It was another difficult Shabbat (Sabbath). I miss E. This seems to be worse on Shabbat, for various reasons. It’s hard being “half-married.” I felt too burnt out and exhausted to go to shul (synagogue) on Friday night, with physical symptoms (light-headedness as well as exhaustion). I’m worried how often this has been happening lately. Otherwise, it was the usual type of Shabbat I have now: eating with my parents, reading a bit (I finally finished The Third Reich in Power; I’m hoping to read lighter things now, or once I finish the latest Jewish Review of Books), Torah study. I did some Talmud study for the first time in some weeks, which was positive. I napped in the afternoon, which was not good, but I didn’t sleep for as long as I have been doing recently, and I did at least feel refreshed on waking.

***

Frum (religious Jewish) therapist Elisheva Liss wrote on her blog:

But the essential purpose of life according to many Torah philosophers is to achieve spiritual pleasure through a connection to G-d and the world and our own sense of purpose. Pleasure, joy, love, connection- not exclusively, but predominantly.

I guess I find it hard to read that, when I struggle with alexithymia (difficulty identifying and understanding my own emotions). I often don’t know what I’m feeling, or only vaguely. Big emotions are easier to be aware of than small ones, and negative emotions are easier to identify than positive ones, sadly.

I think I get so confused about my attitude to Judaism because so often I don’t know what I feel about it, or only vaguely. I know I enjoy Shabbat; that when I went to shul on Rosh Hashanah, I experienced something positive; that studying Torah is easier some times than others (not just for external reasons like tiredness), indicating I like it more sometimes. But it’s often hard to notice these emotions, to really feel and understand them. Sometimes these feelings are more abstract, more thoughts in my head than emotions I experience.

It is especially hard to feel that God loves me, or that I love Him. It is hard to know that I love anyone sometimes. I worry sometimes that I don’t love my parents, or not “enough.” I still wonder if I really loved my grandparents, if I really grieved for them or if I really miss them the way other people feel these emotions. I once told E that I didn’t think I loved her as much as she loved me and that this was a failure on my part. She said she wasn’t interested in comparisons like that because love can’t be measured and what mattered was that she felt loved by me. This helped our relationship a lot, although I haven’t told her this before.

I feel that I might have more to say about this deep down, but I can’t access it now, because it’s late and because I’m feeling some kind of big negative emotion that I can’t identify or really understand (coincidentally; it’s not why I started writing this post). I’m going to do something relaxing and go to bed, I think.

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8 thoughts on “Alexithymia

  1. I’m not sure I agree with the statement that the main purpose of life is to achieve spiritual pleasure. This seems to be a particularly self-centred goal – with the operative word “achieve” as if this is some sort of reward for effort. I think spiritual pleasure – I would rather use the word joy – is a by-product of something far greater and should not be sought as an end in itself. I think the purpose of life is to love and honour God by loving and serving the people he has put in our lives. In other words, it is the summary of the law ( the ten commandments) as expressed by Christ in Mark 12: “‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second [commandment]is this: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” The by-product of doing this – or at least, striving to do this, is joy and peace, though in this troubled and fallen world, not all of us will feel joy and peace all the time.

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    1. I think the author was alluding imprecisely to the kabbalistic idea that God created the universe in order to be able to give to human beings. I don’t think she’s saying we should aim to achieve pleasure per se, but that it comes from fulfilling the Torah, which is the Jewish approach to loving and serving God and other people.

      The passages you quote from Mark originally appear in Tanakh (Hebrew Bible): Deuteronomy 6.4-5 and Leviticus 19.18.

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  2. I think the challenge of loving G-d/feeling loved by G-d is in large part due to the communication being so one-sided. I always found the analogies for our relationship flawed and unrelatable for this reason – Like, I don’t feel like G-d is like a parent to me, because I know exactly what my parents think and feel because they tell me directly.

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    1. Yes, I’ve felt this too. It particularly feeds in to my worries that God is angry with me — how would I know if He isn’t?

      I guess someone more fundamentalist would say that God did tell me what He thinks, in the Torah, but I don’t find that helpful.

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