Sunday, January 30, 2011


Charisma is one of those “I know it when I see it” concepts. For example, toddlers have real charisma and it is absolutely magical to watch them play and explore their little worlds. Charisma, which is defined as personal charm or magnetism and comes from the Greek kharisma (grace, favor, gift) results when someone is purely and unconsciously in the moment. It is a type of energy or “vibe” that is put off when there is no shred of self-awareness because the self is completely subsumed in action (or thought). An older child seeing all the attention directed at the toddler is often tempted to mimic the tot. Of course, this never gets the desired result because this action is not authentic and therefore does not have the same charm. This is very frustrating for the older child who is left wondering why everybody is not “oo-ing” and “ah-ing” over him.

Charisma is generally viewed as a mysterious gift – you’ve either got it or you don’t. But, this is not necessarily the case. I have seen charisma developed over time. I have worked with many clients who are acutely and painfully lonely and their main motivation in therapy is to have more friends or to find a spouse. I try to temper their initial impulse to “seek out” these people because there is really nothing more unappealing than someone longing for a relationship. A person on this type of mission carries a kind of needy energy that most people find very unattractive. I prefer to take the approach that finding friends or a spouse should not be a goal, but rather viewed as a byproduct of becoming an amazing person - which will automatically increase charisma and draw people close.

We begin this type of work by exploring the Chassidic premise that everyone is born a genius – that there is something inside each of us that is more powerful than anyone else on the planet. We discuss how we are all born for a purpose and are obligated to discover and utilize our unique gifts, traits, and attributes. This idea often comes as a shock and I usually have to help clients apply it to themselves. In fact, most of us would struggle with this notion. With about six billion other people on the planet, it is hard for us to fathom that there is something so special about ourselves. But the truth is, according to Chassidic philosophy, we would not have been born if we did not possess something unique that can be added to the mix. Our births are seen as essential to the eventual perfection of creation.

The goal is to find something to do that engages our most essential selves in a way that we forget that we’re actually doing it. We do it not for praise or reward, but because it is just a natural extension and expression of our true selves. To refrain would be akin to not breathing. Too many of us have yet to discover this aspect of ourselves and therefore go through life with a major part of our personalities left in a perpetual state of unrealized potential – and with very little charisma.

When we find something that engages us at our core we experience what the Jewish mystics call devekut, which is a state of profound attachment to the Source of the universe. Usually, this term is used in the context of sublime meditation or contemplation but it can also used to describe anyone completely “in the moment” or “in the zone.” Michael Jordan hitting the winning basket at the end of the game was experiencing a certain level of devekut. A little girl completely absorbed in drawing a flower experiences it too. Musicians getting into a song, naturalists watching mist travel down a mountainside, gardeners digging in the dirt, mathematicians struggling over an equation, chefs creating a new dish are all experiencing a type of devekut, and they all have tremendous charisma – at least while they are immersed in their “moments.”

Engaging in activities that are essential to our souls will automatically increase our charisma and broaden and deepen the possibilities of our interpersonal circles. We will not only become more interested but in fact, more interesting – increasing our satisfaction with life. We will also be doing our part to nudge the world closer to perfection because we have finally identified our personal gifts from G-d and are putting them into practice.

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