Ask A Kabbalist

Restriction Versus Repression


What is the difference between restriction and repression? When do we know that it is truly an act of restriction and we are not simply repressing an action or desire? ~MO


I love this question! It shows that you – and so many students out there – are looking inward and really examining the process by which you operate.

Now, the first part of your question is best answered by Karen Berg. In her book, God Wears Lipstick, she says:

"Kabbalah teaches that you are given a choice: either you can use the extraordinarily powerful force of desire in a destructive way, or you can turn it around and use it so that it can become pure Light.

"Remember the metaphor of the light bulb? You generate Light when you 'restrict,' or hold back, your habitual negative, selfish reactions and allow your proactive, sharing nature to emerge. This doesn’t imply that you must repress your feelings. It’s just a question of becoming conscious so that you can loosen their hold on you a little, thereby allowing that other part of you—the sharing nature of the Light—to be revealed in all its luminescence and glory."

The second part of the question is a little trickier. How do you know you are restricting? Discomfort!

Repressing or denying your emotions is often a relief. "I’m not upset" or "What they said wasn’t that hurtful" is NOT restriction. Restriction is – "I am upset" or "What they said was hurtful, but I’m not going to revert to my usual response of shutting down or ignoring the whole thing. I’m going to use the proactive formula."

The Proactive Formula looks like this:

1. An obstacle occurs. I recognize that the obstacle is from the Light.

2. I realize that my reaction—not the obstacle—is the real enemy.

3. I shut down your reactive system to let the Light in.

4. Then I’m ready to express my proactive nature.

Restriction is uncomfortable. It requires a pause, consciousness, effort, and choice. Most importantly, it puts us in the role of the cause. Repression relieves discomfort. It allows us to put our head in the sand, to remain stuck, victimized, and most tragically, puts us in the role of the effect.

That’s why when my students are faced with a choice, I often ask, which one requires the greater stretch from you? The greater the stretch is, the greater the Light you will reveal.


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