By Jewel Safren, LCSW

After catching my breath after the Yom Tovim (is it sacrilegious to say, “Thank God they’re over?”), I would like to share my big innate health insight from this year with you. For any newcomers, and for those of you who need a refresher, innate health talks about how you are totally connected to God at every moment and that it is only your thinking that keeps you from experiencing that. Your experience of life does not come from your circumstances. It comes from your thinking, in the moment, about your circumstances. When you understand that your experience comes from your thinking in the moment, you suddenly have new freedom — you do not have to think what you are thinking. You do not have to compulsively believe your thoughts. They are just thoughts.

In shul on Rosh Hashanah, I was feeling guilty for a myriad of things (I promise no murders or bank robberies). Just everyday things. My mind was totally in a loop, going over and over the same “stuff.” I was feeling pretty miserable, which was not helping me feel spiritual. So I started to put my innate health to work. Here’s how the conversation in my head went: “Wow, you are really having a lot of thinking about that. Remember that it’s just your thinking. You do not have to think that.”

I started to feel some cracks in my obsessive thinking. Soon I began to stop feeling totally overwhelmed by my obsessive thinking, and started to get some distance from it. I wasn’t drowning in it anymore. It was just thought — it wasn’t me.

It seems like the Yom Tovim are prime targets for guilt and neurosis to reign. I have to tell you from my personal experience that, most of the time, guilt doesn’t help me to change. It just leads me into an internal, small, miserable box. Most of the things that I do that I feel guilty about, I do compulsively. Feeling guilty hasn’t led me to change these behaviors — it has just led me to feel guilty about them, a loop that robs me from experiencing the joy in life.

My head just keeps playing the same record (or tape, or CD, or download — whatever you can relate to). It is only when I can break out of my old thinking patterns that I can start to feel some space in my head, some freedom in my thoughts.

So now I know it is possible to allow for that space. “Wow, Jewel, you are really having a lot of thinking about that.” When I see this, it separates me from the obsessive thinking and definitely breaks the grip of the thoughts. I cannot tell you that this always works. Sometimes I am so “in it” that I cannot see that it is just thought. However, when I do try to work with it, it does definitely lighten the grip. It can be like trying to get a stain out of a shirt. Sometimes it lifts right out, sometimes you have to work on it, getting it a little lighter. The thoughts are still there, but much lighter. They don’t rob you of your well-being so much.

Thank God, most of my “bad deeds” are not monstrous. But I still sometimes find myself trapped in obsessive guilt, and I wanted to share that guilt doesn’t really help with everyday stuff. It doesn’t help us to stop our seemingly compulsive deeds. It just makes us miserable.

I have found that realizing that I am lost in my thinking about something really helps to give me some distance on my mishegas. And the more distance I get, the more I am able to change — because I am not locked into the same negative loop or pattern. Can anyone relate to this? When I have some new space in my head I can act differently, because I am not trapped in the same mental maze.

Of course I want to grow and improve. It’s just clear to me that the path to that improvement is not obsessive guilt. It’s only when I feel more space or freedom in my head that my experience of life feels lighter, and I am able to make changes. Only when the guilt lightens its grip is there space for change. Of course, the bottom line is that we are always in Hashem’s arms. But when we are lost in our thinking, we do not experience it. When I can let go of my thoughts, I can allow myself to just fall back into Hashem’s loving embrace. And isn’t that what the holidays — and life — are really about?

By Jewel Safren, LCSW

Jewel Safren MSW, LSW, LCSW has over 35 years of experience in counseling, life coaching and public-speaking coaching. She has worked with people all over the US and in Europe, and runs popular personal growth workshops, webinars and classes. She is recommended by Rabbi Dr. Akiva Tatz; Rabbi Jonathan Rietti, B.Ed, M.Sci.; Rabbi Paysach J. Krohn and Rabbi Mordechai Becher. She lives in West Orange with her hubby and two kids, and has two married kids and two grandsons living in California. You can contact Jewel at 973-464-8556 or, if you would like to be on her mailing list or for more information, visit jewelsafrenlcsw@gmail.com.