The Enchanted Self
The Rebbe Nachman of Breslow often said, “Always remember-Joy is not merely incidental
to your spiritual quest. It is vital.”
As the years have gone by and I’ve been in the practice of psychology over 20 years,
I have become more and more convinced that he was so right, that joy is not an option.
When we take away joy and we take away a sense of well-being, a sense that we are
thriving, we allow ourselves or seem to find ourselves in circumstances that seem
to drain, tire and weaken us. We are no longer the whole human being that is our
THE ENCHANTED SELF is a positive psychology approach to mental health that works
both in the treatment room and out. I teach people the techniques they need to start
to think in positive ways about themselves and their world. Thus I teach them how
to see what is right about themselves, rather than what is wrong. I also teach them
to appreciate their own life story, its ups and downs; the roller coaster ride that
we all go on. I teach how to value our potential even if in childhood we were put
down or criticized, as so many of us are.
I have the belief and I teach the belief that inside of each of us we know when
we are on track and we know when we are living a wholesome life that fits with the
integrity of our particular spirit. I call this sense of well-being ”The Enchanted
Self” and I teach people how to find their "Enchanted Selves" again and
again-how to recognize and celebrate the states of well-being that signify they
are in touch with the best of themselves. I stress the positive benefit of recalling
memories about one's life in a fashion that permits us to discover and rediscover
our own talents and resources. I also emphasize how to find in our past the kernals
of pleasure, and reservoirs of strength, that we can come home to again and again,
even if we need to reshape these facets of ourselves to suite new circumstances
Basically, this learning involves listening to yourself, and reviewing your own
past to see what worked for you, what really gave you pleasure. What aspects of
yourself and your life can you identify as necessary to experience a state of well-being?
What do you need to feel whole? For example, if you loved to play the piano as a
child, then you may not really enjoy watching football games as an adult. You may
much more enjoy listening to classical music. However, in order to live a full life,
you may also enjoy football games because your son loves them or your husband loves
them. Thus there is also an accommodation to someone you care about and a resulting
I think you can begin to see that what is going to work for each person is so unique
to that individual! It involves a review of our history, and it involves analyzing
the circumstances currently in our lives. If we have a handicap we may not be able
to become a ballerina. Even if we have severe arthritis, we may not be able to become
a ballerina at forty. However, the love of dance since childhood may easily be converted
into wonderful yoga stretches that help arthritis and feel 'dancy'. So often,
there is a creative turn in the road, thinking out of the box, that the Enchanted
Self person develops. You find you have become an ENCHANTED SELF when you have the
courage to put together using your mind, heart, body and spirit new inventive ways
of bringing pleasure and meaning into your life.
The steps I teach people are rigorous but they are no harder then all the habits
we learn that keep us in bad moods and keep us depressed. For example, if I teach
someone how to review at the end of the day everything that has gone right in their
day, that it is no harder than listing what went wrong. In fact it soon becomes
easier than listing everything that went wrong. The reason it becomes easier is
that you don’t build up some of the rage and some of the anger that one can build
up when we review the problems in our lives. Now we are encouraged rather than discouraged
and even may end up sleeping better and feeling better leading to much less energy
I have found the most effective way to teach people how to access their Enchanted
Self, i.e. to find and hold onto feelings of joy, and a sense of well-being is to
share the Seven Gateways To Enchantment. It is a quick way to catch your Enchanted
So let’s explore the Gateways and then try an enchanted assignment!
The first Gateway is The Gateway of Knowing Yourself In Positive Ways. That
means getting to know your own talents and rediscovering your lost potential. This
is a fun gateway and it really builds your self-esteem. You can pursue this Gateway,
even while driving you car! For example, you can go over your life history, reviewing
your strengths and talents. Start back in childhood-look for your strengths and
talents, even if they were disregarded by your family, and maybe even yourself.
Now, you have the maturity and wisdom to recognize these positive parts of yourself.
Even play with looking for your lost dreams-what you thought you could do before
someone or circumstances may have dashed those dreams!
After you take some time with the First Gateway, you are ready for the Second Gateway.
This is the one where you begin to fall in love with yourself! At the heart
level you begin to feel your specialness. This may take time, not to worry. After
all our society does not bring us up to recognize what is special and wonderful
about ourselves! Some of us get closer to this sense of positive self-love by mentally
hugging ourselves as the child that we once were. Others practice by intentionally
giving oneself a for real quick hug, even if no one else does, or looking in the
mirror and saying to oneself, "I am special and my strengths are unique and
perfectly suited for what I want and need to do in life!
Another step in successfully passing through the Second Gateway is acknowledging
that the story of your life is a fascinating fabric of adventures, episodes, happenings,
and even mis-haps that have come together to make a most unique person and that
is YOU! Once you can begin to see that your triumphs are to be honored and celebrated
and that your defeats have within them the wisdom and the learning that takes you
later in life to new heights you are well along on the road to Enchantment.
The Third Gateway to Enchantment is Learning To Meet Your Needs and Negotiate for
Yourself. The worst thing is to be so dependent on others and the whims
of others that we are not able to live out our dreams. We need the education, the
skills, the tools, and the negotiating powers that will take us to fulfill our missions
in life. So, don’t be afraid of education, don’t be afraid to go back for a degree
at sixty, don’t be afraid to have a mentor, to look for advice, to find out how
other people have succeeded in a particular field.
For instance, I remember treating a young woman who had so much to offer but no
path! Divorced and with two young sons she was forced back into the parent's
home and not happy about it. But once she started back to school and became a nurse
all her doors opened for her. She had financial security, a home again for her boys
and a future! It was tough but forth the struggle.
The fourth Gateway is the experience of joy. This Gateway is so incredibly
essential. It means replenishing yourself so that you are not running on empty.
It also means not straining yourself, not accepting more assignments than you can
really handle. When I have opened this Gateway I am able to bow out when I need
to. Maybe I take that vacation I need or want or maybe I am just strong enough to
say I will do this task later or you better find someone else to handle it and then
I get a good night's sleep. By protecting my mind, body and spirit I not only
set hontest guidelines with others, so I don't disappoint them, but I make room
for joy. Replenishment leads to feeling good and joy fills us when we are full of
life and vitality. Of course it is necessary to find the ways to replenish ourselves
If you love to travel, look for ways to travel. If you love to be with your friends,
get together, if you love to be with your grandchildren, then sit on the floor and
play games or plant a garden…whatever works for you.
The Fifth Gateway is the Gateway of Community. We all know how important
it is to feel we belong, that others care about us and we care about others. But,
what you may not realize is that belonging is a major way to offset depression.
You see, the more we are truly connected to others and feel a responsibility within
a world beyond ourselves, the less the tendency is for us to get blue and withdrawn.
Obviously, this is a very important Gateway. Finding the right communities to connect
are ongoing assignments for all of us-where we live, who are friends are, what church
or synagogue we attend, what interest groups we identify with, etc.
The Sixth Gateway is the gateway of mentoring and being a mentor. Very often,
we dismiss and minimize our own wisdom. We are wise, we have a tremendous amount
we can offer others and there is always others to offer wisdom to ourselves. I love
this little story that a friend told me. She said I am learning so much from my
neighbor. I said, "Who is that?" She mentioned the persons name. I had
never heard her mention her name before even though we often chatted. My friend
said, “Well, I don’t really know her, I just watch her.” I asked what do she meant.
She explained, "She lives a few houses away and I watch her. I see how she
greets her guests, how welcoming she is, how she always walks a guest out and says
good-bye. I see her stand there until the guest leaves. I see how radiant her smile
is. Although she is twenty years younger than myself, she is a real mentor for me,
I am learning from her all the time." That is an example of how easy it is
to be mentored. Even the birds mentor us with their wonderful song. Start to look
for mentors-you will find them all over. And don't forget that you are a mentor-perhaps
even when you don't know it.
Last but not least is the Gateway of Positive Action or Good Deeds. So essential
in all the world and so essential for good mental health. Research shows that the
more we help others, the more generous in spirit we are, whether we give time, money,
a smile, or a helping hand, our moods lift. Of course, if we offer to the point
of exhaustion then we defeat the purpose and we will be on empty! The idea is to
balance good mental health by using wise judgment calls of moderation and balance.
These are the Seven Gates; we go through them again and again in life. We never
close a door on any of them, we are always back, we are always learning more, we
are always having to reflect on our lives one more time or learn some new behaviors,
make a new decision, recognize and acknowledge who we are and what we need and,
of course, find new ways to bring pleasure and meaning into our lives.
A PLAY DATE WITH ENCHANTMENT
What I would like you to do now is to play with the Seventh Gateway-that of Positive
Action. Take a piece of paper write down 2 positive actions that you can do over
the next year. The first one is a positive action you can do for yourself. Make
it something that will be good for yourself, such as to restore yourself or broaden
your life. The second action is something that is good for the world and of course
will not harm yourself. You have a year to do these. Put them in your pocketbook,
look at them once in awhile. Do you realize that just by actually doing these two
actions you will: 1) bring more pleasure and joy to yourself and 2) improve the
world in some small way. Wow- two wonderful steps toward coming home to your ENCHANTED
For Further Reading