Entries by Rabbi Elazar Bloom, LMFT

Good Morning!

Walking to synagogue this past Shabbat with my 5 year old daughter Shevy.

Me to a man riding a bike:”Good Morning”

No response.

“Good Morning!” (louder).

No response.

“GOOD MORNING”!

Still nothing.

Sensing my frustration, Shevy says: “It’s ok tatty, he is probably listening to music and can’t hear you”.

“Yeah, you’re right..” (slightly smiling now and feeling a bit better)

“Who taught you that?” I asked

“You did”

I’m not sure how or when I taught her this but was really happy to know that already she can allow someone else’s inability to see or hear to remain on their side of the street. I hope she will be able to do this for me as well.

What is Really at Stake in a Marriage

“There’s a darkness inside that is flooded in light and I’m frightened by those that don’t see it”
For me, this powerful line gets at what we really long for from our partners. We all have a beautiful place within us that has become darkened by our painful experiences, especially the hurts we endured from our closest people. It feels rejected and unwanted, but the light in it knows its not true. It knows that it is not damaged and problematic. The light inside lives on.
The light inside wants to find someone that sees it for what it truly is, to be loved there. It gets married.
When our partner (who we deeply hope will be the one to finally see it) does not (or seems to not), it frightens us to the core.
We then ask….Maybe the darkness IS true…and that is a fright we cannot handle. It scares us more than death.
That much is possible and therefore at stake in a marriage.

What if They Knew?

“A relationship starts to become real when it’s broken and begins to heal.”
This quote hangs in my office. A client entrenched in a troubled relationship recently took a picture of it and we began to talk.
The essence of that conversation can be distilled to the following point:
If only couples understood that moments of pain are ready to be mined for deep vulnerable connection. If only couples understood that just as they are about to throw in the towel, they can embark on a road to experiencing what they have always longed for.
If only I knew this before things got this bad.
Imagine if we were to teach a young couple this AT THE BEGINNING of their journey together.
Do you think they would listen?

The Most Destructive Relationship Habit

If I had to summarize the single most destructive habit of an intimate relationship I would describe it as

 

“The Habit of NOT”

 

NOT sharing my sadness

NOT saying how you hurt me

NOT acknowledging when I hurt you

NOT sharing my gratitude

NOT fully embracing joy

NOT revealing my pain

NOT exposing my struggle

NOT trusting your love

NOT believing I matter to you

NOT admitting how much you matter to me

NOT allowing you to support me in my fear

 

If you were to choose 1 from the list (or use your own) and were to begin to work on doing the opposite, which one would it be?

Serving or Avoiding Life

“You cannot serve life if you are scared of it”
– R. Naomi Remen
For example:
If I avoid painful emotional experiences within myself (an inherent part of living), I will be unable to be present for that experience when it shows up in my child. I may do many things for her (problem solve, coach, explain, teach, etc.) but I will not be able to be of true service to the life that is expressing itself in her in that moment.
Why?
Because I am scared of it. I have ignored it. I have abandoned it. Sad thing is, now, she will probably do the same to HERSELF. And on and on we go…
That is why bravely showing up for whatever form life takes as it expresses itself through you is the (true) beginning of healing.

A Dark Entrance to the Light

As Jews, we know loss all too well, but I fear we may have forgotten how to create compassionate enough spaces to experience emotional pain and grieve together. Our coping strategies have gotten the best of us and we have paid the price in terms of connection to ourselves and each other.
When our Sages suggest that Mashiach is born on the afternoon of the Jewish calendar’s most painful day they are teaching us a profound lesson:
The natural process of grieving loss leads to greater joy and wholeness. To redemption.
Wisely, we have a day dedicated to mourning and grieving national loss. Unwisely (albeit, understandably) as individuals and communities we have become quite skilled at avoiding, suppressing, dismissing, intellectualizing and even spiritualizing away its emotional experience.
Simply put, we don’t move into emotional pain well and that isolates us.
Yes, sadly, perhaps there has just been too much pain for our people. Our system is flooded. And still, this prevents us from moving into the deeper place that emotional pain points to. Ultimately, it disconnects us from our vital wholeness and we become less compassionate, authentic and present for ourselves and each other.
We need kind, compassionate spaces to grieve our many losses together. Spaces where judgment and even strength are replaced by openness and vulnerable connection. This is difficult but life-giving work. And we can’t do this alone. This is the work of friends, family and community. Each of us has endured a tremendous amount of loss. Everything from the tragic loss of loved ones to the loss of vulnerable, innocent parts of our being. My hope is that we can join people like Russ Shulkes and his Mourning Nights project and continue to normalize the experience of grieving loss in whatever way it is experienced. Allowing the sitting connectedly with each other to come before any attempts to show how this is “all for the best” or otherwise “fix” or redeem the situation. True healing will naturally flow from our courage and willingness to be with the experience of loss, with each other, as we trust in the Morning Light that will come to bless us.

Nurtured to Thrive

When father’s day comes around, It’s natural to wonder how you are doing in that role. The cards feel good but you know the kids are forced to make those by well-meaning teachers and/or mothers. So how do you “check your ratings” (borrowed from a favorite Calvin and Hobbes)?
 
I’m not sure, but a line that resonated with me is that a parent’s primary role is to help his child feel that life is not
 
“surviving because you are fit”
but
“thriving because you are nurtured and loved”.
 
Survival is the activated energy of the sympathetic nervous system and is normal and useful (in truly dangerous situations). If it is overly activated it prevents a child from feeling comfortable in his own skin, playful, friendly, open, connected, joyous and calm; feeling like he belongs.
 
I like this way of looking at my role. How well am I responding to him/her that sends the message: You are ok, safe, with an ever available home base and a loving, caring human cheering on your explorations and adventures.

The Most Important Benefit of Mindfulness?

There is a lot of talk about “mindfulness” and its benefits. One benefit that I appreciate and haven’t seen given a lot of air time:
Awareness of and friendly attention to my own inner experience at any given moment protects me from being drawn into the feelings, moods and states of other people, which (by default) I am likely to desirously FUSE with or aggressively REJECT.
With awareness to inner experience, space opens up – space for me and space for him.
Perhaps this is the kind, compassionate, attentive space where “loving your fellow as yourself” is actually possible.

My Grandparents “Trauma Bond”

My grandparents were married in a DP camp following WW2. They both had just endured unspeakable losses including the murder of my grandfather’s first wife and children and my grandmother’s time with Mengele in Auschwitz. She was 17, he closer to 30. They married to survive. They married to fight off the loneliness and the pain of devastating loss and trauma. They married because that’s what Jews have done throughout our long history – rebuild from the ashes. And their relationship worked.

How did their relationship work?

It worked because it functioned with a very clear purpose – they needed each other to survive. Their roles were clearly defined and everyone did their job with a clarity of how important each was to the overall success of the project. They did not talk about their vulnerabilities, they did not talk about their fears or their longings. Not that they didn’t have them (we all do), they may not have been aware of them (likely) and even if they were, marriage was certainly not the place for those discussions. Who had time when there are so many more immediate pressing needs like physical survival?
In many ways, I long for the simplicity and functionality of that type of union, but gratefully it’s no longer available. With basic needs continuously and generously met, blessed with material ease and comfort, emotional and psychological longings come to the surface and this complicates matters. While caring for each other’s physical needs is more straightforward (it fosters clear role delineation and complementarity (he provides financially, she takes care of the household and children).
This is much more challenging with emotional and psychological needs for a straight forward reason:
  1. Nobody can really be responsible for another’s emotional well-being.
  2. Responsibility for my emotional experience lies with me alone. I can CHOOSE to invite you to share that space with me but you cannot ever fix anything inside me. You can respond with your very presence, care and attention, but expecting that you will fulfill, solve, heal my emotional needs and I yours, NEVER works. It ONLY leads to pain and dissatisfaction.

Relationships in

So, while the survival pattern that worked for my grandparents really DID work for them, it will never work for my wife and I. Because of them, we are now blessed to be able to think about our individual emotional and psychological needs and figure out how to create an even DEEPER relationship as we learn how to share that space together. It will never be in the way that worked for them and to them I am grateful.