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Psychological Counseling at the Time of Crisis (Part 1)

A Conversation between Rav Michael Laitman, PhD and Psychologist Anatoly Ulyanov
November 27, 2008

М. Laitman: Well. I can see a nice young man. I was told that you are a psychologist. Please tell us a few words about yourself.

A. Ulyanov: My name is Anatoly Ulyanov. For fifteen years I have engaged in practical psychology, meaning that I receive individuals and lead groups. A group consists of fifteen to twenty people who basically gather to communicate with one another. In the course of these fifteen years great changes have taken place. These groups have indicated that people undergo considerable changes. Although my professional skills are constantly improving, during the last five years it has become increasingly difficult to satisfy those people’s needs.

The problem is that people come over and after an initial introduction and a few words they start saying that they feel inner emptiness despite the fact that socially they are very successful. If they are men, as a rule they have families, children, and a well-paid job. Nevertheless, they say that none of those things satisfy them, that they feel empty and often slide into depression. They say that all the methods that they have tried work for awhile and then stop being effective. The methods known to practical psychology (I have acquainted myself with many schools and know quite a lot) are no longer effective.

So after the first meeting, initial greetings and small talk, people feel confused. I simply have to admit that I don’t know what to do.

Could you comment on this situation please?

М. Laitman: Yes, this situation is certainly sad. I realize that it is very unpleasant for you. On the one hand, it indicates disappointment in psychology. On the other, I should say there is a way out. Personally, I believe that psychologists should intensify and speed up the development of psychology and its methods in accordance with the tempo of our life’s demands. Unfortunately, psychology is advancing very slowly, and for some reason it makes no break-throughs.

People are becoming more egoistical; hence their need for pleasure is growing. In the past they were content with a comfortable home. Later on they developed a taste for city entertainments, theater and such, and then came industry, Internet, air-flights, and travel. Today you can fly around the world or see it on the Internet or on TV, and it is always before you and man has no problem filling himself at least with basic food… We imagine how people used to work for a piece of bread five hundred years ago. This made many of them happy, while many others could not have it.

Today’s level is much higher, but at the same time our egoism is bigger and it demands much more from us. Not just more, it demands the impossible. We don’t know what we want. I feel bad when I am alone and slip into depression. I feel bad with my family; I can’t stand them just as I can’t stand myself and I sink into depression and get divorced. I can’t stand my children, my bosses, society, and environment. Clubs and hobbies are not enough for me. We have sport, soccer and ice-hockey on TV, entertainment channels broadcast around the clock. Everything is available.

Human desires may be subdivided into the following categories: bodily desires for food, sex, and family; and social desires (because we are included in society) for money, wealth, influence, fame, and knowledge. I see that after people have satisfied practically every bodily and social desire they completely lose an ability to fill themselves. As long as they are still aimed at some new desires and their fulfillment, it still certainly works, but afterwards it stops working. Look at today’s advertisements. They try to stuff us with ways of enjoyment: Coca-Cola, travel, women, clothes, new cars, etc. Enjoy it all! Yet man is not even willing to stand up to get it.

Are you in this state? Is this what you hear from your patients?

A. Ulyanov: Yes. We made a rather interesting video clip that metaphorically shows in what situation I found myself professionally. Having studied for more than a decade and mastering the science of psychology everyday (because this rather complex profession requires complete involvement) I suddenly realized that I look absurd (to say the least). Do you understand? So it turns out that what you’ve just said is absolutely correct: I fail to catch up with the tempo at which people are developing. I suggest that you should see this clip and then we’ll continue our conversation.

М. Laitman: With pleasure. Please.

[Clip, A Shrink, in Russian]

М. Laitman: Yes, you have found a method. What can I tell you? Unfortunately, this is so. However, there is an answer. I think that man’s needs are breaking through above our world. What else can we offer him? Flights to the outer space? Well, some people fly, but… Those who come to us depressed have already grown out of these needs. I do understand you.

Because I engage in social work, many people come to me for advice, although I am not a psychologist and don’t pose as one. Yet they turn to me with these problems as to a man of experience in life and in helping people. Unfortunately this is really a global problem in our time.

The fact is that a totally different kind of egoism’s aspirations and needs is emerging today. We have become global, we started moving around the Earth, and this world has become a small, closed place for us. We feel how people live in other places; we seem to feel as if we are in their place. We realize that we have somehow revealed the limited nature of our world. This world turned out to be rather small, although it previously seemed immense and unbounded.

Imagine, I remember my life under the Soviet Power quite well. I wanted to see the world and it was impossible. But this dream, this desire to travel and see tropical countries, the real jungle and the “stone jungle” of Europe and America. This somehow left man something: there was a desire without fulfillment. When your desire remains unsatisfied you somehow feel that life is still worth living, that there are still things in life that are unavailable and would fill you with pleasure.

This state somehow helped people to move forward; it developed them. It seemed to me that at that time people aspired to something more spiritual, sublime, to the discovery of the world, which was rather limited for them. Now that the world has been revealed we discovered that basically it has nothing to offer. Yet at that time we neither knew nor believed. So this permissiveness, availability has now revealed its limitations. This is a problem and I understand this, especially when egoism has grown so tremendously as compared with the past.

What shall we do? I don’t know. Personally, I suggest to people to look higher because if you start speaking with a person, his aspirations rise above his life. In other words, if you offer him everything in this life he no longer wants it; it no longer fills him with pleasure. He subconsciously, secretly seeks an answer to the question: Wherefore do I exist? He may be given everything in this life, but if it is locked between birth and death, this automatically doesn’t suit him; he doesn’t want it a priori. Why? Because if it has an end and in general if life has an end, then the limits of this world don’t suit him. His desires are bigger than your offer. You offer him everything he wants for a period of seventy years. Here we have a Mephistophelean drama. He… he wants much more. What can you offer him?

Within the limits of this world a psychologist can offer him only various means for soothing and fulfilling, advise him on some tangible things. I understand you. That is why there are various spiritual techniques like yoga, meditation, and other oriental methods. Have you also tried them on your patients?

A. Ulyanov: I personally learned many of those techniques because when one studies psychology a fundamental question constantly arises besides purely technical stuff: “For the sake of what? Where is it all going?” This big question in turn splits into several particular ones, which I’d like to ask you now if you don’t mind.

М. Laitman: I don’t. I’ll be glad to answer them.

A. Ulyanov: One question that my clients quite often ask is this. Man can be virtually divided into two parts: one part represents his good, positive qualities, talents, etc. A person can sing well or is physically very fit, or has a gift for languages. The second part comprises man’s properties and skills that don’t come easily to him. For example, one of my acquaintances is a well-known chess player. His head works well and he is a talented person, yet physically he can’t do elementary things. A question arises: should a modern man develop those positive qualities that nature gave him or try compensating the negative qualities and weak points? How can you comment on this? What should be done?

М. Laitman: I’d say that man is created as a social animal. It is well-known that every one of us can’t satisfy his own needs by himself. Therefore we have to communicate with one another and exchange the fruit of our labor. As a result of this mutual exchange every one of us aspires to become a specialist in some narrow field, so that the society needs him.

So the better specialist he becomes, the better he can do his own work needed by others, the more the society needs him, and as paradoxical as it may sound, the better he can survive in the society. At the same time, if he is a violinist, he can do nothing else but play his violin. He needs his fiddle to succeed in this life and can’t do anything else. Nevertheless, if he is an expert, he receives huge sums of money, honor, knowledge, and fame without producing anything, just by doing his specific work that people need.

Therefore I think that in modern society (especially a global one), when we start revealing a global interconnection between us and discover that we form a unified system, globalization demands a bigger specialization from man. I would advise to all to choose a profession and advance in it, but this profession must really be in public demand.

It often creates a problem when people choose some unreal field of study, thinking that their passion would interest others. However, if a person has a good profession demanded by our society, then after clearly determining that it is his, he can become a specialist in this field. He should forget about everything else and devote himself to mastering this profession.

A. Ulyanov: My next question refers to upbringing. Parents and grandparents quite often ask: How should we bring up our children? Moreover, how should we bring up boys and how should we bring up girls? They often ask this question: what basic, fundamentally important nature-given qualities should we develop in boys and in girls to help them succeed in life and live well?

М. Laitman: I’ll tell you. In my opinion, upbringing is based on imitation. A child learns from adults, from their environment. No other methods can possibly compare with this.

The TV channel that he likes, a society or a group to which he belongs, a sports team in which he plays after school, that is what will bring him up. The same goes for parents: he will learn norms of behavior, rites and such from them. There is no getting away from this. Our entire education boils down to imitation of someone who is close to us.

Therefore the most important thing is to say nothing to the child. By this we lock him, block all of his possible channels of reception of information. Telling him things is like plugging his ears. We should show him. We should show him all modes of behavior, techniques, customs, communication methods, and attitude to life, people, home, books, nature, etc. It doesn’t matter what, but we should demonstrate it!

This demonstration is regrettably missing today. In the past children had a yard, parents had a house, a garden, land, domestic animals. People communicated with nature. Today’s child is deprived of it. They practically don’t communicate with their parents.

You know, when I was a kid (that was in 1950s), our school teachers used to tell us: “We envy you! You’ll be living in a world where a person will work four hours a day instead of eight. The rest of time you’ll go for walks, go in for sports, and rest in woods and parks.” Fifty years have passed and what do we see today? Man works twelve hours, i.e. four hours more than before. He is completely detached from nature.

That is why our children lack visual positive images to learn from. They do not communicate with nature, animals, and fields. They live in an apartment, get out and visit a friend or go to school or other box-like structures and watch images projected by a TV box. This is what they learn from. Their perception of reality becomes distorted. Our reality is totally unnatural for man who should be brought up in inanimate, vegetative, and animate nature.

How to do this in a general, global form is of course an enormous problem, the problem of education, the solution of which should be started not with children, but parents. Education is the most painful problem of humanity because there is nothing else but education. If we could correctly bring up one generation, the following one would be right; it would correctly bring up their children and from then on everything would be fine.

I hope that today’s universal disillusionment, crises, ecological disasters, and drug abuse will lead us to the need to reconsider our educational system. We will do everything to concentrate our attention only on this problem. We should truly concentrate only on this problem because man’s happiness depends on its solution.

Speaking specifically for us, I advise parents to pay proper attention to their own behavior, to give children positive examples, because children learn only from them. You see a small boy watching his father nail something to the wall. The boy takes a toy hammer and knocks on the wall too. This is an apelike instinct. That’s the way we learn. This is clear, so we should use this and send children to places where they would not hear but receive figurative examples of correct behavior.

A. Ulyanov: If we focus on this question it is evident that parents organize the life of their children in such a way that intellectual, so-called dry data makes up 90% of their informational intake. The share of social communication, which you have mentioned—interaction with people, in the yard, contact with nature—makes up only a very meager part. Furthermore, parents should take in the importance of such communication and realize that, strictly speaking, it is very important not only to stuff children with knowledge, but also to help them learn communication skills and to become a true human being. How can one get the importance of this educational aspect across to parents?

М. Laitman: Well, I have already said about the need to educate parents. I believe that the school and the state should undertake this role. School studies should be organized differently. Children should be taken out to nature; they should spend at least one or two summer months in contact with the inanimate, vegetative and animate world. They should participate in geological and historical expeditions.

Generally speaking, everything should be done to get them out of their boxes: I live at home, I live at school, I go to my friend’s place and sit in front of a TV set. We should break all this, and then we will give man natural fulfillment, which his inner nature demands. Otherwise, he remains empty and constantly consumes “plastic,” ersatz. His nature includes these elements of inanimate, vegetative, animate and human nature; hence, he should be filled through them, see and feel all of those levels.

99% of intellectual fulfillment makes people cruel; it doesn’t develop them harmoniously. Man is a sensitive creature. We perceive information and images. As a psychologist, you know this better than I do. We feel more than we understand. Our mind always follows our feelings. Desires and sensations dominate within us, and only afterwards the mind is activated to receive the desired pleasure and to react to the sensations.

Therefore, the most important thing is to develop man’s sensations; next to them the mind will sufficiently develop for their support. Because we give attention to intellectual fulfillment (to the so-called “mind”), and totally neglect sensual development, we produce restless, empty, and inharmonious people. This leads them to depression for which there is no remedy. Basically, they should go back to a harmonious state and develop sensual channels of reception of sensual information. This is what man needs.

A. Ulyanov: You know I agree with you. I can give you many examples of how a person overloaded with intellectual information literally degrades. I have recently met an acquaintance of mine whose psyche literally snapped. Having a PhD in economics, he completely dropped out of his environment and now he is walking around like a lunatic with an insane look on his face. There are dozens of such examples.

The next block of questions that I’d like to touch upon concerns the problems with me. As a rule, young women come for help. You know that highly educated or well-read people typically turn to psychologists. Young good-looking, attractive women (25 or 30 years of age) with a good social status, who have already satisfied their basic needs and started musing about things, pay me a visit. Almost all of these women come with the same problem: they need a man and they describe the kind of man this should be. He should be clever, handsome, kind, very rich and famous.

You know, when this question comes I try talking to them and say: “You see, there are two or three million beautiful women like you, while men of your description are hundred times fewer.” So statistically it turns out that out of one hundred women aspiring to find such a man only one will succeed, whereas ninety-nine would be left with nothing.

You know, this issue leads me and my colleagues into a dead end. We talk to one another and don’t know what to do and how to say... How can we cope with such ladies?

М. Laitman: They should receive medical treatment. You shouldn’t explain to them that they wouldn’t satisfy these basic needs (because for them they are basic). They won’t find such men and we understand this. Besides, even if they do find such a perfect match, it won’t make them any happier. It just seems to them that they’ll find happiness according to those five parameters that you mentioned. A person needs to feel happy and content. Well, money, good looks, the man himself and so on do not guarantee spiritual satisfaction, which a female organism seeks above all.

The woman wants her home, children, man, and everything else around her to belong to her. She has to inwardly feel herself in all of this. As a rule, such men do not provide their women with this. They give their wives a home, a check-book and want to be free of everything else. This is clear. Basically, they live at a distance from one another with their own needs and pleasures.

Hence, I think that these women should simply be treated and explained that what they want to get is no means of satisfaction. They should be worked with. It doesn’t matter that they are business-women and their intellectual level and material well-being are good. You see how distorted the notion of happiness and the factors that determine it are in our society.

They are smart people, women with female intuition, yet they are distorted and look for “plastic,” an artificial substitute for true earthly joys that can satisfy a woman’s organism and soul. This is a problem of our education. This is how we bring up these girls who at the age of thirteen or fourteen start hunting men with thick wallets. This is an educational problem.

Twenty-five-year-old adults are still looking for their partners according to all of these parameters. I pity them; they will not have a normal marriage. Hence they should attend a systematic course where they will receive serious graphical explanations about the human essence, how and what can fill it, and why we are created this way. They will learn how much happiness such basic simple joys can bring: food, a warm home, children, medium well-being. This feeling of “warmth,” of “her own” place is very important to a woman.

I think that a good psychotherapy course for beautiful young women would make them really happy later on.

You should really try. I think you should make this revolutionary step – publish the following advertisement (the program would have be thought over of course): “A new course is about to begin...” and “Ladies who seek happiness in this, this and that are kindly invited.” They will come and together with them you will start analyzing and discovering wherein lies this happiness from a scientific, physiological, and psychological point of view. I believe that they will leave this course transformed. They will realize that they were wrong.

A. Ulyanov: Another side of this question is when these men (meeting the five aforementioned parameters: handsome, clever, rich, famous and strong) come for a long-term therapy. When these men come, one surprisingly sees two sides of the same phenomenon. In this case the aspirations and problems are completely different.

First of all, these men complain that to sustain this level they have to be under stress. Primarily, as we have already said, they have to work for twelve or fourteen hours a day. They don’t see their families and live in conditions of a very tough competition. In order to keep this vigor they often need alcohol, drugs or other stimulants and antidepressants. As a rule, these men come and say that they actually have no choice: they can’t give up this “high” level. At the same time they realize that tranquilizers, alcohol, and drugs would bring them to their grave.

And again, this problem confuses me and my colleagues. What should we say? How can a man break free from this vicious circle?

М. Laitman: I’d open courses for them too. I give you my word of honor. There is no other way if we speak about education. Our conversation today (it is the first one, but I hope more will follow) basically concerns our society’s need for correct education (for those men as well) and nothing else. Wretched guys who grabbed something bigger, yet it forced such a life rhythm on them that they have to be running. He runs and runs and can’t drop out of a race on this conveyor belt. It forces him to run at this tempo or else he will fall and bruise himself badly. He doesn’t know where he is running, but he is obliged to continue.

Of course, this leads to nervous breakdowns and drugs; you are right. However, you should use only this soft, gentle method while gradually explaining that they won’t be able to fill themselves this way. Our satisfaction depends on a totally different factor: sociability, dependence on others, warmth provided by family, children, wife or a woman. It is illusory satisfaction when another zero is added to man’s savings, because he instantly wishes another zero and then another… It is the same conveyor belt on which he has to run.

Therefore, the explanation should be gradual. They are smart and very serious people, but when they hear an explanation of how man and the world are designed and that we will never be able to fill ourselves while chasing after pleasures… This chase practically takes our entire life. For a fleeting moment we seem to enjoy it, yet the sensation of pleasure and desire instantly vanish. I have to think up a goal to aspire to after it; and maybe in contact with it I’ll momentarily feel this delight. This endless, accelerating rhythm surely leads to depression, drugs, tranquilizers, etc.

I see no other way out but conducting this educational work. This should be done in good conditions; such courses should be attractive to people. They should consider it prestigious and brag about attending a spiritual development course. Do you see what I mean? Well, this is very important to them. I think that this can make a mini-revolution among them.

They are in a real crisis that is just beginning. This crisis will go on for years. It will not end. It will be followed by others. The financial crisis is now passing on to an economic one, which means that plants and factories will be closing. This current level will continue dropping and disillusionment will be growing. It will then be followed by hunger (moderate), various climatic problems, and so on. All of this will press on man and on his attempts to retain the same living standard or confidence in the future. We will come to a situation of no confidence in the future.

People’s problems will be growing. Have no doubt: we’ll have plenty of work. In my opinion, psychologists will be busy for hundreds of years. The fact is that I see no other way but to explain to people (perhaps through television) how man and nature are designed. That is the way we are and people are trying to be different. It won’t work, one can’t go against nature. People need to understand where they can find happiness and satisfaction. They shouldn’t let the society push them around with its illusory goals and force people to achieve them.

I think that a good, thought-out course based on simple explanation (not on moralizing) of man’s physiology, psychology, and perception of the world will be a success. It will explain how we can or can’t find satisfaction and why we can’t be filled egoistically. You will see within the next few years how necessary it will be for people as an answer to their increasing problems.

Problems will be growing from month to month. You still don’t feel it, but a wave of suicides will come and leave many families in a very sad state. We only see the beginning of this wave now.

A. Ulyanov: Well, here is a question that I saved for a dessert. In our psychotherapeutic community we have a saying: “We can’t be led astray because it doesn’t matter for us where to go.” In this context I’d like to ask you. We unite and form therapeutic groups. But strictly speaking, the question is “Where are we going?”

М. Laitman: I have a precise answer to your question: we need to study nature. We are its part. We don’t exist above nature, so we have to study it.

We exist within global nature. Its main law is a global law (which is being revealed only now) of absolute interdependence of all people. Since biblical times this law was formulated as “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” We have to achieve this level, because if we are interconnected with one another, if we exist in the world or a “butterfly effect” (a butterfly flutters its wings and it affects the other side of the world), then in order to ensure our good future we have to find ways of correct, kind, and mutually beneficial unification. Nature will force us to achieve this because we are completely opposite to it.

Nature is absolutely kind, hence it created such a living organism in which everything exists in inner harmony. You know this better than I do. Nature loves all of its elements—inanimate, vegetative, animate, and human—and takes care of them. People who are in contact with nature feel its breath and understand it. We are distant from it; modern man neither feels nor understands nature. Nevertheless, we exist inside this global law. Therefore, if we study it and present it to people, then psychologists will not only have work, but their work will have the right direction. It certainly will.

A. Ulyanov: Thank you so much! It’s been a wonderful conversation! You know, I asked many different people to answer these questions, and for the first time received simple and clear answers. Thank you very much! I don’t know but I hope to have another opportunity to ask you a few questions, clarify a few things, and then pass this information to the people with whom I interact.

М. Laitman: I am an educator, I educate people. And it is a great joy for me if I can help someone, especially someone like you, who can pass my words to a great number of people. As soon as you have more questions, I would be at your service. See you! Good luck and good-by!

A. Ulyanov: Thank you!

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