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Spiritual Deficiency Syndrome and What You Can Do About It

Spiritual Deficiency Syndrome and What You Can Do About It

Take this important annual spiritual checkup before Rosh Hashanah.


Are you suffering from what Rabbi Dr. Abraham Twerski calls Spiritual Deficiency Syndrome?

In his book, Happiness and the Human Spirit: The Spirituality of Becoming the Best You Can Be, he writes:

Recognize that you have a body and a spirit. If your body lacks something-let’s say iron – you develop iron deficiency anemia. You’ll go to the doctor, and he’ll prescribe supplements. If he gives you extra vitamin A or niacin, it won’t help. It has to be iron. It’s the same with spiritual deficiency syndrome. If you try to cure it by amassing wealth, going for a cruise, taking a drink, taking another drink, you’ll feel better for a while. But you won’t be happy.

One of the beauties of being human is that we can realize we’ve made a mistake. Once we realize that we’ve been undermining our own spirituality, we see that we’ve been using the wrong things to fill the void.”

What are the signs of spiritual deficiency syndrome and what can we do to treat it?

1. Boredom. Pascal once said, “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” Feeling bored isn’t just a result of having nothing to do; we are afraid to face the silence both within ourselves and the world. The silence that asks us to face ourselves and the hard questions that life raises. Instead of struggling with the answers we turn on Netflix or our ever-present phones and fill the silence with noise and distraction.

To help overcome this spiritual block take a few moments and write down your answers to the following questions:

If I wasn’t afraid, I would…
Who was I created to be?

2. Lack of empathy. A significant symptom of spiritual deficiency syndrome is being wrapped up in our own problems to the extent that we cannot see or feel one another’s pain; this means that we are not relating to the infinite light that resides within each of us when we encounter others. Being able to give and listen to others is not only what makes us spiritual; it is ultimately what makes us human. There is no greater spiritual exercise that getting out of ourselves and giving to others.

Sometimes our own daily challenges make it hard for us to see the bigger picture, but thinking about these questions can help us gain more perspective:

Who do I know that may be struggling with loneliness, pain or grief? How can I help that person?

What are three ways I would help make the world a better place today if I had unlimited resources?

3. Preoccupation with the physical. We often attempt to fill our inner spiritual voids with more and more things that we don’t actually need, which ultimately deepen the emptiness we feel within. We may try to alleviate that emptiness with overeating, surfing the internet and binge watching movies, but the temporary relief is always followed by disappointment because we are not feeding our souls what they really need.

Spiritual Deficiency Syndrome is in some ways a gift. It’s our soul telling us that it’s hungry and needs to be fed, not with empty calories but with genuine meaning and purpose that fills our inner core.

Rosh Hashanah is the time to get clarity about what really matters to us. As the new year begins we have the opportunity to examine who we really are and who we ultimately want to become.

Think about: What is the legacy that I hope to leave behind? If I died today what will I regret not saying or doing?

Each of us has an infinite core filled with light that we yearn to pour into the world around us. When we ignore that light, we will feel the emptiness and try desperately to fill it. This year fill the soul with what it really needs: purpose, connection and meaning.

September 9, 2017

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The opinions expressed in the comment section are the personal views of the commenters. Comments are moderated, so please keep it civil.

Visitor Comments: 4

(2) Burtb0, September 13, 2017 1:18 AM

scary thoughts

Ms. Gutfreund asks "What is the legacy you hope to leave behind?"

The scary thought that congers up is :
“I have no legacy”.
And “what good is a legacy of mediocrity?”

When I was young, I had big dreams. I failed to realize any of them. They were too big (or I am too small).

In order to live with myself, I have resigned myself to small accomplishments (paying my bills on time, keeping my promises 80% of the time, satisfying my boss 70% of the time, helping my aged father with 60% of his requests and 80% of his needs, disappointing my wife 49% of the time)

I am not proud, but I am functional, and not too much of a drag on society.
Perhaps I feel failure more intensely than other people?

Shoshana, September 13, 2017 8:35 PM


It's sounds like you're a little sad with how you're living your life right now. That's not bad, it's actually a big gift to read an article like this one and realize that you have more to get out of life! And change can happen at any age, it's never too late! Sometimes dreams we had when we were 20 aren't realistic or even worth it when we look back at them 20, 40, or 60 years later, but definately it is worth it to find new goals, dreams, and ambitions that make you feel young and energetic again!! And then find small but sure ways to make sure you're going in that direction! Good luck! Rosh Hashana is a great time for rerouting!

Aviva, September 15, 2017 11:16 AM

There might be more to what you're feeling

As somebody who has been struggling with depression and other forms of mild and moderate mental illness for most of my life, I personally think you might want to speak to somebody.

(1) Atarah, September 12, 2017 10:42 PM

Excellent, and well said!

L'Shana Tovah!

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