Lori Gottlieb is a therapist in Los Angeles with an active practice. One day, she herself needs a therapist. Her boyfriend, whom she had thought she would marry, breaks up with her, and in a particularly cruel way. She is the mother of a young son. Her boyfriend says to her, out of the blue: I don’t want to spend time watching your son play with Legos.
In her book Maybe You Should Talk to Someone (2019), she tells the story of how she found her own therapist, and worked with that therapist, while also continuing her own work as a therapist to her patients. She talks about the single most important criterion for her in finding the right therapist:
Study after study shows that the most important factor in the success of your treatment is your relationship with the therapist, your experience of “feeling felt.” This matters more than the therapist’s training, the kind of therapy they do, or what type of problem you have. (p. 36)
What goes into “feeling felt”? What are the ingredients for “feeling felt”? Have you ever experienced this? Have you helped others to feel felt?
It is super hard to do well, and easy to mess up altogether. We are going to do a two-part series on feeling felt. Tomorrow we will see one story from the Torah and two from the Talmud where a person in pain does not feel felt. From that we can learn what not to do. Next week we will encounter a beautiful story of people who do feel felt.
Why does this matter, and why does this matter now? In an era of negative energy, a beautiful and helpful antidote to that negative energy is feeling felt, and helping others feel that way as well. If Temple Emanuel could be a place where everybody who walks into 385 Ward Street feels felt, that would make a better world, at least here.
When I talk about God, one reaction I often get is: “I am not a God person. Can you talk about community instead?”
Why is that? For 21 years I have wondered why much of my teaching on God does not land. And then this week, while listening on line to a lecture by Rabbi Elie Kaunfer of Hadar, I had an epiphany.
Tomorrow I think I have a game changer, Rabbi Kaunfer’s sources and ideas, a paradigm shatterer, a conversation that might make God real for people who had never seen themselves as God people before. Rabbi Kaunfer’s idea will be provocative, might be shocking, might well offend some, but after that it may even help.