I attended your seminar at the Woodside Park synagogue, London, several months ago. One of the subjects you spoke about was controlling anger. You mentioned that if you feel anger towards someone, you should move your thoughts away from yourself and instead, focus empathically by asking yourself: why did the person behave in this way - this would have the effect of lessening the anger.

I wanted to tell you that this technique has been most effective for me (but only if I am disciplined and apply it rigorously).

However, I do have a couple of questions on this which I'd be most grateful if you could find the time to answer and/or point me to any relevant literature:

  1. Would this approach work if we simply substituted any other thought ? not necessarily the self talk you suggest? After all, the mind can only focus on one thought at a time. So, if someone angered me, wouldn't thinking of some forthcoming engagement for example, be just as effective?
  2. What is the spiritual mechanism underlying the technique. You mentioned that it causes a change in the spiritual channel?? - I didn't quite catch what you said.

Thank you very much,

A. (London)

Thank you for your letter inquiring further about my lecture you attended. You are correct in that the technique involves an ?other-centred? approach ? i.e. moving one?s consciousness away from our ego and focus on self. And I am glad that it has assisted.

But it's much more powerful if the spiritual posture that is adopted is one of empathy with they person who is abusing/hurting you verbally. If you simply allow your mind to focus on any other subject, this may do the trick for the moment, but as soon as you are confronted by the person again in the same way, you become sucked in again.

It is better to change the relational dynamics by focusing on the other's needs / pain / imbalance and being appropriate with your response, rather than focusing arbitrarily on just any neutral thought.

This of course is in general terms. Sometimes simply being 'elsewhere' in the mind is a useful ploy to detach from the other's misbehaviour. But then one still needs to strategise at some point how to be wise with the other, especially if your futures are intertwined, or there exists an ongoing professional relationship that cannot be escaped, etc.

The underlying spiritual mechanism consists of shifting from the lower-order self (Nefesh Behamit) to the higher-order self (Nefesh Elokit) as described in Hassidic literature like the classic text known as The Tanya. I also describe this mechanism in my book Practical Kabbalah: A Guide to Jewish Wisdom For Everyday Life, (Random-three Rivers), and also on my tape on Transforming Negative Emotions. (See my web site for these items www.laiblwolf.com )

Do let me know your contact details if you would like to be placed on my database for future information of programs in UK etc.