Chanukah Reflections: Imaginations Run Amok

Yesterday I was walking to the market when I heard someone shrieking and starting a fight with a passerby. I turned around, but it wasn’t anything serious. It was just Yankel yelling again.

And Yankel’s always angry, always yelling at somebody or about somebody.

“I’m going to kill him! I’ll never forgive him for what he did! I’m going to clobber him, he’ll never forget it! Why is your stupid baby always crying, shut up, shut up!”

Sometimes Yankel’s yelling at somebody else, sometimes he’s yelling as he’s telling someone else about somebody else who irritated him, but most of the time he’s just walking down the street on his own, yelling at no one in particular, disgruntled and fuming with anger and preparing for a fight.

Yankel’s mental illness means that he is ruled by his imagination.
It’s interesting that Rebbe Nachman teaches that the Chanukah War between the Maccabees and the Greeks actually represents the ongoing war between a human being and his or her imagination.

And Yankel has clearly lost that battle, and sadly, even tragically, loses it again and again day after day.

Because when our imaginations rules us and not the other way around, it means that the Animal-me is trampling the Human-me.

In recent weeks, since I have learned this Torah from Rebbe Nachman, I have been a bit shocked to discover just how much I have in common with Yankel, just how often my imagination tramples everything and everyone in its path. I have realized just how often I twist another person’s harmless or even kind comment and read all sorts of unintended intentions into it. For example:

“She says that she loved my book, but I can tell that really she hated it…”

“My husband says he likes my new scarf, but I can tell he’s just saying that. He’s really thinking it makes my ears stick out.”

“My friend was so distracted and stressed out when I saw her the last time. I think it’s because she doesn’t like me at all anymore…”

A few months ago I read an incredible book called Motherstyles which explains that different moms have different personality types, and helps readers to figure out their own personal mothering strengths and work on their mothering weaknesses based on their particular mothering type.

One of the four aspects of personality discussed in the book is the Feeling-Thinking divide. Some people have a tendency, the book’s authors explain, to make decisions based on Feeling and some people have a tendency to make decisions based on Thinking. And most of us moms, and women in general (including me) are Feeling-based decision makers.

But I realized after reading this teaching from Rebbe Nachman that being a Feeling mom has serious dangers. It means that the Animal-me could be running amok and could easily trample the Human-me. It means that I too could be Yankel.

The authors of Motherstyles suggest therefore that Feeling Moms should have a “Thinking friend” that they consult with before making major decisions. I am blessed with two such thinking friends (and I am especially blessed that one of them is my husband!) whom I consult before I make important decisions, to make sure that my Feeling/Imaginative nature hasn’t pulled me wildly off track from logic and reality.

But since I read this Rebbe Nachman, I have found that oftentimes, when my imagination is percolating a brave new twisted twist of my reality based on feelings run amok, that I can be my own thinking friend. I can say to myself:

“She says that she loved my book, and maybe she actually loved it?” or
“My husband says he likes the new scarf. Maybe he actually likes how it looks?” or
“My friend is stressed out and distracted because she is worried about something. It has nothing whatsoever to do with me.”

I’m happy to discover that I, at least upon occasion, can be my own thinking friend. This self-friendship is helping me to win the Chanukah war against my imagination, dismissing and unraveling warped thought by warped thought.

Maybe it could help you too, to be more like YOU and less like Yankel.

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