The Kabbalah Approach to Mental Health

Kabbalah and Psychology: Anxiety Relief – The Kabbalah Approach to Mental Health – Part 6 – Ignoring Anxiety

The second phase of therapy, implied by the second meaning of the verb in the verse in Proverbs (12:25):

If there be anxiety in a man's heart let him quash it,
And turn it into joy with a good word,

is ignoring anxiety. This is much easier to do once the immensity of the problem in the person's perception has been reduced by the first phase of therapy described in our previous article.

In order to ignore a worry, a person has to replace it with some positive thought. We may not be able to stop thinking, but we are at liberty to choose what we think about. Rather than focusing on what worries us about any particular subject, we can focus on some aspect of it that makes us reassured or happy. This is the intent behind the second half of the verse quoted above "…and turn it into joy with a good word." Thus the Torah tells us (Deuteronomy 30:19) "I have placed before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore, choose life!"

In every situation, there is something positive and something negative to focus on. Choose to focus on the positive!

The power of positive thinking to bring about good and negative thinking to bring about bad has been documented over and over again. There is no reason not to utilize this potent tool to improve the quality of one's life in general and mental well-being in particular.

Left to its own devices, the mind will by default tend to fill itself with negative thoughts that spring from its unrectified subconscious. It is therefore necessary to consciously occupy the mind with positive, wholesome thoughts. The best and most potent source of such thoughts and attitudes is the Torah itself, as it is written in (Psalms 199) "The precepts of G-d are upright, gladdening the heart."

The image used in the Torah to describe this technique is taken from the story of Joseph and his brothers. When Joseph went to check up on his brothers, they threw him into a pit while they debated how to get rid of him. The Torah describes this pit as being "empty, there was no water in it." (Genesis 37:23.) The oral Torah explains the apparent redundancy in this description there was indeed no water in the pit, but it was filled with snakes and scorpions. Still, in the merit of his righteousness, G-d did not allow these serpents to harm Joseph.

Water is frequently understood in the Torah's lexicon of allegory to symbolize the life-giving and refreshing flow of the Torah's wisdom itself. The pit in this allegory represents the human mind, which is ideally meant to be a vessel for holding the water of Torah; the snakes and serpents represent the negative, destructive thoughts that overtake it in the absence of positive, Torah-oriented thoughts. Joseph represents the ability of the mind to transform its bad thoughts into positive ones. His entrance into the pit neutralizes the power of the negative forces that have overrun it.

Everyone has his inner Joseph, his inner ability to alter his perspective on his problems and see them in an optimistic light. If a person is able to call upon and utilize this inner ability, so much the better. If not, he should seek the inspiration to reorient his perspective from those who have.


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