So many people in today's world suffer from some sort of emotional/psychological challenges, including anxiety, depression, unbalanced emotions etc.  We will explore ways to heal and deal with these challenges, based on Torah. 

No part of this can be duplicated without written permission from the author. 

Part 1 (this section will be updated with new parts as we go along...)

I have always wondered what is so exciting about mountain climbing. So many people find it such a thrill to climb to the top of a mountain, despite danger or hardships that are involved. They feel exhilarated when they reach the top.  I am not the mountain climbing type….or so I thought…

But suddenly I have realized that, in essence, we are all mountain climbers! Along our journey of life, each of us is given many mountains to climb. Every obstacle, test or problem seems like a mountain to us.   When we allow the mountain to remain a mountain, we do not overcome the obstacle. But if we climb the mountain and we reach the top, then we feel a sense of victory.  The mountain  no longer feels like a mountain once you are at the top. There is a sense of exhilaration reaching the highest level. And I guess that is what life is all about: climbing the mountains that come our way and reaching the top: whatever spiritual level and realization God wants us to reach through this experience. Remaining strong in our faith despite the hardships, is successful mountain climbing at its best.

The other day I was sitting under some very tall trees and the wind was blowing through the trees, shaking them and making strong rustling noises. The branches sounded like they were going to fall off….the trees looked like they would fall over. But of course they did not. I thought to myself that life is very much like that. The winds of challenges rip through our lives threatening to break us….but just like the tree, we do not break. We may bend, we may shake, but we do not break.  When a tree is strongly rooted to the ground, nothing uproots it . When we are strongly rooted in our faith and in our values, nothing will destroy us.

The writing is based on teachings from the Torah (the Bible), the study of Chassidus, the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, and from lots of life experience (as well as having worked for a psychologist for several years).  Read it and apply it to your life. You will see good results.

 

When a person is in a pit or a prison, the person cannot pull themselves out. It requires help.  This book is the rope to use to pull yourself out of the imprisonment of your mind. Anxiety and depression, and in fact any type of mental or emotional disorder, is like a form of imprisonment: a very frustrating and painful experience.    A prisoner feels they can never break free. But know that you can break free! You can break out of the imprisonment of your thoughts and of your mind. You can become free and be in a different plane , above all the negative thought patterns. This is called going out of Egypt. It says in Torah that every day a Jew must view himself or herself as leaving Egypt that very day. What does this mean? We were imprisoned in Egypt thousands of years ago. How can we still apply leaving Egypt to our life today? The answer is given in Chassidus, the mystical part of Torah,  that Egypt, on a spiritual level, refers to limitations. It is a form of being imprisoned in bad habits, negative thought patterns, depression, anxiety, fears, worries or anything that keeps you from serving  God with joy. To go out of Egypt means to leave all those limitations and rise to a higher level spiritually: a place where you can feel joyful. But to do so means we need the help of God. Just like God took us out of Egypt, He can take us out of all our problems and we need to know that it is possible.  We are never stuck in a situation. There is always a way out.

Know that you are not alone.  The majority of people suffer from some sort of anxiety and from various emotional issues. This is normal. It is part of the human condition. It is definitely worse in today’s society but there are tools you can use to help yourself. Life is full of challenges. Anxiety is just  one of them.

Anxiety can include many things. It often includes fear that we are unable to control everything in our lives. We may want to prevent something that we fear from happening, or we want to know (or even control) what will happen in the future, yet we may  feel helpless to do anything.   

You should remember that when you focus on things you cannot control, that will automatically trigger the emotion of fear. Fear will then lead to anxiety and a need to feel we can control everything and everyone.  Feeling out of control will often lead to panic attacks.  Anxiety is a reminder that we are not in control…but the positive part of anxiety is that it reminds us that we do not have to be, and in fact are not meant to be, in control.

According to the study of Chassidus, a person’s mind will be unsettled and filled with anxiety and distress when his mind is not a proper vessel for the challenges he is going through. A person with a “broad” mind and strong powers of intellect can handle anxiety far more than a person with less developed intellectual capacities. This is not talking about intelligence but rather the ability of the mind to deal with a certain amount of emotional distress or anxiety.  If it is too much for the person and he cannot deal with it, then the vessel is too small. As it says in Torah “ any expression in Torah of shortness of spirit refers to something that is unbearable for the person and his mind cannot tolerate it.”

Chassidus explains that bad moods, dark moods, and in general thinking negatively and seeing things in a negative light, comes from constricted consciousness. To expand consciousness, we need more light and more joy. Adding in Torah learning and in activities that bring happiness is helpful and brings more light into our minds. THE SECRET TO CONTROLLING AND ELIMINATING ANXIETY IS TO LEARN HOW TO CHANGE ONE’S THOUGHT PROCESSES FROM NEGATIVITY TO POSITIVITY. For example, if a person has constant anxiety about whether or not one is healthy, the person starts imagining the worst case scenarios, googling all kinds of symptoms and assuming all kinds of diagnoses which are not even accurate.  How would one deal with this type of anxiety?  By immediately pushing away a negative or fearful thought when it rises to the mind, and substituting a positive thought.  The minute a negative thought enters the mind, the person has to refuse to ponder it or expand upon it and instead must substitute a thought such as “I am healthy. I am going to continue being healthy. I am worthy of being healthy so I can serve God properly. I am grateful and thankful for health and I ask God to continue granting me good health. I refuse to even consider any type of unhealthy condition in life.”  As we accustom ourselves to changing our thought processes, we will develop a new mentality and a new way of looking at life and at the world.
If our thoughts are chaotic, our emotions will be chaotic. Our hearts can even beat irregularly due to fear, worry, negative thoughts etc. The secret is to control our thoughts and hence gain the upper hand over our emotions. Anxiety is an emotion. It usually has no logical basis to it.  

At its true spiritual source, anxiety is a lack of trust in Hashem (God)  because when we truly believe and understand that we control nothing and Hashem knows what is best and only does good for us, we stop feeling anxious   But even if we intellectually understand that, translating it into feeling is hard work.

We need to internalize this idea that we are not in control of anything outside of ourselves. The only thing we can control is our thought, speech and action.  But what path our life will take, or what the future will bring, or what the result will be of what we do in life, or whether we will become rich or not….all these things are not in our control. They depend upon the Almighty. We can try to influence or change our destiny through prayer and good deeds, through making the right vessel for blessings to rest upon, but we cannot CONTROL our lives and we cannot control others. We only can control OURSELVES.

 

Often anxiety encompasses one of the following things:

  1. We fear re- experiencing something that was painful or difficult for us. In other words, if we went through negative past experiences,   we  fear going through such a thing again. It created some trauma which often sits in our subconscious and gets triggered over and over.
  2. We worry about the future. This is basically a feeling of insecurity. We worry about how to manage financially or what will happen to us in the future. This can be based on many different concepts and worries: it can be worries about health, about money, about our kids, about our ability to function, when one will get married etc . It can take many forms. But the basic feeling is insecurity and fear for the future.

This is all connected to imagination: we immediately begin imagining all kinds of negative things when we are afraid or worried.  Those things often have no reality but they spur anxiety.

 

Anxiety is increased when people overestimate the threat of an event or underestimate their ability to handle such an event. That creates stress and stress is part of anxiety.  Stress breeds anxiety and anxiety breeds stress.  It becomes a vicious cycle which sometimes gets out of control.

 

All the 42 journeys the Israelite nation went through in the desert before entering the land of Israel represent all the journeys and challenges each person goes through in their personal life. The Baal Shem Tov says that all of life is one big anxiety. The Baal Haturim says that all anxiety stems from being pursued. Pursued by what? By past traumas. The fear produced from those traumas pursue a person and become the source of anxiety.

 

Anxiety is based on a lot of imagination : imagining what MIGHT happen, what someone MIGHT say, what MIGHT BE THE RESULT OF SOMETHING, what MIGHT happen if we do or do not do something.  For example, if a person fears losing their job, they start imagining how their life will be without enough income, the suffering they will go through, the things they will be unable to purchase and this creates a lot of negative emotions. Or if a person fears losing someone, or something, they start fearing how they will manage in such a situation: how sad, lonely, depressed or unhappy they will be etc. They start living in their imaginary negative emotions rather than in reality and they find it hard to accept deep inside that whatever the Almighty does is for the good.

Imagination creates fear and fear creates more imagination and anxiety. Usually, there is no basis to our worries and fears but our imagination builds things into a big issue.  It is usually unrealistic but we believe it has reality to it.  And that is probably the biggest fuel for anxiety: imagining negativity. Many people do not live a normal, happy life because they become too consumed with dark, negative,  fearful thoughts based on their unhealthy imagination.  They stop being productive and live inside an imaginary world that fuels negative emotions and fear.  Unfortunately, we waste a lot of time and a lot of our life on unproductive, worrisome thoughts which have no positive effects.  IT IS NOT YOUR SITUATION THAT CREATES YOUR EMOTIONAL REALITY: IT IS YOUR THOUGHTS. Why is it that our minds tend to imagine negative scenarios rather than positive ones? We tend to imagine things we are afraid of or worried about. How wonderful it would be if we would imagine happy, hopeful and good scenarios instead? Why is it that we do not generally do so? One reason is because we are afraid of being disappointed if the good things we imagine  do not actualize. Another reason is that we want to be prepared for any negative occurrences, so we do not fall apart if something negative  actually does happen. We do not want to go through trauma and therefore we often habituate ourselves to “expect” negativity, so that we will not have to go through shock or trauma unexpectedly if something unwanted happens (especially if we have already experienced some form of trauma or loss previously: we fear going through those emotions again). But instead of actually avoiding these traumas, we end up reliving them constantly in our imagination through our fear, and we end up in a vicious cycle of unhealthy thoughts and fears and emotional turmoil!      REMEMBER: MOST OF WHAT YOU WORRY ABOUT NEVER HAPPENS.

We need to control where our minds take us. If  you are going through a difficult time, do not allow your imagination to run wild or think all kinds of negative scenarios.  Keep yourself focused in the present, promote positive, hopeful thoughts and leave everything in the hands of the Almighty, knowing we have no control over anything anyway (other than our prayers and good thoughts).

 

CONTROL AND FEAR

Many people have a problem whereby they want to control others. Where does this come from? It stems from fear (fear of what will happen, fear of being unable to run the show…..people who are overly controlling are people filled with anxiety, fear and insecurity).   Being an overly controlling person is not healthy in any relationship: not in marriage or as a parent. One needs to learn to let go, give others their space and respect, and to put worries in the hands of the Almighty. We do not need to control everything, nor are we able to. Sometimes, people who are very responsible in life or in a position of being the main responsible person (such as the head of a family, the first born child etc.) can become controlling in order to make sure people do not take risks and things turn out okay.  But taken to an extreme, it is not beneficial.

 

Anxiety always encompasses some type of fear.  Fear can be something as silly as how others will view us, talk about us or relate to us.  It can be fear that we are somehow failures in life.   Or fear of facing feelings of guilt, or of doing something which produces guilt. Fear of the unknown is another huge cause of anxiety. We can see that clearly with the coronavirus.  Everyone is insecure and worried  because the future is unknown.  Fear of death is another huge “manufacturer” of anxiety. It is one of the biggest fears human beings have.   It is part of the fear of the unknown.  Most traumas or negative experiences in life can be helped through support groups, speaking to others who have gone through similar things etc.   But that does not apply to leaving the physical world: there is nobody to speak to, nobody to consult with, no support groups etc.  That fuels a lot of the anxiety, insecurity and fear.

In reality, fear of dying shows that we value life. Many terrorists do not fear death nor do they value life.  The two are connected: the more one values the life, the more one fears death.

It should be mentioned here that if a person has a constant fear of death, there is usually an underlying feeling of fear of punishment, which is based on some subconscious or even conscious guilt about something, or a feeling of somehow being unworthy.  One must figure out what one feels guilty about or why one feels they do not deserve to be alive, so one can remove that fear of punishment or that feeling of being unworthy.  Sometimes it is a result of judging ourselves too harshly. We need to know it is not our job to judge ourselves…. or others. We need to be truthful to ourselves and to God…. but not to be constantly afraid.  We must realize that God understands everything and is not looking for ways to punish a person: He waits patiently  for people to return to Him with love.   It helps to keep in mind that if the Almighty found you worthy of being born, certainly you should find yourself worthy of living: if you matter to Hashem, you certainly have to matter to yourself!  The Lubavitcher Rebbe instituted the concept of celebrating one’s birthday publicly in order to emphasize that you matter: that you have a unique mission in this world which only you can accomplish and you are important.

 

Although fear of death is a normal fear, it must be tempered with the realization that there is a Higher Force that controls everything and we must pray and ask for constant mercy, but not to be afraid in a paranoid manner. That will only lead to unproductive anxiety. Any fear must lead to something positive, otherwise it is a waste of time and energy.  Knowing that there is an after- life and that the soul lives on, is definitely comforting but does not totally alleviate one’s fear.  The fear of the unknown always creates tremendous insecurity, worry and fear.

Fearing God is the only positive type of fear.  It is a pleasant experience, because we know that God is a kind father; it is pleasant to fulfill the commandment to revere Him as one is commanded to revere his father.  In the Torah, there are two separate commandments connected to respecting parents: one is to honor one’s parents, “Honor your mother and your father”.  The other commandment, to revere one’s parents, is learnt from the verse, “You shall each revere your mother and father”. This commandment requires us to respect our parents (hold them in high esteem), ensuring that we do not insult them or belittle them, and we make them relevant in our lives.

For this reason, to fear anything but God is a disappointing experience, because we subconsciously are exchanging God for something else. One should have absolutely no fear but the fear of God.  Chassidut teaches that when the faculty of knowledge (da’at) is blemished, a person suffers from his unrectified power of imagination. When the faculty of might (gevurah) is tainted, one suffers from anxiety and fear. The treatment is to nullify all  false fears and  strengthen the fear of Heaven. 

 

Worrying about what might happen is one of the biggest wastes of time. Ironically,  what we worry about usually does not happen.    Why waste time imagining things that may never actually occur?

As the Chassidic master Reb Michel of Zlotchov said: “There are two things that are no cause for worry: that which can be fixed, and that which cannot be fixed. What can be fixed should be fixed -- so what's there to worry about? (in other words, if something can be fixed, take the proper action to do so but do not waste energy on worry) What cannot be fixed, cannot be fixed -- so what's there to worry about?” (this does not mean that if something is not fixable it will not cause feelings of sadness or distress, but worry is not helpful because it will not lead to anything positive. Instead of worry, a person has to trust in the Creator of the world and pray for help.  One must never give up or despair.  Even those things that seem “unfixable” can be fixed, if permission is given in the Heavenly realms……. and for that, one must pray rather than worry)

 

There are obviously certain situations that will cause intense anxiety and depression (Ie. If a person is,

God forbid, struggling with an illness, or if a person is the care taker for a spouse or child who is ill, or if a person is struggling with infertility or any other number of problems that cause anxiety in any human being going through that experience.) In that case, anxiety is to be expected and at times one needs help to reduce one’s level of anxiety through psychological counseling or spiritual counseling, and through support of family and friends.  One can never underestimate the power of a good friend or a word of encouragement to someone who is suffering. That is why it behooves each one of us to practice always speaking positively and strengthening others in their faith.

 

 

ESCAPE FROM REALITY SYNDROME:

People nowadays often feel unable to cope with their problems and feel a desire to do anything to escape from or avoid facing their uncomfortable reality. Hence, in society we see what I term the “escape from reality” syndrome.  

Ours is a generation constantly looking for ways to escape from reality.  We like to run away from responsibility. We try to divert our minds with cell phones, watts up chats, movies, music, drugs, liquor, travel, etc: anything that takes us out of whatever is making us uncomfortable or anxious. Everything is a different way to remove ourselves from the reality of life because it is often too painful to face life with all its challenges, worries and problems.

I would even venture to say that we are a generation of addicts. Everyone is addicted to something: some are addicted to drugs or liqueur, others are addicted to their desires that they feel unable to control, some are addicted to eating or smoking, and most people in today’s society are addicted to their cell phones, computer screens and technology, tv shows and movies etc.  Why are we all so addicted?  What is it about life that has turned us into addicts?

I believe much of it has to do with the lifestyle in today’s world. No longer do people interact the way we used to. No longer is family emphasized as it used to be, including extended family.  No longer do friends get together as we used to.  People are often lonely, sad, and many are struggling to get married but do not find the right match. People are discouraged and unhappy. This is the condition of exile which we are in, and the darkness increases.  As technology increases, so does separation between people. And therefore, people look for ways to escape their unhappy lives and find some type of hope and comfort and distraction.

We can only temporarily distract our minds, allowing us to cope better. But we cannot escape….. and we should not want to. We need to face reality, face our challenges, and handle them with dignity and with faith. To live in an imaginary world constantly is dangerous! It leads to frustration when what our imaginary future or our imaginary existence is not fulfilled.

What is it about videos or movies that make people so excited? How is it that this has taken over our society so much?  (Netflix, youtube, and so on) The main reason is that people want to live in a different reality in order to forget their problems and worries, or to escape a situation they are not happy in or are frustrated with. People want to live in an imaginary world which often continues long after the video is finished.  For example, people who are unhappy in their marriage, want to watch videos showing people who have happy, romantic relationships. They then enter that imaginary world, somehow fulfilling that aspect of life in their mind, rather than in reality.  The problem is that often people fail to work on their own marriages, to improve their relationships, and it just remains at the imagination level. This  will cause great disappointment somewhere down the line because nobody can live forever in an imaginary world.  And living in imagination can negatively impact others around you. Hence, it is very important to teach our children to be in tune with reality and deal with it in the most positive manner possible, working to improve whatever is in one’s power to make better.

It is helpful to keep in mind that this world is temporary and we are all reincarnated from previous lives. We are here to fix things we messed up before. So even if life is not as pleasant as we may have hoped, our souls choose the families we are born into and we consent to the life we are given because we know we have things to correct and accomplish. In reality, everyone’s life is a show. In one lifetime we play the part of a certain person; in another lifetime we played a different role. In one lifetime we may be rich; in another we may be poor.  We are all actors, playing the roles assigned to us in this lifetime.  

We need to practice living life moment by moment, not in an imaginary present or future (or even in the past, because much of our perceptions from the past is also based on imagination). When we live in the past, it is a very obvious way to increase anxiety. We relive negativity or we relive negative emotions or even create more negative feelings by going over and over past experiences that were unpleasant. This is unproductive and does nothing to bring about a feeling of tranquility or calmness.  In fact, living in the past is not at all useful unless we learn something valuable from our past experiences. But even then, we need to take with us the lessons we learn, not the negative emotions of the experience.  We need to discard the emotion and focus on the intellect, sorting out what is good to remember and what is damaging

Learning to accept our situation in life is what helps us cope with it.  If we fight our situation and constantly yearn for a different situation, we never can feel happy. If we learn to accept our situation and we do whatever is in our power to make ourselves happy within that particular situation, then we have a chance to lead a productive, happy life.  That does not mean we cannot pray for a better situation or strive to improve things, but at the same time we need to live in the moment and appreciate the moment and get whatever positivity we can out of the present situation. People grow from problems and from their most challenging situations. We may feel we are suffering and gaining nothing from it, but we actually can be growing spiritually more than when everything is the way we want it to be in life.

Somebody once asked Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka , the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s wife, what was her happiest moment in life and she responded “This moment right now.” This is a very profound answer because it basically means that you must live in the present, make the most out of this moment and you appreciate it because this is what God wants you to experience at this time, so you are grateful and happy.  You are not living in the past or in the future.  You live in the present, enjoy the present, and appreciate the present.   This is a powerful concept in Chassidus. Chassidus teaches that God is creating the world at every moment out of nothingness.  He is creating you every moment with a particular mission to fulfill. If you understand that, how can  you imagine that God has forgotten about you or does not care?  Nothing in the world is random. Nothing in your life is random.  Just concentrate on the moment. Do not think about anything else, just the moment and how you can best serve God at this very moment in time.

PART 2:

FRUSTRATION STATION AND WRONG EXPECTATIONS

When we are frustrated in life, we feel anxiety.  And most people are frustrated these days!

But what causes a person to feel angry , frustrated and unhappy?

Usually, it is a result of not getting what we want in life, not progressing the way we want, and not being able to accomplish or do what we want.  Many people feel “stuck” in circumstances of life that they feel they cannot change and that they feel unhappy about.  The majority of people are living in situations or places where they do not feel very happy or fulfilled.   

Basically, frustration results from having expectations that are not being met. What does it mean to be stuck in circumstances we cannot change? It means we are not getting what we want and we feel our situation is hopeless and a constant source of depression or frustration or aggravation. We imagine we are stuck and unable to change things for the better.

Having expectations from God (things should be like this because I am doing such and such…”.if I do this mitzvah, I should have that reward”….”if I follow a particular segula, the result will be such and such”….”.if I am being a good person I should not have suffering or problems”…), having expectations from or about our spouse or other family members or friends that are not fulfilled, having expectations from oneself that may not be realistic and that cannot be fulfilled properly, having expectations from life or what life should be like at any given point in time or stage in life (for example, in one’s younger years one should marry early, establish a family, start a business, buy a house, etc. and in one’s older years one should travel the world with one’s spouse, enjoy life, spend money on oneself and even help others) and in general having unrealistic or unfulfilled expectations, are all a formula for building up anxiety. Our expectations in life can even be good ones: to help others, do good and contribute something of value to society. The problem with expectations is that when they are not met or are not able to be realized, we become frustrated, upset and even angry (perhaps angry at Hashem).

One thing that helps at such times is to put aside all expectations and expected results and simply strengthen our belief in God and in His goodness.  Just put ourselves into God’s very capable hands and let Him run the show.  

 In order to help us cope with frustrations, it helps to realize that our expectations may differ from God’s. Since God knows what is best and what each soul needs for its correction (tikun) and for its spiritual healing, we should put ourselves in God’s hands and not feel upset if things do not go as “planned”. How can we even try to plan our lives?  We may feel we can choose our destiny but in reality we are totally in the hands of God.  We don’t see the bigger picture. We don’t understand what our mission in this world is or why we are here. To superimpose our own ideas and wishes on creation is not right. We can and should pray. We can ask God that we should be able to accomplish our goals and that He should choose us to do certain mitzvot or that He should give us the merit to accomplish certain good deeds. But if life does not happen as we want or expect, we need to accept that with happiness and humility. Humility and submitting to  God’s will are very important for tranquility of spirit and mind.   We can only accomplish in life what the Almighty wants us to accomplish. Nothing is done with our own power.  If we are able to do what we wish to do, it is a merit and a privilege and we should be grateful. But if we cannot, we should be humble, realizing that is not what we are meant to do now.  In fact, the key to true health and happiness lies in true humility. Where there is true humility, the ego is nullified and neutralized and we are able to see things from a proper objective perspective, not to get hurt or offended or angry over things, and we are able to stop being judgmental of others and let go of unhealthy emotions.

Many people who are frustrated and feel themselves to be victims of certain situations, feel somehow entitled to lash out at others to take out their anger. They feel justified because of their suffering and they often use the excuse that they cannot control themselves. This is a very unhealthy mindset. Being frustrated in life or feeling angry because of your suffering is normal….but taking out your anger on others is not healthy for your relationships. It will just alienate people and cause others to feel hurt. It takes a lot of refinement for a person to control their emotional outbursts but the first step is to realize you are not entitled to those outbursts.   Every situation is an opportunity for self growth and improvement.

Out of frustration can come tremendous growth: as we realize we may not be able to accomplish those things we so much wish to do, we nevertheless can channel that energy into other areas and accomplish new things: things we never imagined we could do. We discover hidden inner potentials.

If we make our happiness dependent on a particular thing (for example, “if I get such and such , I will be happy” or “if I am able to do such and such I will be happy”), then we will never find true happiness and we will feel very frustrated. Real happiness is becoming internally happy and serving Hashem  (God) with an inner joy wherever we are, not dependent on a particular thing or situation to make us happy.  Real happiness is unconditional happiness.   We must not rely on bringing happiness to ourselves from the outside: we must not make happiness contingent on anything.  Of course, we must pray for whatever we want and need, but we must not make a condition for happiness based on only a particular situation or thing, or we will end up very disappointed in life.  

EGO IS THE BIGGEST OBSTACLE TO HAPPINESS IN LIFE. This is the cause of all anxiety and depression. Anxiety does not come from the Godly soul, which is constantly in tune with God’s will. Anxiety comes from the ego.   We  fall into depression or become hurt or resentful from others also due to hidden ego.  Which part of us actually feels depressed, sad, hurt, angry etc? it is not the holy part of us, which is total humility and has no connection to ego.  Rather, it is the “I”  (conscious and subconscious) which fuels the ego through negative emotions. Negative emotions are always connected to ego.  “I feel hurt”, “I feel angry”, “I feel upset”, “I feel depressed”……if we learn to put aside the “I”, we can learn to experience life differently and view others more positively. Not all our feelings need to be expressed, acknowledged or acted upon. Not all our feelings are truthful or valid.  There is so much emphasis on validating one’s feelings but often that just means emphasizing ourselves…..it is far more important to learn to nullify our egos, to nullify ourselves, and to see life through our mission in this world.  When we realize that if someone hurts us it is because it was decreed Above that we should suffer that hurt,  we will not take offense or take it so personally. We do not need to so much emphasize our personal hurt. Rather we should try to figure out what it is we can learn from the experience: how to fix something within ourselves or our relationship with the person who hurt us, or sometimes we can ignore the hurt and move on and we feel empowered in life.  But we do need to understand how the “self” is probably our biggest enemy.  

Every human being has a certain self respect, which is healthy and needs to be acknowledged and appreciated.  The Torah itself recognizes this need and that is why Torah teaches us not to hurt others, not to hurt the honor of someone else and to appreciate what others do for us. But too much attention to self is detrimental.

At times our emotional hurt accumulates for many years. It needs time to heal. We need to have support of our spouse or family members or friends to work through these difficult times.  However, it helps very much to constantly feel ourselves as being nullified in front of Hashem and not delving so much into our own feelings, but rather to learn how to pass over those feelings and direct our emotions in a more positive way.  The Torah teaches that if we pass over our own feelings of hurt or embarrassment, all our sins are forgiven.

We can elevate our consciousness above our own egos and reflect upon how the world is constantly being recreated by the Creator and how we are truly nothing in front of Him. We have a mission to accomplish in this material world and to get caught up in foolish arguments, hurt feelings and negativity is such a waste.

It  helps to remember: we certainly have a choice to hold on to our hurt feelings, our grudges, our resentments….but in the long run, what do we gain by that?  Life is precious and to waste it on conflicts and hurt feelings is a pity.  We can let go of our hurt and resentments and give our relationships an opportunity to thrive and improve and then we can live life to its fullest with joy and good heartedness.   We can fulfill our mission and purpose in life by concentrating on serving the Almighty, rather than serving our egos. We can feed our souls rather than our hurt feelings. We can nourish our spiritual side and develop that, rather than emphasize our physicality or our emotional needs. We can transcend rather than descend.

How do we deal with that? the first step is to ask God to have mercy on us and to help us overcome all our challenges and fears and worries.  But the most important meditation we need to focus on is the greatness of the Creator and how small we are in comparison. The Almighty creates the entire world and each one of us every moment: if He would remove His life force from Creation for one second, it would revert to nothingness. Realizing we are “nothing” in essence, we then can deflate our egos and realize that we are here for a purpose and it is not about what we necessarily want or expect from life. We are nothing compared to Hashem, but we are something in the scheme of creation and we need to fulfill our purpose with joy.  

There is a story about a chassid of the Mezeritcher Maggid who wanted to know how to be happy in the face of suffering. The Maggid told him to go visit another chassid of his, Reb Zushe of Anipoli.  When the first chassid arrived at Reb Zushe’s house, he found that Reb Zushe lived in total poverty.  So he asked him how to be happy while suffering so much. Reb Zushe told him “I don’t know why my Master the Maggid sent you to me. I have never suffered a day in my life.”

Another time someone said to Reb Zushe “how do you say the blessing that Hashem provides for all your needs when we see clearly you live in total poverty and do not have what you need?”

Reb Zushe responded: “I also need this poverty.” (Basically he was saying that if Hashem saw fit to make him poor at this time, obviously he needed that for his soul’s perfection so he was completely happy with it)

There is another beautiful story of the two brothers, the tzadik Reb Elimelech of Lisensk and his brother, the tzadik  Reb Zusha of Anipoli. Once they were imprisoned in a cell together with a pail they needed to use as a make shift toilet. Reb Elimelech was very depressed , bemoaning the fact that now they could not learn Torah or do any mitzvos, because in a room with a toilet one cannot even think Torah thoughts. Reb Zusha laughed and said “I am happy.” When his brother asked why, he answered “Just because I am a Jew. That is enough reason to be happy.” Both brothers then began dancing from joy, celebrating the gift of being Jewish. When the prison guards heard them rejoicing, they ran to find out why because they did not want to see the prisoners rejoicing. When another prisoner pointed to the pail as the reason for their happiness, the guards removed it saying “If this pail makes you happy, then out it goes.” And after that the brothers could even learn Torah properly. When a person learns to be happy just because he or she is a Jew and has a part of Hashem inside, that itself brings salvation in many areas of life. It is a matter of simplicity. The less complicated we are, the less we allow things to disturb us, the happier we can be.