Don't Live in the Problem, Live in the Solution.
I would like to quote some of Dov's posts that expand on this issue in more depth. From Dov we can truly learn how to live in the SOLUTION instead of "fighting" desperately (an often losing battle) - with the PROBLEM.
Dov writes to Uri who - as we can see from the song above - is bravely struggling with the "monster" within:
To my dear friend who writes so beautifully about what's going on inside him, and about issues such as "love vs. lust", and - of course - struggling with fantasies a lot:
One simple answer for all this that anyone can do is: Don't think so much. Especially about yourself.
What??? But how???
This sounds like a very, very tall order for an addict, or for someone who is kinda young, or for someone who is naturally highly self-aware and jam-packed with feelings pretty much all the time. You (and many of us) have all these qualities. Ouch. We are experts at "focus-inward", and typically only focus outward when it's all about what we are getting - or not getting - from the other person.
Shockingly ;-), the typical prescription for this problem (that is working for me and others I know) is to start getting more and more used to thinking about others, for the rest of our lives. "Others" means anyone not attached to my own "desire / feeling / awareness" thing (some call that "thing" the ego). That list includes Hashem (of course), your family, your friends, co-workers, people you walk by in the street, etc; basically anyone with a will of their own (... not yours). So far so good?
Being apart from others - even in / especially in a room full of people - is our typical state. But for sobriety and sanity to grow, it's got to change. In real life, this means doing things that make us a part of, rather than apart from. But how? By being frummer or becoming better? Not really.
Just check these practical applications out and see if you think they would be good daily exercises for your own "focus-outward" muscles:
- Davening primarily for others in general, rather than for me (except in real emergencies) [Tzadikim do this by focusing strictly on tza'ar haSh'chinah, but we are doing it just for anyone's tza'ar but our own, for now].
- Actually functioning (even in small ways) as part of a group [a minyan can do this if you find a way].
- Accomplishing things that are not for me.
- Not taking that second look at the pretty woman (I just had to not do that myself five minutes ago!) even though it hurts cuz I'm an addict. Looking / lusting about it will just work out my "me-me-me muscle", no?
- Having a nice, long conversation with anyone and making 99% of the topic them, rather than me.
- Doing a mitzvah (or two) for G-d's sake, rather than because people will see, or for olam haba. (B"H, I rarely think about olam haba - it's too selfish in practice, though folks who treat hashkafa as reality will tell you s'char mitzvah is not supposed to be a selfish pursuit at all. So what? It is for me! So, till I'm ready for a different attitude towards s'char, out with it!)
- Keeping a halacha because we don't want to.
- Being good to ourselves because we don't want to (going to a meeting, exercising, taking a shower, learning some Torah, cleaning up the apt, making a friend, etc.) [in s'forim that's called "mis'chased im atzmo - doing kindness with one's self"].
Get the idea?
The main thing for success in this, is not allowing yourself to get bogged down by anyone (that includes you) in wrestling about philosophy (which may be mislabeled as "Torah"), motivations, the existence of altruism, or whatever else seems to really matter. It's all nice, but an addict can't afford it. Our eye must remain on the prize, which is: Going outward rather than inward. Period.
Yes, we need Hashem's constant help to do this the right way and for it to lead closer to actually being useful to Him and His people. But as the Mesillas Yeshorim writes, there are some midos that lend themselves to knocking down a bazillion bad middos all in one fell swoop. For an addict, this is one of the big ones that do that. The particulars are less important than most think. Besides, He can help just fine if you ask for it, and He will. (Uh, oh, that's praying for yourself! Well, for this we can make exceptions ;-)