"To Create a Dwelling Place for God": Life Coaching and the Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic Movement in Contemporary America Open Access

Karlin, Michael (2014)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/h415p9902?locale=en
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Abstract

Chai Life International and The Method for Self Mastery are two life coaching programs created within the Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic community. Chai Life tried to implement mainstream life coaching practices and beliefs directly into a Chabad environment and experienced many conflicts between these two belief systems. These tensions are one reason Chai Life ultimately failed. The Method, by contrast, developed over a period of twenty years, and more fully integrated the cultural and psychological resources it relies upon with Chabad cosmology, rituals and language, thereby, presenting a much more unified system of religious and psychological healing. By investigating why Chai Life International struggled to integrate mainstream life coaching into a Chabad environment, this dissertation suggests mainstream life coaching is like religion in many ways, embedding its own ontology of the self, theory of agency, value structure and sacred narratives. This "religion" is unmarked as religion as such, as they are conveyed through the contemporary language of "spirituality," reflecting life coaching's roots in the human potential movement. The Method, by contrast, utilizes its own conceptions of self, agency, values and sacred narratives, drawn from Chabad cosmology and blended with psychological theories, methods, and language, as well as other cultural resources. Through this system, the Method works to try and transform the moral subjectivity of its participants, giving them a new way to understand themselves and their place in the world.

Table of Contents

Introduction........................................................................................................................................................................ 1

A Brief History of the Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic Movement

Chabad and Life Coaching Theoretical Background

Moral Anthropology and The Moral Laboratory

Methodology Chapter Descriptions

Chapter 1: Mainstream Life Coaching and Its History............................................................................................................... 39

What is a Life Coach and How Life Coaching Began

The Emergence of Life Coaching

Life Coaching and the Human Potential Movement

Humanistic Psychology, Seeker Spirituality, Buddhist Modernism and the "Religion of No Religion" of Mainstream Life Coaching

The Religious Epistemologies and Ontologies of Mainstream Life Coaching

Chapter 2: Psychology as Cosmology: The Difficulty of Integrating Life Coaching into Chabad....................................................... 70

Training Chai Coaches The Morality of Neutrality

Agency and the Autonomy of the Self

Conclusion

Chapter 3: Cosmology as Psychology: Therapeutic Hermeneutics and Ritual Innovation............................................................... 95

From South Africa to Crown Heights

The Ontology of the Self and Agency Through Mitzvoth

Mashpia: Becoming a Life-Coach Healing from the Inside Out

Chapter 4: Sacred Narratives and New Moral Subjectivities.................................................................................................... 127

The Importance of Religion and Patricia's Path to Chabad

Constructing Narrative Identity There's a Tribe Inside Becoming Lily

Non-Contingent Realities and The Importance of Religious Language

Chapter 5: Traveling to the Mountain: Adopting a New Self.................................................................................................... 151

Shame, Perfectionism, and the Road to Divorce

Discovering the Sticky Self

Traveling to the Mountain as a Grounded Visionary

Fixing Shira's Broken Soul

Chapter 6: Sexuality and the Limits of Jewish Life Coaching................................................................................................... 177

A Childhood of Abuse and Neglect Returning to Judaism Sexual Confusion The Co-creation of a Moral Narrative Living Out the Moral Narrative What's at Stake and Moral Ambiguity

Chapter 7: Finding Agency Through God, Torah and the Rebbe.............................................................................................. 218

Difficult Beginnings

Looking For Challah; Finding the Torah and a Rebbe

My Sister's Mother; My Father's Wife

Dira Batachtonim : To Create a Dwelling Place for Hashem

Finding Agency in Surrender

For the Love of Her Daughters: Developing Agency Within the Constraints

Becoming A Sun to Many Moons: Redemption

Conclusion: Exchange and Religious Innovation................................................................................................................... 256 Religious Economics Bibliography................................................................................................................................................................... 266

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