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Av 4

It is not that fear causes indolence, but rather that indolence causes fear (Mesilas Yesharim, Chapter 9).

With this statement, Rabbi Luzzato makes a very important psychological point: we often deceive ourselves by reversing cause and effect. How many times have we heard (and said): "I am afraid to do so and so because ..."? We convince ourselves that this thought is the truth, while the real reason is that we are lazy. However, since we do not wish to admit laziness, we rationalize that the fear of some danger is keeping us from taking action.

I have seen many young people, who are reluctant to go on with their education or undertake any constructive course, become "drifters." They attribute their problem to indecisiveness or anxiety. Analytical oriented therapists may spend many fruitless hours trying to discover the psychological roots for their indecisiveness and anxiety. Cognitive psychotherapists, who urge them into action first and deal with the underlying factors later, have much better success. Why? The indecisiveness or anxiety is not the cause, but merely an excuse these young people give themselves to cover up their indolence.

Luzzato's Path of the Just is both a great work of ethics and a treasury of psychological wisdom. As the author says in the introduction, it is a book that should not only be studied and thoroughly digested, but re-read many times. Group study and discussion of this great work are particularly enlightening.

Nothing can be so misleading and hence destructive to our lives as self-deception. Serious study of Path of the Just accomplishes two things: (1) the mitzvah of Torah study, and (2) invaluable lessons about how to avoid self-deception.

Today I shall...

realize that I may be cleverly deceiving myself. Therefore, I will try to find ways to discover such self-deception.

With stories and insights, Rabbi Twerski's new book Twerski on Machzor makes Rosh Hashanah prayers more meaningful. Click here to order...

Published: May 21, 2009

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Visitor Comments: 2

(2) Joey, July 16, 2010 9:34 PM

Wow...

This describes me so perfectly...I'm always anxious to do something I know will be hard for me, and this gave me an excellent perspective on this bad habit. I'll try to do like it says and just act, which now that I think about it DOES tend to clear the nervousness up. Thanks and God bless!

(1) mysteries, July 25, 2009 1:49 PM

escapism

Self deception can make one not engage well with reality but is has its good points. If one is finding it difficult to cope with life's events then the person may seek entertainment as a distraction. From this some form of pleasure is obtained and the whole process makes one forget about the pressing problems that will return to one when the stint of entertainment is over. Religion is a good example of this. One forgets the current situation and goes off into a different mind state. That mind state will cushion the exhaustion of life and will convince one that there is something else out there other than the limits of everyday living.

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