The Secret of the Good Point

Disconnection- The Sickness of the Generation

By Ron Webersod

Translated by Moshe Neveloff

Edited by Gershon Weissman

One of the things which prevents us from feeling our truth and living it, is not being connected to our feelings.  We live in a generation which is so flooded with external stimulations, overwhelmed with so much emotional pain and collective pain, that we push it away without recognizing it and without contemplation.  The disconnection allows us to function successfully on the outside, more or less.  “No pain- no problems.”  However the answer perhaps needs to be: “I feel- which means I exist.”  If I don’t feel my pain, it doesn’t mean the pain has left me, rather I’ve just pushed it one layer deeper inside myself.

If I don’t want to hear the voices which are screaming inside of me- I won’t succeed in reaching the depth of my soul, where it’s clear to me that I’m good.  If I try to silence something within me, it is still active inside of me.  Therefore, spiritually and emotionally, even though the disconnection might help us function, it prevents us from reaching deeper to our true and good points (which are covered as we said by layers of confusion and negativity).

In my personal journey, it was hard for me to recognize this point and admit to my disconnection and dullness.  It was natural for me.  That’s the way I grew up, that’s how I was educated.  Nobody “did” this in order to hurt me, but that was the message I received over and over again, and I internalized- everything’s okay.  In general everything’s okay.  Don’t stir things up, don’t make problems.  Be a “good kid”, that’s what’s important.  I even succeeded externally, everything seemed good and successful from the outside, but at a certain point the walls I built began to crack.  I remember being at Rebbe Nachman’s gravesite in Uman and I began to feel a lacking- from a distant place inside myself I felt that I don’t have enough of a connection to other people.  It was as if a wall was separating between me and the pain and sorrow of others.  I decided to label this: “I don’t have enough love for other Jews”, I decided and I flew home.

When I returned to Eretz Yisrael[1] I told this to a good friend who worked as an individual and couples’ therapist.  Love of other Jews?  He asked me; so tell me, how are things at home between you and your wife?  The pain and sorrow of your children and wife you’re able to feel?  Everything’s okay, I said.  Everything’s okay.  And then it began to pick at me: everything’s okay?  Is everything really okay?  Like the mosquito who killed Titus, my friend’s question was drilled in my mind.  Maybe it’s not correct, maybe everything is not okay?!

It was hard for me.  Why open up things which seem “okay” as they are?  Why dig in a place where everything seems good?  Nevertheless I gathered strength and asked my wife: tell me, what’s really going on?  Is everything okay with us?  She looked at me with suspicion.  You really want to know?  She asked.  The truth is not so great.  I feel alone.  I feel like you don’t care, that you don’t see me and the kids.  That you’re not interested in us and you’re only involved in your own matters.  It was strange and difficult for me to understand, how could this be?  It’s not that we didn’t have the typical difficulties of any couple, but I felt innocently that everything was okay.

With all of the pain and suspicion I understood that we must go to couples therapy.  When we got to the meeting I understood how serious the situation was and how much I was unaware of it.  Through the framework of the therapy we were able to reveal what we really feel, what we were going through.  My wife admitted that it was hard for her, that she feels that she can’t share her feelings with me, that I don’t listen to her enough.

How could it be that I walked around with a feeling that everything was in general okay?  Disconnection.  Repression.  Not giving a place for my feelings or hers.  This was a mechanism which helped me it seems to survive childhood, but now it’s hindering me from feeling what is truly happening.

I felt that I don’t know what to do with this, like a handicapped person who is blamed by others that he doesn’t run fast enough.  As the therapy progressed, I was able to understand that my wife saw a lot of good in me and wanted true closeness.  She didn’t agree to settle for crumbs.

And this is the secret of ‘Azamra’: in the deepest truth, you are completely good.  On the surface there are a lot of clouds which cover the light of the sun.  Instead of ignoring the problem and remaining in a cloudy day with weak lighting, you need to battle for the good and reach a clear day with clean skies.  When we agree to go through the fog- the light is revealed.  It was always there, but it was hidden.

From this place, where I saw how much I was actually distant, an amazing journey of coming closer together began, where we began to speak about what we were carrying inside and about all the places where it had been comfortable for us to be disconnected and not come closer.  It was a journey of going deeper, of progress, which helped us see the places where we hadn’t moved, hadn’t changed.

I can say personally, that from agreeing to see the difficulty, to admit to my deficiencies and not push them away, I reach deeper every time and come to a deeper meeting with the good and with love and accepting myself, my wife and my children.

We will attempt to touch upon some of the root causes of our disconnection, the reasons for the feeling of coldness and distance which we experience, and the self-pity which doesn’t allow us to correct what truly bothers us and which is possible to repair.

Once I heard a Torah scholar say that in order to know what needs to be fixed you need to know the situation of the generation, what are the specific difficulties which we are dealing with, difficulties which could have existed for many generations, but in our generation, and specifically in this generation, they are stronger than in any other generation.  This makes sense: in order to know what needs to be corrected, you need to know what is out of order, and this needs to be revealed before using the specific medication which Rebbe Nachman prescribed for us.

There are different opinions regarding the source and the reasons for our disconnection.  There is one opinion which reasons that it is connected to collective traumas: the Holocaust, the wars in Israel, anti-Semitism, and persecution.  There are others who say that it is due to psychological causes from childhood, and others explain the problem is due to the shocking superficiality which we are living in as a society and culture at this time.  It’s also possible to blame everything on the decline from generation to generation, however for us it doesn’t really matter.  It’s just important for us to know that we are living in a difficult generation.  A generation which on one hand has an abundance of physical comfort, but on the other hand it has an increasing aspect of disconnection and emotional disability.

It’s understood that the situation was also difficult in earlier generations.  Rebbe Nachman wrote his teachings of advice about 200 years ago, but it seems that from day to day the situation gets more serious.  My mother told me once that when my grandmother’s sister passed away, my grandmother wore black mourner’s clothes for several years.  I had trouble grasping this: my grandmother observed mourning customs for several years?  The mourning was so strong and meaningful in her heart?  It seems that today people leave a funeral and forget about the deceased immediately!

I met someone who went to seek advice from one of the elder Rabbis of the generation.  He told the Rabbi of the emotional pain which he suffered from, and the Rabbi told him that the problem is that in our generation people don’t cry.  Nobody feels.  The Rabbi told him that he knew once a plumber who would burst out crying every time he read Psalms.  People are not happy today, the Rabbi said, because they don’t cry.  The heart is closed.

In our generation, external functionality has become a lofty value and feeling has been pushed to the bottom of the priority list.  A person is measured according to their performance in society- economic status, type of work, car, and external appearance.  A person like this can be a source of jealousy for all those who see him and nobody stops and asks themselves: what’s going on with him truly inside?  With his children?  With his parents?  With his spouse?  With himself?

On one of my business trips to America years ago, I met a young man in Manhattan who was the son of an American media tycoon.  He invited me to ride with him in a fancy limousine for a mutual business outing where we could exchange ideas and see if we could work together.  He told me about his dealings in the media world, and spoke with non-stop excitement about his successes.  I looked at him- a good looking guy, wealthy, successful, it looked like he didn’t have a worry, seemingly the highest aspiration of any person his age.  “Tell me, are you happy?”  I asked him.  He didn’t answer for a moment, however the smile disappeared suddenly from his lips.  He looked straight at me and said sharply: “We don’t ask questions like that here.”

We live in a generation which is focused on the external and the superficial.  A generation in which the intellect is king, and the heart is silent.  In the crazy race for material success, we forgot ourselves.

Rebbe Nachman wants to save our hearts.  To return to us the pulse so that we can go ahead and battle the forces which are trying to put us to sleep, the forces which are trying to separate us from each other and stick a wedge between people, and even separate a person from himself.

We live in a generation which is focused on the external and the superficial.  A generation in which the intellect is king, and the heart is silent.  In the crazy race for material success, we forgot ourselves.

[1] The Land of Israel

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