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Rabbi Mendy Herson's Blog

Thoughts from, and conversations with, Rabbi Herson

Self-Actualization Revisited

Self-actualization - or self- fulfillment - as a deeply rooted human drive. We want to be all we can be, to spread our wings and soar.

At one level, this takes a lot of introspection and mental/emotional toil. One needs to probe deeply, getting to know oneself –and clearly acknowledge one’s weaknesses and habits – in order to self-actualize. We need real self-awareness, observing how we react to various stimuli in the course of a day, and watching our sub-consciously ingrained patterns. It’s exhausting to even think about it; but growth takes work.

But focus on self – in and of itself – can actually get in the way of personal growth. Some people call it ‘hyper-intention.’ A simple example: When you can’t sleep, and focus on falling asleep, the self-focus obstructs your goal of relaxation. Trying to sleep itself prevents your sleep.

There’s also something called ‘hyper-reflection’, or ‘thinking too hard.’ When we focus excessively on our potential pitfalls they can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Too much focus on one’s self, even for a good purpose, can actually get in the way.

So paradoxically, true self-actualization needs more than self-awareness, it needs self-transcendence, or self-negation. Once I recognize that G-d created me for a purpose, something larger than myself, I can accept - surrender to - that idea.  We can stop focusing on who we want to be, and start recognizing who we’re needed to be.

It’s not a mindset “what do I want out of life?” but rather “what does life wants out of me?”

Some people get bogged down by the [subconscious?] fear of “what will people think?” That’s only a problem when we’re focused on ourselves and our respective images. The problem recedes when I’m swept up in my responsibility to life, to the world around me, to my Creator.

In Judaism, this might be called a Passover mindset. The enslaved Jews weren’t a self-aware, spiritually-evolved group. But they believed in a Creator and a destiny. Like children, they were open to something Higher. So G-d reached out and lifted them up.

Passover is about humility. It’s about faith. It’s about rebirth.

Ultimately, it’s about being all you can be.

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