Try Googling "Who am I?"

There are some people that always seem to get themselves dragged into all kinds of things that have nothing to do with them. They could be dragged into a discussion or an argument that has nothing to do with them. And, if you ask them why they are getting so involved, they may say that they’re just “curious” by nature, or that they just want “to help” others, or that they just feel so passionate about the issue. In some religious circles, people may even justify their intrusiveness due their “commitment” to finding “the truth” - so they get themselves dragged into all types of nasty controversies that also have nothing to do with them.


Then there are other kinds of people who get dragged off into excessive fantasy land and find it difficult to concentrate and pay attention to what’s going on around them. They don’t know when they are having real thoughts of imaginary thoughts. Then there are people who get dragged into speaking too much. I’m talking about the kind of person who literally can’t stop talking no matter how many times people hint to him to give it a rest or tell him outright: “be quiet already!”


Still, there are other people who find themselves being dragged away by their eyes that look at forbidden sights or dragged away by their stomachs to eat what they shouldn’t eat. There are those who are being dragged into doing excessive chesed (acts of kindness) that go beyond their healthy capacity to give; there are people who are being dragged into learning too much or who are learning subjects that are above their capacity to understand. Then there are those who get dragged into excessive exercise and health concerns; those who are being dragged by the internet, by improper desires, by compulsive shopping, gambling, pic-pocketing – you name it!  There is an endless list of emotions, behaviors, object and “goals” that can literally drag a person down. Some people simply get dragged down by mimicking their surroundings and doing whatever they see happening in “society” or in others’ around them.


Our Rabbis have been studying the full gamut of human emotions and behaviors for thousands of years. It’s astounding to me, that the more I delve into what our great Rabbis have written about the soul and the human personality, the more I realize why secular ideas can’t help us at all. The secular view is like looking at the outermost branches of a tree and mistaking the branches for the tree itself. Our Rabbis have written about compulsion, and impulsive control and difficulties that people can have in paying attention and concentrating – all from their understanding of the inner-most roots of the Jewish soul – only they can teach us how the human being can perfect his thoughts, feelings and actions.


Obviously one way that the “dragging” process I’m describing shows itself is when people act impulsively and don’t seem to be able to concentrate. Yet despite thousands of studies over decades on “attention deficit disorder”, how much has secular science taught us about it? ADHD has been studied more than any other problem in children and adolescents, yet what do we know about it? The causes for problems with attention and hyperactivity are still unknown.[1]


Despite decades of research related to “obsessive compulsive disorder” which causes people to feel out of control of their thoughts and their actions – which are also signs of the “dragging” process - nobody knows the cause for OCD either – there is no proof of it’s being a medical or psychiatric “disorder”; and the same is true of ICD (“impulse control disorder”) - all of the research into this “disorder” is also speculation. So with all of the thousands of research studies, ad nauseam, and the millions of dollars spent on them – what more do we really know about how to help people who are always getting dragged into one thing or another?


Our Rabbi’s give many explanations for why people get dragged into things that cause them anxiety, fear, sadness, jealousy and hatred. Our Rabbis understood what arrogance, and lust, and depression are at their roots. They tell us about these problems, their causes and their solutions. The reasons for the problem of getting dragged are too numerous to mention and adequately deal with in one article - but I will mention one which is perhaps the common denominator for most of them.


What’s the one type of knowledge that you can’t get quickly by googling it? Try googling “who am I” and see what comes back. If that doesn’t work try: “everything that’s known about my personality” You can try substituting “my soul”, “my purpose”, “my unique connection to Hashem” – there is no known, in depth information like this about you. Deep self-awareness is something that only Hashem can teach you. The world, with all its “sophistication”, has nothing to tell us about the subject that we all need to be experts in most – ourselves!

Whenever a person is dragged after something, whether it’s an object, a desire, a fantasy, or other peoples’ business - he is leaving his “I”. He is really being dragged out of his “I”, out of himself, out of his identity.   Therefore, if a person would know his true identity – if he would come to recognize what his “I” is - he would get a lot less dragged around after the endless list of things that can distract him and further alienate him from himself. People even get dragged away from Hashem by not knowing more about their unique natures. After all if a person doesn’t know his own personal nature and uniqueness, how can he know about the unique relationship that Hashem is trying to have with him?


If a person never takes the time to develop his individuality and he is not in touch with himself and his uniqueness he lives an anchor-less existence. He has forfeited his locus of control to the wind. A person without self-awareness, self-love, Torah, and emuna - is someone who is doomed to be dragged through life like a rider of a horse who has abdicated his control to the beast rather than steering it and controlling it himself. 


The more that a person recognizes who he is and what his values are; the less he will be pulled in directions that are not “Me.” This type of person is leading a more internal life. He has learned to quiet his mind and hear the whispering of his soul which tells him who he is and what he should be doing. There are very few people that can do this today. There are many who think they can, but they can’t – their “self-awareness” is very superficial.[2]

Once, however, a person has a solid connection with himself, he will be able to develop a solid connection to the Jewish people; a solid connection to the Torah and ultimately a solid connection to Hashem – these are our three primary connections. When we live in harmony with Hashem, the Torah and the collective Jewish soul, we won’t be able to swerve off course for very long before one of our three primary connections will bring us back. We will be dragged back into holiness and goodness and our quest to “resemble” the middos (the “character traits”) of Hashem.

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© 2020 Zev Ballen, Psy.D, LCSW