June 15, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Different Roads for Different Minds

My last piece for the Link depicted some learning that my father and I had done together relating to the theme of freedom and being liberated toward one’s true nature. As we think about the themes of Pesach and continue to partake in the mitzvah of zecher (“remembering”) being taken out of Egypt not only on Pesach but when we daven each day, I wanted to highlight an additional aspect of the seder that my mother and I discussed.

The four types of sons depicted in the Haggadah include the ChaCham, Rashah, Tam and Eino Yodeaya Lish’Ol; “the wise one, the wicked one, the simple one, and the one who does not know how to ask.” There is often a joke amongst families in which children name the child with whom they identify. The Haggadah explains the methods of teaching each of these various types of sons. The emphasis on going through each personality type and means of understanding teaches us a valuable lesson; we cannot assume that there is one way.

Oftentimes we are told or subliminally informed that certain things need to happen and that there is one right way of making it so. Take, for instance, preparing for an exam; there is a simple message: study. At times students are taught how to do so, perhaps with a lesson on organizing notes and how to begin breaking down the material. Overall, though, when a student does not do well on an exam, the message given by a teacher or parent can include a question of “What happened?” And more often than not, the statement, “You just need to study more.”

But what about looking at the way that student studied? Maybe that method simply didn’t work for that individual. Maybe the person is an auditory not visual learner, or sitting still to study feels too difficult and a more creative method is required.

This is also the case when we experience life’s greatest struggles and journeys. As I tend to remind my clients, there is no one solution and therapy is not about fixing anything. It is about processing, trial and error and continuing to move through rather than staying stuck. There is no map or hidden side road. It requires perseverance and the reality around expectations and the realization that this will not be easy.

And with all that said, each journey will be different and we must respond to one another, to ourselves, according to the individual need, not with any type of blanket statement or one-size-fits-all approach. When one client comes to me about stress or anxiety or body image, I do not have any pre-programmed responses. Each person is so different. With one person, silently nodding my head may be appropriate, while with another, a firm boundary needs to be stated. And even then, support is not about pulling a trick out of a hat but instead it’s about responding intuitively, as a human being, in the effort of connecting with another human’s experience.

The journeys will not look the same as we move through life, though our destinations may look similar. Additionally, there is an important idea of “not being attached to the results,” a corner-stone at Monte Nido (my place of employment) that is so key, namely, the thing to remember is not the destination but the climb, if you will. The journey, the method of learning, is the road that paves our lives. Sure, there are destinations at which we stop, connect, re-charge our batteries, rest, cry or make mistakes. But overall, we are constantly on the move—whether physically or emotionally and the road is where we learn.

The idea of not being attached to the results is incredibly difficult. It means that the process, the skill used, the lesson learned is given more value than the end result or even the goal. Goals can be meaningful and help to guide us, and yet performing in life just for the goal or reward implies that we miss out on what it means to be human. To learn.

The four sons remind us of the importance of connecting with one another as individuals according to our individual styles. It allows us to remember all that is wrapped up in life’s journey: the intersection of many roads with the roads themselves being meaningful rather than the destinations.

This Pesach, and going forward, let us remember to respond to ourselves and one another according to what the individual needs—the support, love and challenges—not according to an idea of “what might work.” In doing so, our journeys can allow for respect, patience and personal as well as communal growth.

Temimah Zucker, LMSW, is the assistant clinical director at Monte Nido Manhattan and also works in private practice in NYC. Temimah speaks around the country and writes regularly on the subject of eating disorders in the Jewish community. Visit www.temimah.com to learn more!

By Temimah Zucker, LMSW

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