Who am I?
by Rabbi Michoel Gourarie
Many of us have sensitive and fragile feelings and emotions. We all hate to be criticized, we hate to fail, we stress out when we cannot solve a problem and we explode if someone insults us. We are reluctant to take responsibility for our shortcomings preferring to live in denial thinking that they don't exist.
Overcoming these challenges requires a careful reflection of our own identity - Who is the real me?
The mystics teach that the soul has five levels that correspond to the five layers of human existence. The first four represent the functionality of the soul whereas the fifth layer is its core identity.
a) Behaviour (thought,speech and action)
c) Intellect and cognition
There are two fundamental differences between the first four layers and the fifth one.
Firstly the first four can be damaged or corrupted. We can misbehave and engage in negative conduct. We can respond to life's experiences with toxic emotions and develop intellectual ideas that are distorted and illogical. Even our subconscious can be affected by outside influences through subliminal advertising and the like.
But at the very depth our soul lies the deepest layer of incorruptible and indestructible energy. This is a spark of purity and goodness that is the essence of our being that can never be destroyed. Every human being no matter how low they have fallen possesses the spark of this purity and goodness.
The second difference is that the four layers of functionality are referred to as 'garments'. While our clothes enhance our appearance and help us express ourselves they:
a) do not define us
b) Can be taken off and put back on. They can be altered and made bigger. The person who wears them is in control.
When we fail or are insulted we fall apart because we perceive this as an attack on our identity. We feel we are being labelled as a bad person or as a failure. But our behaviour, emotion, intellect and even our subconscious are just our garments. They do not define us. We can improve on them and control them but they are not us.
The mindset we need to develop is that while we can celebrate our successes and we should take responsibility for our failings they are still just our garments - not us. Whatever we do and whatever is said to us we always re-attain our essential goodness.
When we realise that a negative comment or criticism is not an attack on our essential identity we are more likely to remain strong and take on board the opportunity for improvement.