By Larry Gordon
When our longtime columnist Esther Mann told us a few weeks ago that she would be discontinuing her weekly Mindbiz articles, it was sad for us inasmuch as it was an indication that we had reached the end of an era.
Esther had a vision during the early years of the 5TJT and saw this column as a vehicle to reach out and help people address their conflicts and dilemmas in a well-thought-out and orderly fashion.
The fact of the matter is that our contributing editors created the voice of this newspaper that is so well-circulated and read around the world, in print as well as online.
Esther has been contributing her weekly essay in question-and-answer form for almost two decades. Earlier this week I spoke with Esther in order to gain some insight into her decision to end the column, as well as to discuss the changes she has observed as a psychotherapist during this long period of time.
As she mentioned in her farewell column last week, Esther felt that over these many years she has said just about everything there is to say, and she believes that the readers know her well and probably could anticipate how she would respond to any number of issues that people are confronting.
Esther had been considering concluding her column for a few months now. The weekly deadline was a pressure that she will not miss as she continues counseling the significant number of clients she sees each week in her very busy practice.
I asked her whether she could identify a common thread that runs through the variety of issues that people who seek her guidance are dealing with. She mentioned two matters that she sees more often than any other, and perhaps if we reflect or look inside ourselves we will recognize traces of these thoughts and emotions. One, she says, is the need to feel loved, which we can probably all identify with. Love is the currency of life, as the old song says: “I don’t care what they say; I won’t stay in a world without love.” The other common theme is the need to change or control the people in our lives—that can be spouses, children, or even in some cases parents, or parents seeking to change adult children.
The question is why we are so determined to reshape the people we know in our own image. I guess that’s why we need therapists—to explain things like that.
From what I understand, it seems that these two issues or emotions are what play a central role in contributing to the crises and complexities in the relationships that are the fabric of life.
Over these last 20 years, Esther Mann helped people understand how to overcome obstacles and difficulties and place them in the proper context so that they could move on effectively and successfully. “People want to feel that their life matters and that they have value,” she says.
As far as the reaction to the news that she was not continuing her weekly column, she said that she received very kind e-mails and other communications from people she knows as well as from readers she never met.
The fact is that when each issue of this weekly paper is posted online Wednesday night and then printed and distributed the next day, Esther’s Mindbiz column is one of the most widely clicked on and read. Perhaps the reason for that is that people have a proclivity to read about the issues that other people are dealing with and are courageous enough to write about in a newspaper. Perhaps they identify with the issues that are explored in the column, even though Esther will attest that though many of the problems are similar, by virtue of the fact that different kinds of people are dealing with them, each situation is unique.
I asked Esther whether seeing a therapist can solve problems or help one to manage challenges. Her response was that at times the issues that one consults a therapist about can indeed be resolved, but more often than not the objective is to manage and deal with those issues in the context of everyday life.
On the matter of the various issues and what she feels a recurring theme might be, Esther says that nine out of ten of the issues that she sees deal with relationships with children. That said, it might be the appropriate place to say that relationships between parents and children are probably more complicated today than ever before.
And then we discussed what she has seen in our community in general regarding the concept of therapy. Is there still something taboo about it, or has that changed over the years? She says that today it is rare to meet someone who does not have a positive predisposition to the idea of therapy. She adds that people have a sense that the world is unsafe and they want to work in the direction of feeling that they are living in a safe environment.
Esther’s Mindbiz column is being replaced by a rotation of popular therapists who work primarily in the frum community. This week’s column is authored by Elisheva Liss, a well-known and in-demand therapist who will be sharing her insights and experience with our readers at least once per month.
Esther Mann has been a staple in these pages and we are going to miss her wise counsel. Of course, the doors are not closing on her; we talked about her making an occasional contribution to the 5TJT. Esther said she will welcome that opportunity, and when she feels she has something important to share with readers she will not hesitate to do so.
In the meantime, while we are going to miss her, it is also important to note that she is not going anywhere.
Read more of Larry Gordon’s articles at 5TJT.com. Follow 5 Towns Jewish Times on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for updates and live videos. Comments, questions, and suggestions are welcome at 5TJT.com and on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.