Ask A Kabbalist

Repressing Versus Restricting


Why is it that when I restrict I feel defeated? Sometimes it comes a few days later or after doing the restriction. ~RM


Dear R.,

Often I am asked by students to explain one of the basic kabbalistic tools, known as restriction. Restriction is simply not speaking or acting reactively – as a reaction to what someone else has said or done. Restriction is the process of shutting down our knee jerk reactions (our ego) and taking the time to instead speak and act proactively. Often I hear, “But Monica, I HAVE been restricting, but I’m still so frustrated!”

To that I have to respond, “You’ve been repressing, not restricting.” The difference – like so many of our kabbalistic teachings – is simple to understand, but difficult to actually do. Restriction means that we feel our feelings. If you are frustrated, hurt, or angry you acknowledge your emotion. You think from where that is arising. You consider the person you are frustrated with. You let the Creator come into the interaction. You contemplate what would best resolve your emotion and then you take action with that consciousness, with dignity and respectfulness for others.

Repressing is when you feel frustration and then try to convince yourself that you aren’t frustrated. Repressing feelings and emotions is never a good solution and like all things bottled up under too much pressure, it will eventually explode!

Don’t think about pink elephants.

You’re thinking about pink elephants because your brain has to! Much in the same way that when you are sad you cannot get out of sadness by simply telling yourself not to be sad. Certainly, you can do this, but eventually it will become clear to you that this approach doesn’t work.

In order to be a more proactive person, which would behoove all of us as it is assured to better our relationships in all areas of our lives, we need to keep it simple. Like children keep it simple. In the midst of her tantrum, my little one doesn’t try to tell herself that she isn’t angry. She feels angry. And she feels that anger until it’s over and then just as quickly as her anger came, she is excited about coloring.

We all carry a lot of emotional baggage and old emotions. It’s an inevitable process of life, but next time one of those old feelings comes up, instead of distracting yourself or dismissing it, try to feel the emotion that arises. Once you do, you can choose your response.

Sincerely yours,

Monica Berg


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