the Chassidim who were ba’alei mesiras nefesh often giving themselves up completely. Therefore, if we need to rest or take a vacation to stay healthy and calm, that is normal and appropriate.
The same is true for someone who is struggling emotionally and needs to create boundaries in their life and turn away request for help. It may not be the ultimate path of the “chossid,” but it is certainly a legitimate conduct for some people in our generation.
However, “veyesh omrim,” if that becomes the whole shita and philosophy of life, the emphasis and lingo that we preach and teach, then it is “middas Sedom.” This emphasis of self was never the emphasis in chinuch. On the contrary, the emphasis was on teaching selflessness and guiding our children and students to make room for others.
Keep Bad Emotions Away
The same can be applied to emotional training.
Firstly, certain ideas gleaned from secular literature are clearly not in line with Torah. One example of this is the notion that all emotions are okay. We know that Torah teaches that not all emotional feelings are okay, and one must exert effort to push away and reject certain emotions.
In Tanya perek alef, we learn how our nefesh habehamis produces bad midos such as anger, arrogance, taivah, and so on. Now, that doesn’t mean that a person is evil for feeling an emotion that is toxic. Tanya teaches us that the initial feelings of hate or anger or any other bad mida are natural and do not make us bad. However, it is our responsibility to recognize that it is toxic and, as the Alter Rebbe writes, to be “docheihu bishtei yadayim,” push it away with both hands. We must work overtime to discard the mida and certainly not act upon it.
But putting aside the obvious mistakes al pi Torah in these programs, there’s something more subtle that is problematic. The whole emphasis on formalizing a curriculum aimed specifically on feeling and validating emotions is incorrect. In our mesorah, it is not the derech hachinuch to highlight and explore in detail our own feelings, especially those feelings that come from yeshus.
Should emotions that are expressed by children be noticed and acknowledged? Of course. But creating a “yesh omrim,” a program of training them to know, explore and notice their feelings, is heading towards “midas sedom,” an obsession with self which is spiritually and emotionally unhealthy.
Our generation is indeed weaker and calls for a stronger yemin – more love and attention. In the context of reacting to an expression of emotions, this can mean two things: Firstly, not to be dismissive. When children ask questions or express emotions, we cannot ignore them. We must listen and acknowledge it. Secondly, not to be harsh. We can be firm in communicating Torah values, but never harsh.
But does that mean we encourage self-absorption? Should we be teaching our children to occupy themselves with themselves, noticing and being in touch with their own feelings all the time? Do we encourage them to accept and embrace their feelings – good or bad?
The antidote to emotion suppression is not emotion acceptance but rather emotion acknowledgment for the sake of serving Hashem.
Recognize Emotions of Others
If we are interested in teaching and building good and healthy midos, we ought to go back to something different which is in line with old traditional darkei hachinuch. Rather than teaching children to be conscious of their own feelings, let us invest in teaching them to be sensitive to the emotions of others.
They can learn about feelings by thinking about how another child feels when we are nasty to them. We can educate about the severity of humiliating or bullying someone else (malbin pnei chaveiro borabbim) by asking each child to imagine how it must feel.
What we should be teaching children at a young age is the meaning of true ahavas Yisroel. Ahavas Yisroel doesn’t mean only to be polite. It means to truly make room for another person, to feel for another person, to include another person, never to bully a friend, or to stand by while others bully someone in a classroom. Indeed, we must be aware of emotions, but the emotions and feelings of others, with less focus on ourselves.
Acknowledging the emotions of our children is fine. But the “veyesh omrim,” the shita and focus should be teaching true midos tovos, yiras Shomaim, love of Torah and Chassidishkeit.
In keeping in line with the Rabbonim's policies for websites, we do not allow comments. However, our Rabbonim have approved of including input on articles of substance (Torah, history, memories etc.)
We appreciate your feedback. If you have any additional information to contribute to this article, it will be added below.
How very well said! And, sadly, much needed. Yes, the “feel-your-feelings” mantra has taken over even in our schools.
Thank you so much for this article! I truly hope those involved in being Mechanech our children in our schools, take these points to heart.
Thank you Rabbi Gourarie for such a clear and sensible approach to emotional development.
To be honest, I was never comfortable with the self obsession, yet I was unsure since nowadays children do need emotional support.
This article really explains it well and highlights how we are actually harming them by overemphasizing their feelings.
So well articulated! About time this issue is addressed, a huge Yasher Koiach Rabbi Gourarie!
Everything in this article is so true and written so well. I always try to find the right words to discuss this issue with other mechanchos, now I can just forward this article.
Thank you for standing up for chinuch the way it’s supposed to be!
Thank you so much for this great, clear, well written and super important article!!
We definitely need lots of Torah clarity nowadays with all the new methods out there!
Thank you again Rabbi Gourarie!
Your words will go far iyH!
I was just reading about a frum social emotional curriculum on Shabbos and something didn’t sit right with me about it. It feels as Almost as if The new goal in life for all lubavitchers who don’t want to be labeled as primitive cavemen is wellness. Not that there’s anything wrong with wellness, but something didn’t sit right. Thank you Rabbi Gourarie for articulating your thoughts on this.
a healthy child/human has awareness of both self and other. As we grow and develop in our spirituality, we become able to prioritize others over our self in a healthy way, as long as we have awareness of our own emotions. Otherwise, we will prioritize others over our self in an unhealthy self defeating way. (think of the guy who invites creepy guests for Shabbos, despite his children being uncomfortable. Then those kids grow up hating shabbos. And all in the name of Bitul, Ahavas Yisroel, etc.). These are children who will develop into healthy people, and be excellent vessels for the message of Chasidus. Emotional intelligence doesn’t make you narcissistic. The opposite is true.
You have created a straw man and knocked him down.
No one says that one should ignore their basic needs and certainly not the needs of one’s children. But our goal and aspiration is to consistently give up some of ourselves for Hashem and for another Yid.
We don’t need help with cultivating our yeshus. We do that well. What a child needs is a solid foundation of putting that self on the side in a Torahdike way.
The Rebbe says we need to focus more on boosting esteem nowadays because today’s youth beats themselves up too much.
Where did the Rebbe speak about “boosting esteem” or wallowing in feelings?
The Rebbe spoke about showering them with love. That is not the same thing.
Excellent observations, Rabbi Gurarie. There is a very real difference between the common understanding of self-centredness and self esteem. The former tends towards narcisism and seeking to control. It reflects insecurity, While the latter reflects self-worth. The difference is epitomised by the Midrash about Moshe Rabbeinu’s humility: ‘If asked how he was so great, he would have responded: someone else endowed with the same gifts that HaShem gave me, may have done an even better job.’ In other words, assertiveness is a result of knowing one is gifted, but not of one’s own doing, but from Above. Once Hashem gifts us, we are duty bound to to utilise such ability – assertiveness. But if we think we are great ‘cos we are great’ then such self-centredness reflects selfishness, the opposite of bittul, and should be controlled, disciplined, and eliminated (Ischapcha and Iskafia). Laibl
It would seem you did not read the article. The author writes that teaching children to “ explore, and noticed their feelings” can lead to a “OBSESSION with self” and “ Rather than teaching children to be conscious of their own feelings, let us invest in teaching them to be sensitive to the emotions of others.”. It is simply impossible to teach a child, with average brain development, to be sensitive to the feelings of others without awareness of their own feelings. It also might teach them that any upset feelings they have when someone grabs away their toy is a cause for shame and makes them bad. The author further asserts that the secular idea that “all feelings are OK” is incompatible with Torah. This is a misunderstanding of both concepts. Psychology doesn’t say the feeling is necessarily good or worthy. It’s simply saying that it’s a legitimate feeling to have. Torah doesn’t see the feeling is forbidden. It’s just unholy. (the authors effort to distinguish between a feeling being “acknowledged“ versus “acceptable” is meaningless, because both terms refer to noticing the feeling without condemning one’s self while agreeing that the the feeling of something to work on, and eventually change). The point is is that we don’t try to help the child deal with someone grabbing his toy by teaching him he shouldn’t be angry. We teach him that it’s OK for him to feel angry and he doesn’t have to fight that. He has to use that feeling in a healthy productive way. Maybe when he’s older he’ll be able to think that it’s simply Hashgacha Pratis and he won’t even be upset. Let’s not try to teach our children to be Tzadikim before they’re Benonim.
A Beinoni isn’t self absorbed…
The two approaches may sound similar but they are vastly different. The Torah way is to feed the selfless neshama, though without necessarily crushing the nefesh habehamis (by acknowledging it). The other way is to build up the nefesh habehamis to feel content and ultimately selfish.
This is the 101 of nefesh ha’adam according to Chassidus.
A part of the Beinoni is self absorbed, but he is working to change that. That’s why he’s not a Tzadik. Children need to first feel secure in their own feelings before they can graduate to selflessness. The child who has one cookie and is asked by his friend who has five cookies to please have a sixth can have two unhealthy reactions. One unhealthy reaction is to say. “get lost”. The other unhealthy reaction is to say “of course you can have it. It’s more important for you to have a sixth cookie then for me to have one.” The healthy child knows he can say no, but chooses to say yes, because the other child might really need a sixth one very badly more than he needs to have one. Alternatively, he can say, “I’m sorry, but I need to treat myself as fairly as I treat you and I’m allowed to have one cookie even if it means you only have five and not six.”
You write – “We teach him that it’s OK for him to feel angry and he doesn’t have to fight that”
“Let’s not try to teach our children to be Tzadikim before they’re Benonim”
For a change, let’s explore what the Torah actually says about this.
In Tanya Perek 12 the Alter Rebbe describes the BENONI (not the tzadik).
ואפי’ במוח לבדו להרהר ברע אין לו שליטה וממשלה להרהר ח”ו ברצונו שבמוחו שיקבל ברצון ח”ו הרהור זה הרע העולה מאליו מהלב למוח כנ”ל אלא מיד בעלייתו לשם דוחהו בשתי ידים ומסיח דעתו מיד שנזכר שהוא הרהור רע ואינו מקבלו ברצון אפי’ להרהר בו ברצון . . וכן בדברים שבין אדם לחבירו מיד שעולה לו מהלב למוח איזו טינא ושנאה ח”ו או איזו קנאה או כעס או קפידא ודומיהן אינו מקבלן כלל במוחו וברצונו
– In short, when a benoni feels any anger whatsoever, he right away PUSHES AWAY the anger.
The author of this article explained quite clearly, that we don’t expect everyone to be on the Darga of the Beinoni of Tanya, and therefore we don’t need to condemn a child for being angry, we can even acknowledge the good reasons he or she have to be angry.
But שלא בשעת כעסו, when he is calm and ready to hear what the true goals of life are, he should simply be taught what Troah says: that being angry is not at all ideal, and we should all be working to push away that emotion as much as possible.
The Tanya is addressed to adults who have finished their emotional development and hopefully healthy and emotionally developed, but need guidance in having holding this in their emotions. Children are still in the process of emotional development and are not ready to be told that they’re supposed to fight their anger when they feel overwhelmed. A child does simply not have the physical frontal cortex development in their brain to manage their emotions like an adult can. They can be taught techniques to calm themselves down, and they can be taught that it’s beneficial for them to do so, because they will feel better, and they can also be taught that it’s what Hashem wants. But to teach this concept to a child as an expectation like making a Bracha before eating is simply silly. It can be taught as an ideal through stories that they can hope to live up to when they’re older, not as a goal for a seven year old.
When I wrote “ We teach him that it’s OK for him to feel angry and he doesn’t have to fight that” I mean that with a child is angry you don’t tell him, “it’s not holy to be angry“. That will not help him. You help him calm down. Even when he’s calm, teaching a child that he’s supposed to work on not being angry as a religious ideal is not the strategic way to reduce anger. You teach him or her self, soothing in the awareness that anger is not an ideal emotion. Otherwise, you will create a child, who when he’s overwhelmed with anger now has two problems for the price of one; he feels angry about someone grabbing his toy, and he feels bad for being angry, which makes him less able to soothe himself, etc. Anybody who has worked with children can attest to this.
A child or anyone, can only empathize with another if he is connected to and aware of his own feelings. Teaching emotional awareness does not have to mean “self absorption”. The classroom can be an ideal setting to teach and model ” Ve”Ahavta Reyecha CiMocha. What pleases Hashem is when we connect with others and transcend our own “self” interest. So please, let us distinguish between “awareness” ( daas) and obsession
A couple of points
1) I agree with the other comment on this, that this is a straw man argument. The proposal isn’t someone who is disconnected from their children and family and is preoccupied and distracted by the idea of giving others (not actually the other person). Where then you present the antidote to be that the person should be in touch with their feelings. Those are 2 opposite extremes.
2) The idea of giving in the secular world is completely different than the idea of giving in Torah and Chassidus. Not just in terms of there being a natural selfless desire to do good. But rather also, and maybe more importantly, on the intention, energy, and experience of what it means to help another Yid. What Chassidus says, e.g. that all Yidden are one entity as in one body, isn’t an abstract idea to be learned and studied and then remain in the Sefer. The intention is that it should authentically and truly be the motivation and experience in helping another Yid.
2 people can be doing the same thing, and they as different from one another as can possibly be. That difference matters, and it matters a lot and in many ways.
I would say that they type of emphasis placed on feelings in psychology, not only doesn’t encourage that, but rather it completely negates it and doesn’t leave any possibility for it whatsoever.
Chassidus teaches us that for the basic level of Yichuda Tatah you need Yichuda Ilah. The reality is that for the basic behaviors of Pirkei Avos (explained by many Meforshim to be basic and universal ideas) one needs the lofty Mili Dchasidusa of Pirkei Avos (which is the other explanation of what’s Pirkei Avos).
This is also connected to and is one of the explanations, for why on Yom Kippur we read both about the holiest of holies (the Avoda of the Kohen Gadol in the Kodesh Hakodashim on Yom Kippur) and the basic of all basics (forbidden relationships).
As the Ramban says, that a Talmid Chacham is recognized in his walking, talking, eating, etc. (another 7 basic human behaviors). It doesn’t work to be focused on self and even on self for holy purposes, and within that have a connection to what’s completely Above. Conversely, it doesn’t work to not be connected to Above and not to see the effects on the basic of basics.
It’s not just the intention, it’ll show itself in the results and in the realities on the ground. Basic and real realities.
It’s about the context and purpose of why we’re doing what we’re doing. The underlining focus and foundation is to serve Hashem. Part of doing that may require all sorts of things, like spending most of our day in the physical and material aspects of this world, but the foundation and basis is to serve Hashem. Sometimes we need to look at the “human” and even “dark” parts within ourselves, but the foundation must remain. With that foundation, the activity may look the same as what someone else is doing, but it’s as far from it as can be.
3) Another somewhat related point is that today we live in a world where since something matters, it becomes the center of everything. If you put your hand in front of your face, you can literally block out the whole world. Today, we are presented with ideas with the claim that this one idea (which the way it’s presented may be completely against the Torah, but even if it’s not) should be the center of everything and whoever doesn’t agree with it and advertise it everywhere or comments about it being advertised everywhere, is doing a most terrible thing.
In reality these ideas are almost always againts the values of Torah and Chassidus. Even if they weren’t, they shouldn’t become the only thing that exists and maybe they shouldn’t matter at all considering why we’re here and what life is truly all about. Now add to that, that they are often foundational ideas that undermine the basics of Torah and Chassidus.
The science of mental health deals with the Nefesh Hasichlis. It doesn’t deal with Nefesh Elokis. That’s why the messages are very different. But having a healthy Nefesh Hasichlis will only help internalize the message of Chasidus and integrate the reality of the Nefesh Elokis into the Nefesh Hasichlis. It’s not a contradiction. It’s a facilitator. Psychology books won’t to tell you the purpose of life is Dira Berachtonim. But just like a book about nutrition, they will help you be a healthier person who will be better at making a Dira Bitachtonim.
And who determines what a healthy nefesh hasichlis looks like, the nefesh hasichlis itself?! Or, better yet; pshycologists, i.e. the nefesh hasichlis of a goy?!
What a silly and misguided argument.
You’re blinded by chochmos chitzoniyos and trying to shoehorn it into Torah.
Am Haratzis. U are confusing the Aitz Hachayim with the DERECH Aitz Hachayim. All of mental & emotional health is included in Hilchos Derech Eretz as a prerequisite for the rest of Torah. See Yayikra Raba Tzav 9:3. If you are afraid because u believe there are monsters under your bed, calming yourself down by saying that “ the monsters have no free choice, because Hashem what is the world” is silly and ridiculous. That’s some thing you say if the mafia is trying to harm you. But if you believe there are monsters under your bed, you need to calm yourself down by telling yourself, “there are no monsters“. (Even if you are facing what Teva says is a genuine threat and u know you should believe that the mafia cannot harm you but you find it challenging, a therapist can help you with tools to achieve and internalize that belief.)
very poignant article
I would venture to say that there is misunderstanding on both sides.
On the one hand, acknowledging feelings is not saying it’s fine and good and proper. It just means recognizing and processing what you are feeling. And then continuing on.
It doesn’t mean to wallow in them.
Without this, a person may think they are “not angry,” but they are certainly not calm. Because they haven’t reached any closure. A closure can be that I understand why they did that even if I didn’t like it and I forgive them. Or it could be that I’m upset still and want to bring it up with them. They are both ע”פ תורה, as per the Rambam.
Then obviously there are loftier methods of processing, ע”פ חסידות. But it’s all a way of processing. Though once someone gets used to it, it may be quicker and with less consciousness.
So yes, instead of wallowing in the feeling itself, and indulging in it, observe it from the outside. Don’t stay with the feeling.
This is a principle in phycology and it is certainly not a contradiction to Torah.
It’s certainly not ע”פ תורה to just not think about something that upset you. That is just fooling yourself, because it will continue to sit in you. This indeed may be a יניקת החיצונים from the idea of ביטול. And it can be pretty damaging. (And can actually make a person more self absorbed — more הרגשת עצמו and less פתיחת הלב והמוח.)
I think this is where one camp misunderstands the other.
On the other hand, yes, certainly, without an emphasis on the other, and Hashem, and only about one’s own feelings, we will not be raising people we can be proud of… And obviously, that has to be the main emphasis. And teaching courses about one’s own feelings, as opposed to focusing on individual cases and needs, may indeed detract from what we are trying to imbue. And may make people self absorbed.
It shouldn’t just be about recognizing what feeling we are experiencing, rather, how we deal with it. And this is primarily on a case by case basis. חנוך לנער על פי דרכו.
Instead of the other side veiwing the article as an attack, they can observe whether this point may indeed be true, even though they may have been a bit understood.
The importance of educating Al Pi Chassidishe Hashkafos can’t be understated. As a mechaneches of teenagers I believe such an article should be first discussed with Rabbanim and Askanim who work with teenagers and struggling adults.
In my experience children and adults who are not in touch with their emotions are the ones who are struggling in Yiddishkeit and their relationships. Often that’s the first step
In addition when my students tell me how they shut down and pushed away certain negative emotions it’s usually a result of trauma and can be reinforced when they hear these concepts in school.
A hole and disconnect in the nefesh habihamis such as not being in touch and knowing how to regulate your emotions has effects on our nefesh elokis.
This is an important and confusing topic which I’ve been researching to try and understand the Rebbe’s view on it.
I am hoping more chassidishe experts who successfully help those struggling in their yiddishkeit or emotionally can help shed some light.
Thank you for opening this discussion about chassidishe education.
Our youth need a listening ear. Parents and other adults are often too busy to listen to them and take them seriously.
This author is decrying a philosophy of teaching them to constantly think about how they are feeling at the moment. This inevitably leads to preoccupation with self.
Ultimately the less one dwells on their own feelings, the “lighter” and more free they feel.
Today’s children are growing up in a geula world. They need isshapcha. Not just iskafya, pushing away the feelings, but really transforming their feelings.
How can we change the way we feel without first paying attention to the fact that we have feelings?
The more you push back against the fact that feelings are a part of our avodas Hashem in this geula world, the more our children become confused. The more they hold onto their feelings and worship them. The method described in this article doesn’t work in today’s generation. If it would, the article wouldn’t need to be written. People are not running to self help books because they’re bored. They’re running because they need tools. The Rebbe said to open your eyes and see that Moshiach is here. That means there’s a new world. A world where Hashem is known even in our emotions. Even in our nefesh Habehamis’s emotions!
The best way forward is not to push away feelings but to teach our children how to work through our feelings by welcoming the Aleph of Geula into our story.
can you provide any sources for your very novel ideas? This article is discussing the TORAH veiwpoint, not a personal hergesh…
“The method described in this article doesn’t work in today’s generation. If it would, the article wouldn’t need to be written” – The reason this article is being written is because unfortunately there is an age old Yetzer Horo to be like the Goyim
ככל הגוים בית ישראל
The Maskilim of old said that the ways of the past didn’t work, but the Rabeyim fought them.
You can speak to experienced Mechanchim – the fact is that what is described in the article works very well. The reason people are are looking for other ways, is because goyishkeit has crept in to our minds and hearts וה’ ירחם
THANK YOU FOR YOUR EXTREMELY WELL WRITTEN ARTICLE..
YES ..WE VALIDATE OUR KIDS EMOTIONS AND FEELINGS..BUT WE TWACH THEM TO FEEL OTHERS..NOT BE WRAPPED INTO THEIRSELVES
.TJIS NEW AGE PSYCHOBABBLE THAT TEACHES KIDS TO JUST BE INTI THEMSELVES..AT THE EXPENSE OF EVERYONE AND EVERYTHING…HAS NOT GOT US ANYWHERE GOOD UNFORTUNATELY..AND IS NOT THE TORAH WAY OR CHABAD WAY
Have been thinking about this a lot . So well presented.
Thank you for bringing back and highlighting our core values, which is what make us who we are and what we are!
Bringing an example from grief as a source to say that one must not focus on emotions is insufficient proof. Secular culture also believes that grief is a specific sugya where one is supposed to process those feelings and move forward. It’s not enough evidence to say that feelings are a davar H’asur.
You also quote Tanya perek alef, which speaks about Bad midos and how you must push them away with two hands. But explain to me this, How do you know that they are bad middos if “feelings” are asur?
You write, “It is not the derech hachinuch to highlight and explore in detail our own feelings.”
Are you suggesting that we should shut our emotions down?
And what about Krias shel Hamittah. We say, ” I hereby forgive anyone who has angered me. Forgiving someone is “feelings.” it’s not a physical correction but an emotional one. Feelings are a cornerstone of Chassidus Chabad. Torah and Mitzvos should be felt with feelings. Davining should be done with Hislavos and fire. Feelings are a cornerstone of Chassidus Chabad.
The article doesn’t say that feelings are ossur. What the article is only saying is that wallowing in “self” is not the way of Torah and is also unhealthy.
Our feelings should be directed towards Hashem and other Yidden, and less on our own wants.
From his words it seems that he is saying that feelings are asur. Wallowing in self has nothing to do with feelings. Wallowing in Self can be a cognitive problem as well. It’s important to make a distinction between universal truths and distorted realities. feelings are not good or bad, knowledge is not good or bad. Using one example where feelings can be selfish doesn’t make feelings in general bad or good.
I would suggest that you read the article again slowly and you will see that he didn’t knock feelings, just a certain kind of feelings that has become widespread recently.
התלמוד: “תנו רבנן לעולם תהא שמאל דוחה וימין מקרבת לא כאלישע שדחפו לגחזי בשתי ידים” ( סוטה מז, א וסנהדרין קז, ב ).
“Always, the left should repel and the right draw near.”
The left is first, says the Gemara.
It’s sad that some of the commenters here are trying to make Chassidus fit with psychology while ignoring the way Chassidus was learned and taught for generations.
Psychology has become the new avoda zara to which everyone must bow. Psychology is not Torah Misinai and Chassidus doesn’t have to fit with it. For us, Chassidus is the starting point, and whether psychology agrees or not isn’t relevant.
This is such an ignorant comment. It’s not a question of matching. The address to different parts of the person. Just like health and nutrition science does not match nor is it a contradiction to Torah, so too psychology
Rebbe said there is no contradiction between Torah & science. There might be contradiction between Torah and scienTISTS. Similarly, there’s no contradiction between Torah & psycholoGY. There might be contradictions between Torah and psycholoGISTS.
“In order for chinuch to succeed, it should be accomplished out of ahavas Yisrael, “the right hand draws near.” Even though it is sometimes necessary to implement “the left hand pushes away” – for “one who withholds his rod, despises his child” – it is done with the left hand, the less dominant hand, and it is only done very rarely. … When we approach children be’darkei noam (pleasantly) and peacefully, we influence them more successfully and quickly than through other means.”
(Hisvaaduyos 5743, vol. 1, p. 318)
taken from Anash Chinuch
the need for personal hadracha in our schools and community is evident in this article. Chanoch lnaar al pi darko.
General sweeping feel good initiatives to teach everyone feelings are not necessarily accurate or what’s needed for each individual child. As this article expresses, it can be detrimental, and maybe just following the ways of the goyim, when it becomes a movement.
My question is, how can mechanchim be supported to give each child the much-needed personal hadracha? clearly from the comments, and from living life, we see there is a need (and maybe the need still needs to be defined).
It seems with the current methods of teaching, or maybe due to lack of easily accessible personal guidance, people are either misapplying chassidus, or not integrating middos tovos.
How do we address the needs of our community? so the perceived need to resort to curriculums about feelings isn’t there?
Your comment is spot on. We are usually good with declaring what is muttar and what is assur but Chanoch l’nar al pi darkoi is a little more complex than issur v’hetter. Some kids need to be taught how to feel and some children need to be taught how they shouldn’t be selfish. Some children need to be taught to stick up for themselves and not be a push-over while other kids need to be taught how to be nice to others. I think a big problem with our Chinuch is that teachers are not being paid enough to be able to support their families. Tuition has gone up, our communities are growing financially. Chinuch has to be our number one investment. Mechachnhim have to be paid full salaries so they can throw themselves completely into Chinuch.
I agree with not asking kids to choose an emotion for the day as in the image shown here, and emphasising compassion in children’s education.
Most of the modern secular information I’ve seen about sensory and emotional regulation are very focused on developing empathy, and don’t encourage ruminating endlessly on an emotion.
Transitory emotions generally aren’t described in these writings as being always factually accurate, nor as healthy to hold on to long-term. They’re seen though as important signals regarding underlying experiences or needs. Once we hear them, their job is done and they don’t need to keep calling for our attention.
As you said, self-care and unselfishness can exist together. A person whose own needs are met has more capacity to give. Being less distracted and exhausted by unsupported internal distress or sensory needs can give us energy to look outward and notice others. When we have practiced compassion for ourselves, and experienced emotional support from caregivers, we can translate that into understanding and supporting the emotions of others.
It’s a human instinct to be prosocial and empathetic, but being stuck in a fight/flight/freeze/faint state can get in the way of this. Emotional avoidance correlates with narcissism and codependent helper mentality, whereas a balanced emotional state is described in the psychology/neuroscience literature as allowing and encouraging empathy to grow. We develop more receptiveness and reciprocity when unmet sensory and emotional needs aren’t tugging at our attention.
A complete emotional education will focus on compassion and serving each other, while also having a robust emphasis on recognising our own emotional needs. This is because many children have executive function difficulties, sensory processing disorders, insecure attachment styles, and/or trauma that cause them to be caught in emotional distress until they gain literacy in how to recognise and manage it. It’s on par with the way physical hunger or injury cripples the capacity for normal social interactions. If we don’t focus on this properly, balanced well with the foundations of generosity and understanding the needs of others, then many children with additional needs will stay in a state of chronic emotional chaos.
Similarly with boundaries, these need to be explicitly and repeatedly taught because children are exposed to dynamics of control. Generosity as described in Pirkei Avos 5:10 doesn’t mean allowing people to impoverish us, or having no limits. We need to see the red flags of exploitation, and also know what will drain our ability to live and give in sustainable ways. Then, when the situation really calls for us to give in ways that are costly to ourselves, we will have enough inner wellbeing to do so with peace and joy.
Emotional awareness can also help us as adults in our emotional support of children. When we get upset or angry, we can respond calmly and choose the right timing for them to be able to listen, but we also need to reassure our own nervous systems that the fear and injustice we feel during those difficult moments with kids is being seen and cared for.
It may not feel fair that they aren’t listening; that we have to hold ourselves together and respond gently while they’ve just hurt us; that the practical boundary we set at their level doesn’t fully solve the issue immediately; that by giving them the attention they need for emotion mentoring, we may be reinforcing the behaviour as well. The future of their behaviour may cause us to fear and feel the needs to control it straight away. When we notice and have compassion for these emotions in ourselves (considering them as valid signals for concerns to be met), we can move through them and beyond them.
When we try to push those emotions away too quickly, before hearing them and affirming the needs they came from, then we’re much more likely to be reactive.
As kids see us meeting our emotions and caring for ourselves in that way, they also see us living generous lives sustained by that wellbeing, and they can learn from that.
Your model is based on science, which as of this time has not studied a certain population who’s physiologic, genetic and cultural constitution differ vastly from the rest of the populations studied. This is becuase of many generations of isolation.
In fact, this segment has braught with them understandings of their own. One of their teachings for example, which is incompatible with yours, is that anger should never, ever be given validation. Even though in most societies such repression can result in compromised emotional development, it remains their legal and ethical right to practice their teachings as they beleive.
Most of them chose to compromize or mingle their dualistic values of science and their Bible, as apparent from the bulk of this discussion, but some whish to remain loyal to their own. They dont have to accept your (social) science.