Anxiety disorders

  • 15 June 2018
  • jewishfamily

The latest “fashion” seems to be anxiety. Everyone seems to be suffering from some sort of anxiety disorder. Why is it that so many people experience so much anxiety these days? What is anxiety? Where does it stem from?
One of the deep causes of anxiety relates to our relationship to G-d. We grow up imaging G-d as being the epitome of kindness and goodness. Not just imagining, but we know that to be true. So then when things go “wrong” in life, when we suffer pain or hardships and our relationship to G-d is not what we wanted or imagined, we feel anxiety. We don’t know how to relate to G-d. If He is all goodness and kindness, why is He causing so much suffering in the world? Why does He not seem to “see” the suffering of His children? Why does He seem apathetic? That feeling and that question brings out anxiety within us.  Why is G-d not treating us in the way we expect and feel we “deserve”? How are we to relate to the difficult parts of life? How are we to relate to Hashem when we do not see our prayers being answered the way we expect?
We know we are a part of Hashem. We love Hashem. We know He loves us. But in our minds, love means behaving kind, in a caring manner, with open revealed good. In our minds love is not suffering. Love is not gevura.   Love is connected to chesed. Gevura is the opposite of chesed. So how can we reconcile gevura and suffering with a kind loving G-d? and that is the source of our depression, sadness, anxiety and fear.
We want to trust G-d. We want to trust Him fully and not question Him. After all, we are trying to do what He wants. We are trying to live a good life, a holy life, a pure life. Why do we deserve suffering?? Why do so many apparently “evil” people seem to have things so good while we suffer? Why does the person who hurt me or caused me or my family so much unhappiness seem to enjoy a happy life?
These questions are old questions. The Talmud discusses this. The Zohar talks about this. But nevertheless the question persists because in the face of suffering we have no answers and we have only painful questions. Suffering does not feel right. Emotionally it is draining. And it affects our loving relationship to our creator. And the truth is suffering is not right.
We all want to feel secure. A child wants to feel secure with their parents. If chasve shalom a parent constantly beats a child or knocks down a child, that affects the child’s feelings to that parent. And it makes the child feel they are no good. Often they cant figure out why they are no good. That brings out anxiety.
Always in the back of our minds is the question: If I am good and Hashem loves me, and I am trying to behave and do what He wants, why is He causing me this particular suffering? That creates tremendous anxiety. But the anxiety stems from a lack of real trust. Because we fail to see the entire picture. Perhaps the suffering is an exchange to spare us from a worse situation. Perhaps this difficulty is to bring about a much better situation in the long run.
So what could G-d possibly want from us by “knocking us down” or making things hard for us? Well, certainly it is a test. And the purpose of every test is to bring out our inner strengths and to bring us to a closer relationship to G-d.
We remember the days when things were easy, fun, filled with joy…the days when everything seemed to go well . We feel close to G-d. We feel He loves us and we love Him. But was our connection to G-d really strong then? We were like babies that  G-d was spoon feeding and looking after with tender loving care. We needed that spoon feeding to be happy.
When we go through very challenging and difficult times, times when we question our relationship to G-d, and  even feel angry with Him….from those times we actually grow the most spiritually. We begin to understand things differently. Our relationship to G-d matures and we become closer to Him than ever before.
We do pray He should not choose to deal harshly with any of the Jewish people.. He should accomplish things with chesed and open good. But we also know that life is temporary. The world we see is false. There is a whole level of existence we don’t see and don’t understand. And our relationship with G-d is the main thing. We need to allow Him to heal us, to guide us, to lead us and to love us. And we need to put aside our preconceived notions and trust Him. That is a very big challenge.
How do you trust someone who you think lets you down? It is only natural that you start to be fearful. How will things turn out? Will Hashem let us down anymore? But the idea is to start thinking positively. To truly trust with a deep feeling of btochon. That is a difficult thing to do but the Rebbe said when you really develop btochon you do not allow any thoughts of negativity in even a little bit. You only think good thoughts and you really believe it will be good. And when you really trust that much, Hashem does not let you down. He vindicates your trust. Often He is just waiting for you to develop that trust. It is an avoda .
We often have an image of how life should be, how we want things to go, and when things don’t work out that way, we become disillusioned. We become frightened, worried. We start fearing what will be. Is Hashem punishing us? Will things end up in a good way? Will things just get worse? Our plans, ideals and chayus gets thrown aside. This brings tremendous anxiety. But behind all of that is again a certain lack of faith: Hashem knows what is best for us and guides our life in a certain direction to accomplish what He knows we need.  And even if it may seem at times like a waste of time and energy, or like a lost opportunity, or we believe we need something different for our spiritual uplifting and growth, we have to realize that we do not know what we need. Only the Creator of the world knows what we need and what He needs us to accomplish. It may be totally different than what we imagine or want but it is His world. We must never forget that.
So everything is really for the good and not a “mistake”. We have to work on becoming positive people, with trust in Hashem and love to Hashem, and He responds to us the same way.  The way we behave down here is mirrored above. So it is all about developing ourselves spiritually. Anxiety is a lack of faith and a lack of simcha. We can get rid of anxiety by developing ourselves spiritually and truly beginning to trust our Creator.
But we also need to understand that our feelings of anxiety are because we are in galus. The truth is that suffering does not feel right. Problems do not feel right. The expression of harshness in this world does not feel right. Immorality does not feel right. Because deep inside we know that G-d created this world to be a perfect, holy and moral place. And that is why we need to go out of galus and to have Moshiach. The true cause of anxiety is because we are still in galus! And therefore let us increase our prayers for redemption and the end to all anxiety and suffering in the world.