Broken Shards of Light

The Jewish practice called Tikkun Olam has been translated as the mending of the world. This practice draws from the Kabbalistic ideas of Isaac Luria, a sixteenth century Jewish mystic.

He believed that when God created the world, God formed vessels to hold the Divine Light. As the light began to fill the vessels, they were unable to contain divinity and shattered. Sparks of Divine light were trapped in the shards of these vessels; they scattered throughout the cosmos and formed our world. The task of humanity is to reunite the scattered sparks of Light, to repair the broken world, and thus participate in finishing God’s work.

Light in HemlockBy acknowledging our brokenness we take the first step toward returning to wholeness. I observed this so often during my practice as a psychotherapist. As painful things happen in our lives, we learn to block off the memories and feelings that cause our pain. We become divided from ourselves, and divided from others. Perhaps we may shut down the angry feelings we feel, or despise the needy child that is deep within us. The first step in healing is to acknowledge those parts of ourselves that we have broken off.

According to the healing process of psychodrama, one might begin by imagining the broken off parts of the self as separate entities. A woman came in for therapy, anxious and lonely, and we chose an empty chair to represent her loneliness. I invited her to talk to the loneliness. At first she is dismissive. “I don’t need anything from you,” she says to the empty chair. “Just stop bothering me.” But then I asked her to move over and sit in the chair of the loneliness, to imagine herself as the loneliness talking back to her. In that other chair, tears start to fall, and something like a light dawns in her eyes. She has brought the loneliness back together with her own center.

People often come to therapy thinking they are going to get rid of the pain inside themselves. But they find healing only when they have learned to embrace the brokenness with love. It is that embracing of the pain which finally eases their pain, the return to wholeness.

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