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This Harvard Psychologist Wrote a Book Using Torah Wisdom to Aid Modern Mental Health

Dr. David Rosmarin, a psychologist and founder of the Center for Anxiety, has written a book that combines scientifically-backed Torah-based tools for mental health success. The director of the spirituality and mental health program at MacLean Hospital at Harvard Medical School, Rosmarin is a world-renown expert in healing mental health disorders. The Connections Paradigm: Ancient Wisdom for Modern Mental Health is his latest effort. “The lack of connection in our society is [seeing us] cascading towards a cliff.” Rosmarin’s book provides a way to change that.

Rosmarin is interested in treating mental health as something other than the “illness” designation they receive from the medical and mental health professional community. “Humane treatment of individuals who struggle with depression, bipolar disorder and anxiety…something [has always been] found missing from that. When you ameliorate or reduce people’s levels of distress, you don’t necessarily leave them with a meaningful life worth living.” Rosmarin wanted to understand how to not just reduce distress, but how to help people thrive.

This search led him to Rabbi Leib Kelemen, who helped him answer the question as to what spirituality could do to help reduce distress. Kelemen and Rosmarin studied texts whose origin could be traced back over 3,000 years. “What I learned was a Jewish approach to mental health in which there are three relationships: there’s a relationship with ourself, our body and our soul if you will, there’s our relationship with other people, our interpersonal connection, and then there’s our relationship with our Creator, which is bigger than this world.” This paradigm follows the shape of a pyramid. If our body and soul don’t have a great relationship with each other, its hard to have successful relationships with others, let alone with God.

The first section is in many ways the most important, Rosmarin says. “In western society, we’re terrible at treating ourselves well. We’re so hard on ourselves with this relentless pursuit of success. Our bodies need sleep. They need time off, they need connections with other people…we need to have fun.” These techniques have led Rosmarin’s patients to have significantly less distress in their lives. Our attachment with others also precedes a relationship with God. “People are so quick to give up on other people and not connect with them or walk away from lifelong friendships and relationships, and it’s sad. The Jewish tradition has a number of…pretty sophisticated ways, [to deal with this]. Many of them are well-supported by recent evidence. Some of them are ahead of the fields of psychology.”

Rosmarin is confident that the state of our connection (and therefore our mental health) is something that can be fixed. Secure attachment is one such predictor. “There is solid evidence that our relationship with others are in many ways, [indicators of] people thriving and doing well.” The key to this is being in a state of connection. “When people are connected to others, they are able to rely on others, they are able to be there for others and support others.” This requires vulnerability, which isn’t an easy thing to achieve. Rabbi Kelemen explained to Rosmarin, “The Hebrew word that means connection, yedid, is spelled yud-daled-yud-daled, which is yad, yad, which is two hands, which means you’re reaching out to somebody and they’re reaching back to you. It’s a process of connecting to other people, that being an ultimate value.”

Tolerating other people and accepting their shortcomings is a part of the Connections Paradigm. “Sometimes people are brought into our lives and they’re difficult to deal with… [We need to accept] that people are complicated and it’s better to have relationships with them than not at all.” Rosmarin says that believing in oneself means dreaming big to understand the greater goal or purpose for why we’re here. Challenges are a normal part of life and it’s easier to accept them when we see them as a normal part of reaching our big goal (often within the context of our “Godly mission” in this world, aka why we’re here). “It’s important to reframe when we’re having difficulties that its’ not necessarily the end of the world. Sometimes, we’re on a mission and it’s going to be a tough mission…but it doesn’t mean we have to give up.” This means that sometimes we have to rely on a higher power to get us through these tough times, which should come as a relief. “It’s not all up to us.”

Rosmarin’s book, written for audiences of every background, is available on Amazon here and wherever books are sold.

 

 

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