Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Shrinks

Never, ever under any circumstances should you go to a non-frum shrink. Without a proper perspective on the value of being frum, without understanding the dynamics of a frum home and a frum person, they make too many mistakes and make things worse.

As far as shrinks in general, you need to have three things in mind:

1) "The Shinever Rav's Rule of Insanity". A lady came to the Shinever Rav ZT"L and complained that her son went crazy.

"He dances with shiksas and eats chazeirim", she said.

"Crazy??" retorted the Rav. "If he would eat shiksas and dance with chazeirim he'd be crazy. He's not crazy, he's just listening to his Yetzer Horah! There's a big difference."

Many people think that if a kid is doing aveiros a shrink will help. He won't. The theory that if he deals with his "issues" he will become frum again doesn't bear out in real life (see my post in the "It's getting worse" topic in this forum). Mental problems are not the same as doing the wrong thing. Shrinks deal with mental issues not moral issue or value issues. First determine which you have.

2) Because the shrinks have no objective criteria for right vs. wrong, but rather deal only with feelings and the decision making process, they often lose focus of the issue. Example: I know someone who sent his son to a shrink because he (the son) had bisexual tendencies. He spent months discussing his feelings about "alternative lifestyles" and his plans and his feelings etc., but bottom line, nothing changed. He got tired of the shrink and left. Afterwards someone explained to him that he simply has a Yetzer Horah for men, Hashem put it there, it's his nisayon, and he shouldn't bother trying to get rid of it, and don't bother even analyzing it because it doesn't matter. What does matter is that he doesn't act on it. Simply don't do anything. Everything else is not a problem. That worked just fine. This was not a shrink issue; it was a simple issue of getting things in perspective, which is the Torah's job.

3) There is a tremendous difference between psychology and reality in terms of how to view the decision-making process of a human being. The shrinks live in a world of causation, which means, everything has a cause. Your decisions are caused by something. Mostly - perhaps completely - heredity and environment. More and more our society is leaning towards the outlook of "this is WHY I did what I did...", and more and more, people, especially kids, are asking "WHY am I doing this? WHAT makes me do this?"

The reason the shrinks believe this is because shrinks deal with the physical part of person, including his physical brain, but they have no dealings or knowledge of the spiritual part of a person, meaning his soul. The spiritual part of a person affects his being greatly, which is another cause of errors made by the psychologists. The reality is that Hashem has endowed humans with something called bechirah, which means Free Will. It is beyond the laws of causation. Meaning, there does not have to be a reason why you chose A over B except for the fact that you were given the miraculous ability to choose between Good and Bad for no reason at all other than it is your own personal private and totally self-created choice.

The idea that a person controls his decisions rather than his decisions are controlled by outside factors is a Torah idea, and the shrinks are unable to consider it, since they have zero knowledge of the existence, never mind the nature, of a soul. So very often (see the above example) a person can will himself out of trouble but the shrinks will miss that option since they are not trained to focus on it. There is great controversy among the shrinks even when it comes to addiction about this. This does not mean to say people do not have temptations, and sometimes even Nisyonos that they cannot overcome; but where this is true, and the role that human free will plays in controlling ones actions is a place where the shrinks are completely in the dark.

Regarding spirituality, there is an additional, fourth factor. Rabbi Chaim Segal ZT"L, the former principal of Chaim Berlin High School in Brooklyn had a general policy (I heard he made exceptions) not to allow shrinks in his school (Orchos Chaim - address to Torah Umesorah). His reason: The Chasam Sofer rules that all secular medical knowledge is only considered "perhaps" true when it comes to Jews, since Jews and non-Jews, it says in Chazal, have different physical natures, and all medical research is done, generally, on non-Jews. And it may or may not apply to Jews. All the more so, argued Rabbi Segal, where a person's spiritual and psychological nature is concerned. The Jew is imbued with a psychological and spiritual nature completely different than that of the non-Jew. Do the psychologists take that into consideration? Do they consider factor such as Zechus Avos, to name just one, in their diagnosis and treatment plan?

A similar sentiment is recorded in the name of Rav Elyshev shlita in the Sefer Yashev Moshe.

A person has a body and a soul. Your mind - your sentience as opposed to the physical meat of your brain - is part of the soul, not the body (Zohar Bereishis 32, and all over the seforim). This is not something that secular shrinks have a handle on. At least, not nearly as much of a handle as they think they do.

Is there a use for shrinks? Of course there is. But it is more narrow and limited than they would have you believe; more than they themselves believe. Perhaps you should see a shrink; perhaps you should not or do not need to. I don't know your particular situation. But please bear in mind that the job of the shrinks is limited in its scope - you would not go to them to pull your tooth or to fix your foot, of course - and you must make sure that before you entrust yourself to a doctor, you are going to the right one. The only problem is, if you go to a foot doctor to pull your tooth, he will tell you that you came to the wrong place. The shrinks themselves are not aware of many limitations of their own skills, so you have to be more careful here.

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There are a number of frum psychologists, but their expertise is not Halachah and hashkafa. You should not go to psychologists under any circumstances for the sake of obtaining from them Hashkafic guidance. You should only go to an expert in Halachah for Halachah and an expert in Hashkafa for Hashkafa. Just because someone is frum does not mean he is either. And his being a psychologist does not contribute to his expertise in either.

You can go to a psychologist for psychological problems. If you have halachic or hashkafa issues you should, at the same time, see an expert in those fields separately.

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