Learning To Live With Uncertainty with Estelle Frankel

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As a young person, Frankel earned the nickname “Mistress of Catastrophic Expectations,” but with practice she was able grow beyond that habitual negative attitude. She gives an example of how focusing on the next indicated step can lead to less anxiety and increased creativity and energy. She learned this excellent lesson when working with someone who received a diagnosis of cancer. She says this client “taught me to focus on what is known rather than what is unknown.” There are many stages in the treatment of cancer that can cause extreme anxiety, but every day this person put her attention on what was right in front of her, singling out just the next indicated step. This is what saw her through. She has recovered and she’s now thriving and celebrating her life again. Frankel has learned that this is good practice, not just for dealing with cancer, and can serve us anytime we’re stepping into the unknown. She advises us to “focus not on the obstacles but on the open space.” She also reminds us of how out of balance we are with our all our devices, emails, tweets, and Facebook, and counsels that there is very little “white space” in our lives. Frankel suggests that “White space is sacred for the creative process and spiritual journey.” She further recommends that we designate some time each month to take a “wordfast” and cease from being verbal in order to use a different part of our mind that’s more spacious. “Silence is a precious commodity and if we don’t create space for ourselves we’re going to drown in our words.” (hosted by Justine Willis Toms) 


Estelle Frankel is a practicing psychotherapist and spiritual advisor who blends depth psychology with the healing wisdom and spiritual practices of the Kabbalah. She has taught Jewish studies in Israel and throughout the United States for over forty years in both academic and religious settings, and was ordained as a rabbinic pastor and spiritual guide by Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi. 

Estelle Frankel’s books include:

To learn more about the work of Estelle Frankel go to www.estellefrankel.com.

Topics Explored in This Dialogue

  • What is a practice that is helpful in dealing with worry and anxiety
  • How are faith and fear related
  • How Passover is a celebration and honoring of the unknown
  • How “true” questions are about opening up to the unknown, and lead to new discoveries
  • How to judge if a therapist is the right one for you
  • How Frankel was once practicing orthodox Judaism and thought she had all the answers
  • Why it is important not to prematurely foreclose on possibilities
  • What is a curiosity journal
  • What is the meaning of Rilke’s poem “The Tower”
  • How the act of contemplating God or Divine Force is not static but a constant unfolding
  • How, in silence, the soul is revived
  • What is the Jewish custom of mourning
  • What is some advice to help us build up our “courage muscle”
  • How to use imagination in service of our courage
  • Why we need to remarry our partners every seven years 

Host: Justine Willis Toms   Interview Date: 4/14/2017   Program Number: 3612

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